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The Real and fresh Househelps of Kawangware

Saturday July 26 2014

From L-R, Becky Mbithe (Kalekye), Bernice Njeri (Njambi), Aisha Nour (Truphena) and Winnie Rubi (Awiti) on 19th July 2014. PHOTO/GERALD ANDERSON

From L-R, Becky Mbithe (Kalekye), Bernice Njeri (Njambi), Aisha Nour (Truphena) and Winnie Rubi (Awiti) on 19th July 2014. PHOTO/GERALD ANDERSON 

By BEATRICE KANGAI

 If there is one local comedy show that is on another level of funny, it surely is “The Real Househelps of Kawangware.”

This TV comedy show follows the lives of four women working as house helps in an up-close and personal manner.

It shows their hilarious and believable lives as they balance work, friendship and love in Kawangware slums.

This talented cast includes, Bernice Njeri (Njambi), Winnie Rubi (Awiti), Rebecca Mbithe (Kalekye) and Aisha Noor (Truphena).

Give a young, energetic and especially interesting cast a witty script and the result is a tumultuous comedy that makes your ribs hurt from laughing. When it comes to comic delivery, Bernice, Winnie, Rebecca and Aisha are up there with the best of them.

This show is a local version of the popular American reality television series, “Real Housewives of Atlanta”. The genius with the local version is they got the idea but tailored it to fit the local audience.

In many ways, fiercely funny, describes “The Real Househelps of Kawangware” (abbreviated #TRHK). Let’s meet the cast.

Bernice Njeri

Bernice acts as “Njambi” in the show. She likes to introduce herself as Njambi aka Babes. She has numerous romantic dalliances and when she gets pregnant she is not sure who the father of the baby is. Is it Njunguna, the man who is utterly weak for her love, Brayo a gang member or Baba Boi her employer?

Born and bred in Kiambu, Bernice Njeri juggles acting with her studies as a second year student at Kenya Polytechnic University College.

Bernice broke into television by chance; “My friend invited me to act as an extra for “Hapa Kule News” show and by good luck, the crew were looking for a female who could deliver a role in a Kikuyu accent. I did well as an extra and got myself the role of a househelp in the programme,” she says.

Bernice favourite local comedian is Jacky Vike (Awinja).

Aisha Noor

Aisha features on the show as Truphena. Truphena exists to eat. And no, rice is not food according to her, it is a snack. Truphena is easily enticed with food. She can do anything to have food in her mouth, anytime, anywhere.

Truphena’s ex-boyfriend Ebeneza could not cope with her eating habits so he left her. 

Contrary to etiquette and even decency, Truphena once sneaked into the pot and grabbed some chapatis to munch outside the house. When her employer, Makena catches her red-handed eating chapatis, she quickly defends herself “Hizi nimenunua, chapati hufanana, si zote zimevaa nguo ya jeshi” Food almost always puts her in trouble.

Is Aisha addicted to food? “There is a stereotype that people from my community love food. It beats me how that became widespread. But, I do love food and would have asked you for food were it not that I am observing Ramadhan,” she says amid laughter from the other ladies. 

Aisha was brought up in Mumias and her fluency in the Luyha language makes her play her role as Truphena exceptionally well.

Does her appearance on national TV without her hijab and buibui cause problems for her?  “No it doesn’t. My mother was at first alarmed about it but I explained to her that I am at work and she was fine with it,” she says.

Besides acting, Aisha can dance and sing. She is part of Tutu Band, a Swahili jazz band based in Nairobi. She is also a hair stylist and jokingly labels herself as a “limitless hustler.”

Aisha performed as “Jill” in the film “Poisonous Tears”, a 2013 Coastal Films Productions.

She is married and has a four-year-old girl.

Winnie Rubi

Rubi acts as Awiti.

