Wilfred Olwenya Maina, who won the hearts of many with his role in Nairobi Half-Life, died on Monday 4th July 2022. According to reports, Olwenya collapsed and was pronounced dead upon arriving at the Nairobi Hospital. The cause of his sudden death is still yet to be established.
Maina Olwenya was born on January 18th, 1988, in Nairobi’s Kangemi area. He attended Kangemi primary school and later joined Murang’a High school. Due to family reasons, he returned to Nairobi and joined Akibe high school.
During his early years, Olwenya was an altar boy who wanted to become a priest someday. Along the way, he discovered his love for the arts and decided to venture into it. While he was in high school, he did a radio drama with Trans World Radio.
Maina was very passionate about the arts. In an interview with the Nation, he said, “The problem is that people in Kenya equate acting success with money, which should not be the case. Artists should earn enough to be comfortable, but satisfaction in your work is what counts the most.”
Most people knew him for his role as Oti in the famous 2012 film Nairobi Half-Life; however, many may not know that he started to develop his acting skills in the theatre. In 2007, Maina joined the Kenya National Theatre, and for his first role, he played Shylock in a play by Shakespeare called The Merchant of Venice. He later did a film with the Mohammed Amin Foundation called She was a good woman, which won the best student film in the Kenya Film Festivals in 2008.
Maina appeared in various Kenyan productions, including Plot 10, Wash and Set, Guy Centre, Changes, Mali, Shuga 2, Stories of our lives, Pendo, The Old Order of Things, Poacher, and Taliya. In 2009, he joined Heartstrings Kenya, where he was part of the Churchill show’s creative team; in 2010, he ventured into a project with USAID.
He also appeared in a couple of TV commercials, one being an airtel commercial in 2012.
Olwenya Maina was set to feature in a Kenyan Netflix Series called Country Queen, which will launch on July 15th, 2022. Two other actors – Nini Wacera and Six Kapienga, who acted alongside him in the Nairobi Half-Life, were also cast in the film.
His role in the Nairobi Half-Life helped him gain recognition in the film industry. Many may not know that Maina was almost skipped for the role of Oti.
While working with heartstrings and USAID in 2010, he was called for an audition by the casting director Kamau wa Ndungu. As soon as he heard that Tom Tykwer, a German film director, would be there, he rushed to the audition.
Maina was lucky enough to be short-listed. However, another person was picked for the role. He was called and told to pick up his script a few days later. The following week the production process started.
The film opened doors for Maina professionally as he started to get more and more roles as the years went by. It also got him nominated for best supporting actor in the AMMA (Africa Movie Academy Awards 2013). He was the only Kenyan selected in the category, all the others being Nigerians.
Voice Over Artist
Apart from being an actor, Olwenya was also a voice-over artist who did radio scripts and announcements for the Radio Africa Group. The production department described him as a happy and good-natured man. “He had a good voice. His voice was everything. To be honest, he had a good soul, “the production team said.
When Maina wasn’t working, he would spend his time teaching theatre in schools and churches. Some of them include – St Francis Girls Mangu, PCEA Bahati, and the Buru Buru girls. He also did a project with the Go down arts centre and Roots International.
Here are some of the reactions when the news broke out that he had died.