BENSON WANJAU, the iconic Vitimbi comedian and actor, popularly known as Mzee Ojwang Hatari, died on Monday 12th June 2015 at the Kenyatta National Hospital, aged 78. He was reported to have complained of chest pains.
Until his death, Mzee Ojwang remained a legend and a trailblazer in the local entertainment scene alongside other comedians with whom he commanded a huge following. He worked as an actor atthe KBC for more than 30 years. He featured in a number of programmes including Vioja Mahakamani, Vituko and Kinyonga among others.
Mr Wanjau was born in 1937 in Nyeri. He, however, mastered a Luo character role perfectly in his career, inspiring a whole generation of comedians. While he lives a rich and admirable legacy in the theatre industry, here are some of the things you may not have known about Mzee Ojwang.
1. No Luo blood: Despite being known by generations for all the years as Mzee Ojwang, a Luo character he adopted for his shows, his real name is actually Benson Wanjau. He borrowed the name ‘Ojwang’ from a ‘good friend’ who upon retiring asked Wanjau not to forget him. He is actually the Kikuyu who was popularly known as a Luo.
2. Maths lover: Wanjau was a mathematics wizard. He went to CMS Primary School where his favourite subject was Maths, even though as an actor, he often got simple arithmetics so wrong, just like a Luo oldman would.
3. Married with kids: Wanjau was not really married to Mama Kayai, his comedy ‘wife,’ even though they had bonded to the point of many thinking they were actually married. His real-life wife is Augustus Njeri and they were blessed with two children, Patricia Njeri and Michael Karira.
4. School dropout: It’s not been all smooth and acting. Upon dropping out of secondary school in form two due to financial constraints, Mzee Ojwang worked at White Rose Dry Cleaners in Industrial Area before moving to Mater Hospital where he worked as a technician for four years.
5. Loyal actor: Wanjau been a KBC guy: He started acting for Darubini on Voice of Kenya (now Kenya Broadcasting Corporation) in 1980. The programme was discontinued in 1985 when Vitimbi started airing. Vitimbi has also been off air for a while now.
6. Meeting the president: He died with an unfulfilled dream: Had really wanted to meet President Uhuru Kenyatta, but only managed to meet ICT Cabinet Secretary Dr Fred Matiang’i and Nairobi City County Senator Mike Sonko who visited him in hospital in March this year when he was admitted with an eye aliment. During hsi acting life, the closest he came to meeting a president was while acting at presidential functions.