Making a mark on screens and behind the scenes
Mary Nzula Munyau has graced our local TV screens as an actress since 2015. In her most recent TV programme, Classmates, she is famous for playing a role of an unpolished and naive village girl, where she uses her stage name Kamene.
Her mother, Theresia Mwikali Munyau, traces her knack for acting back in the days as a small child where Nzula would imitate news anchors. She wanted, so badly, to be a news anchor while growing up. In secondary school, of notable interest is the fact that my daughter was a member of journalism club and during events such as parents’ day, Theresia narrates how Nzula used to‘read news’ parents. Nzula’s comic character was evident whenever she was ‘presenting news,’ as she would leave parents, teachers and students in stitches.
Mwikali says with the determination that her daughter had, she never doubted that one day she would be in the screens. However, she only thought that her daughter would become a news anchor, not an actress.
Seeing her daughter on screens makes her a proud mother. “One time I was attending an event in the village and I couldn’t help, but eavesdrop on some women who were pointing in my direction saying “Yule ndio mama Kamene.” (That’s Kamene’s mother). Getting recognition because of her makes me happy and proud as a mother, “ Mwikali reveals.
Nzulas’ acting career started at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) while she was pursuing a degree in Mass Communication in 2012. Her mother recalls how she came home one weekend and shared that she wanted to attend acting auditions. Luckily for her, it didn’t take long and she landed her first major role in a short film that was competing for the Machahood Film Festival in 2015.
Since then, she has featured in a couple of films including My Ndia Nduku, Fatal Crush, Nganya and Classmates. She has also featured in a couple of YouTube and TV commercials.
Nzula’s mum, a single mother of five, reveals how she sees herself in Nzula. “She looks like me. I see my young self in her. Her determination, ambitious nature and sacrifice to succeed reminds me how far I have come. I am a businesswoman and seeing her open her tour and travel company despite being an actress amazes me,” she says.
Mwikali shares how raising Nzula was special for her in many ways as they bonded from her young age.“Ours is not just a mother-daughter relationship, she is my little best friend. I didn’t have many challenges raising her, especially during her puberty age. It was easy to understand her and what she was going through as she would share it with me. In fact, I could even force her at to go out with her friends since she was an introvert and opted to stay indoors,” she says.
Nzula is the fourth born in the family and the first daughter. “My first three children are boys and therefore, I had given up hope of getting a girl. So, when I gave birth to her, we grew a strong bond. We share a lot that at times, she looks like my small sister. She sees me as a confidant, a best friend and someone she can always go to whenever she has problems,” Mwikali shares.
While she is off the screens, Nzula runs her tour company, Lodes Safaris, which she started in 2021 out of her passion and love for adventure and travelling.
Mwikali reveals that her daughter always shares with her how challenging it is to balance the two. She hacks both by planning her time and working hard. “Sometimes, she has shoots colliding with the trips, but she has a cooperative team that always covers up for her and makes sure that everything runs smoothly. Her job as an actress is also seasonal most of the times, so she manages to get ample time to run the company,” says Mwikali.
She reveals how her daughter always laments about unlimited opportunities in the local acting industry, hence not enough exposure to reach the international market.
Despite her years of experience in life, Mwikali reveals that as a parent, she has learnt so many things through Nzula. “One thing I have learned through her as a parent is to nurture a child’s talent. Spot your child’s talent from an early age and support them. I did not know that art is rewarding. I come from a generation where we went to school, with the aim of getting a white collar job, such as teaching, being a doctor, engineeing and so on. I would urge parents to believe in their children’s abilities. It is very important,” she says.
Mwikali has also learnt from her daughter that as a parent, you can be a best friend to your child. This way, you get to understand her better, especially during the, turbulent teenage stage.
“The saddest moment in our lives was when we lost Nzulas dad, my husband in October 2020. I know wherever he is, he is proud of her and who she has grown to become. My prayer for her is that all her heart’s desires come true. I pray that her acting career continues to grow and her tour company expands beyond our borders,” Mwikali says.