Awiti is formidably powerful. She has a loud, harsh voice. She has the ability to make a Lion meek like a lamb. The sight of her makes her boyfriend’s knees buckle.  Her boyfriend in the show, Njuguna, is a Malimali hawker whose heart is weak for Njambi but Awiti intimidates and does everything in her power to possess him. She goes to the extent of regularly stealing food from her employer to feed Njuguna.   

“Awiti is the real terrorist.” tweets @MorinLimo, a fan.

The third born in a family of four, Rubi was born and bred in Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate.

She says she is naturally tough but not rowdy. “The producers perfectly matched our personalities with our roles,” she says.

Does her strong personality scare away potential mates? “No, it doesn’t. I am easy until you cross my line,” she says.

Rubi started acting while working as an intern with Family Health Options Kenya sensitising the community on various health issues. This is where her journey into television comedy began.  “Abel Mutua spotted me as I was performing a skit. He was very much impressed and invited me to join the ‘Hapa Kule News’ team,” she says.

“Hapa Kule News” is a parody news programme that first featured short parts of “The Real Househelps of Kawangware” in 2013 before it developed into a complete television show and premiered in March 2014.

Abel Mutua is the technical director for both Hapa Kule News and The Real househelps of Kawangware.

When she is not acting, Rubi works as a community worker. As a trained community worker, Rubi’s passion is to change people’s lives.

Rubi reveals that her greatest supporter is her fiancée. “He is always encouraging me to do what I do best,” she says. She is engaged and is to be married soon.

Rebecca Mbithe

Kalekye is the typical househelp who habours hopes of working hard to eventually improve the lives of her family members who are upcountry. She is constantly fighting (or is it being beaten by Truphena) for agreeing to date Truphena’s ex- boyfriend Ebeneza.

Rebecca is not new in the entertainment industry. She is a standup comedian and goes by the stage name Mbithe. She has performed at the Churchill Show comedy, 3D Comedy, and has also featured in another show, “LOL”.

She is inspired by Zulekha Akinyi, a comedian and radio show host.  Rebecca is a part time florist and has a one-year old girl.

All the girls agree that “The Real Househelps of Kawangware” has changed their lives in one way or another.

“It is very hard to go unnoticed in the streets when you appear on national TV every week,” says Rubi. “There is this day I was at a restaurant having lunch when a man walked up to me, called me ‘Awiti’ and demanded I buy him lunch.”

It never ceases to surprise Bernice how some viewers do not understand that the show is not reality. “A woman once asked me in a matatu why I left Njuguna for another man. I was shocked for words because she was very serious,” she recalls.

What the ladies don’t understand is how people equate acting on television to being moneyed.

“We are newbies in the industry, we don’t make a lot of money. I feel bad when I buy something at double price just because the shop owner recognizes me from television and thinks I have a lot of money,” says Aisha.  

Rubi and Rebecca share that being on television has made their ex-boyfriends resurface and request to get back together. Well, they say, the ship has sailed and there is no chance of them going back.

ALL IN THE SCRIPT

Do they ad-lib or do they memorise scripts?

According to Rebecca; “We follow a script and use the words as outlined in the script, though sometimes we find ourselves throwing in our own words while on-set. All the witty lines and phrases we attribute them to our script writer and technical director Abel Mutua.”

“If you think we are mad, then Abel Mutua is our mad headmaster. Many are the times that I burst into laughter while reading the scripts at home,” says Rubi.

The show’s director Philip Karanja, says that the ladies are very professional and easy to work with. “They breathe life into the characters. When I give them a script, they internalise it very fast and deliver it best.”

The ladies’ eagerness to learn makes Karanja enjoy working with them. “I direct them and they give me their creative part, we sharpen each other,” says Karanja. 

The show is aired on Wednesday,  the same time as another comedy show that has a female lead, “Don’t mess with Kansiime”. Is Anne Kansiime outshining “The Real Househelps of Kawangware”?

“Kansiime is our main competitor and I believe we would have bigger ratings if our outlet had a wider coverage, because our show is very local and many viewers can relate with it,” says Karanja confidently, “we would give her a run for her money.” 

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