Clocking over four decades on television and in the minds of Kenyans is not a mean feat, as Mary Khavere, popularly known as Mama Kayai who is arguably one of the most recognized faces on Kenyan television, can attest.
Speaking to The Standard on September 26, 2019, she narrated that her climb to the top had not been easy, and neither was her stay there.
“I started out as a traditional dancer and singer with a group known as The Black Golden Stars, in Majengo, Pumwani where I lived. They were so talented at singing and dancing to traditional music,” she narrated.
She met Mzee Ojwang’ (Benson Wanjau) and Lucy Wangui (who played a judge on Vioja Mahakamani), during her acting auditions and her career started taking shape.
Mama Kayai would later start off in 1980, in a show identified as Darubini before moving on to Vioja Mahakamani and Vitimbi alongside Mzee Ojwang, a role she is most well known for.
Speaking to the publication, however, she revealed that she made tough choices that cemented her place in the world of theatre.
Despite the emergence of many TV stations as time progressed, Mama Kayai stuck to the state-owned Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), where her career started.
“I believe my consistency on TV and the fact that I never jumped from one television program to another enabled ‘Mama Kayai’ to become a brand,” she was quoted.
She narrated that with time, however, it would be hard for current actors to stamp their names in the hall of fame.
“Back then, we ventured into acting because we were passionate about it. That is why we lasted that long in the industry despite the little pay. Many young people get into acting for fame and money – that is why some productions lack quality and end up not making sense.
“It is sad to see actors jumping from one program to the next. That is why they fail to establish themselves as brands,” she explained.
Mama Kayai has won numerous awards due to her long career, including a Kalasha Award and Induction into the Riverwood Hall of Fame in September 2018.