An image of a popular actor captured at a funeral surfaced online, and it’s a picture worth a thousand words. It carries a lot of emotion. It’s probably the only image of the comical actor taken out of character.
This actor is Kenneth Gichoya, popularly known as Njoroge, or Njoro in the Citizen TV Show, Papa Shirandula.
In this image, Njoroge is clearly an emotional w***k, and it’s easy to understand why. He’s sending off Papa Shirandula – a friend of many years, a mentor and whose on-screen chemistry was almost tangible. The pair have been in the Papa Shirandula show – titled around the departed actor’s persona – for a whopping 13 years. That’s not an easy feat.
Just why did Njoroge seem so shattered?
The fallen icon has been instrumental in the actor’s career growth from the early days. He feels like an orphan.
Njoroge was born as Kenneth Gichoya, in a sleepy section of Kirinyaga County called Gichugu. He has a record breaking tally of primary schools he attended – 7 primary schools! This gives a hint of quite a wild spirit. He did tone down, though, later in high school. Njoro is an alumni of Baricho High school which recently got upgraded to a national school status.
With his onscreen persona, it’s forgivable to believe he called it quit after that, but Njoro holds a Mass communication diploma from East African School of Media studies.
Kenneth Gichoya’s passion for the stage started in high school, and he’s pursued it ever since. The sly, mischievous cunning roles he lands nowadays – especially his role as Njoroge on the Papa Shirandula Show – have a thing with his past.
In the annual high school Christmas musicals, Njoroge would always be cast as the betraying Judas Iscariot. He amusedly tags this uncanny trait to his cunning facial features!
What drives the actor?
Njoroge refers to an episode in his childhood that remains a constant driving force. And as is common with many public figures of note, it’s a humble background. The actor at one point lived with his mother in a single rental room, and all they had was a charcoal jiko and a thin, bare-thread mattress.
One day, the landlord comes over to evict them for arrears owed. The man notices the bare room and asks why they had started to move out – on which the hapless mother says those are their entire belongings. It’s a sad tale.
Njoroge’s acting career broke its teeth at the Kenya National Theatre, and this is where he met the iconic, burly actor Charles Bukeko. They’d moonlight as stage spare casts, props and occasionally headline one or two shows. The pair then got into the travelling theatre showcasing high school literature set books.
Papa Shirandula’s star had started to shine in 1997, when he landed a major deal with Coca-Cola, in the iconic BRRRRR Coke advert. Since then, he never looked back.
What’s more important is that Papa didn’t leave his friend in the trenches – Njoroge. When the self-named Papa Shirandula Show premiered, the main actor did his pick of the cast, and Njoroge was his first choice. They’ve ridden that train together for more than a decade.
Over time, the pair developed a friendship beyond the stage and screen. Their families know each other, and share holidays. They’ve travelled for events and corporate functions.
For the comic Kenneth Gichuhi, Papa Shirandula was more than a uniformed, baton-wielding guard living a double life. He was a mentor, a colleague. Papa was family.
It’s understandable then, why Njoroge seems like a man whose heart has been ripped out.
October 22, 2021
October 21, 2021