He walks away from a group of mourners to the corner of a house to receive a call. As he speaks, Ashraf Simwogerere’s facial expression paints a melancholic disposition.
Like many mourners, Simwogerere is struggling to come to terms with the loss of a friend and fellow actor, Dick Kitamirike, who breathed his last in the late afternoon of Wednesday.
According to Simwogerere, Kitamirike complained of illness last Saturday, and went to Kiruddu Hospital, was admitted but died moments later. We had not established the cause of his death by press time.
He was one of Uganda’s veteran stage actors, having cut out a career from the 1960s with Kayaayu drama outfit and more recently graced the silver screen as a filmmaker as well as featuring in music videos.
To many television viewers, he will be remembered as ‘Nadduli’, a role of tough and complicated man he took on in a serialized production titled Suubi , which airs on local station, Bukedde Television.
Fellow actors eulogised him as a versatile actor, one who executed different roles much to the satisfaction of peers and contemporaries.
“He was a natural actor and one that is not easily replaceable. There are not many of such actors today. He was experienced but humble. He was much older than many directors but he was a good listener and respectful. We have lost an actor we have learnt from. He was one person who offered practical learning given his experience,” Mr John Ssegawa, a stage and film actor and director explains. The duo worked together on two projects.
Kitamirike was admirable. Theatergoers who watched him on stage appreciate his artistic delivery, particularly given his versatility in fitting in different roles.
One of his notable roles was in a play titled Okufa N’obutanyagwa as handler of a traditional prime minister, read Katikkiro.
He was dreaded because of his callous nature, killing anyone that went against the ideas and beliefs of his master. He was graphical. Audiences were driven into outbursts of jeers and boos as he delivered in his role.
The play was among many productions he starred in as a headliner in Diamonds Ensemble under the leadership of actor cum Member of Parliament (MP), Paul Kato Lubwama.
“He could portray a jolly and tough person in the same role. I first saw his abilities in a play by the Theatricals, in the 1970s, called Lease where he was acting a rich man who exploited the poor. He was a wonderful actor,” Kato Lubwama recounts. Two decades later, he got to meet Kitamirike at an eatery in Kisenyi, downtown Kampala, and asked him to return to stage.
At the time, the deceased actor had taken a break from stage to concentrate on mechanics works.
Kitamirike was a specialised mechanic for German cars such as the Golf, Audi and Volkswagen, something Simwogerere confirms. When he returned to stage, it felt like he had never left.
Simwogerere shared stage and later became friends with Kitamirike when he joined Diamonds Ensemble in 2003.
It was a humbling experience working with the veteran actor who he had first watched as a child, in a play titled Lwaki Baavu, in 1977 by Kayaayu drama outfit.
The production was screened on Uganda Television (UTV). He took interest in his journey.
When he left Kayaayu, Kitamirike joined The Theatricals and later on formed Esparias, in 1989.
“Watching him on stage was inspiring. If his role meant to fall hard on stage, he did so. On set, Kitamirike wanted actualities. He was not a fan of visual effects. All you had to do was to tell him what you wanted and he did it,” explains Hakim Abdu Katongole, a video maker and producer commonly known as Kim XP.
He first watched Kitamirike on stage at Bat Valley Theatre.
He later asked him to take roles in music videos, namely Tugambire Ku Jennifer a song by singer Bobi Wine, in which he convincingly portrays the afflicted in video.
He also features in the music video for a song titled Dembe, by the same artiste, preaching peace in the election period.
Kitamirike deserves honorary mention in the local film industry.
When filmmaker Henry Herbert Ssali set out to make Kiwaani-the movie, one of the actors recommended to him was Kitamirike.
“Despite being so experienced, he was a down to earth person. He respected himself and others. Everyone liked him. He acted mostly on stage and quickly adopted to film,” Ssali recounts.
In his artistry, one of his sons, Denis Rackla, had followed. Rackla lost his life in a motorcar accident.
Ventured into piggery
At the time of his passing, he had his energies focused on screen acting. He was a co-writer for the Suubi project.
Simwogerere recalls Kitamirike as a religious person, a born-again Christian. He was a piggery farmer too.
“He was such a clean person that it was hard to realise he reared pigs. His home was always neat and clean. He had few friends and always invited them to spend time at his home. I would often invite him over to visit my family too. He was very enthusiastic about matters of Buganda Kingdom. He bought a certificate to support activities of the kingdom on annual basis,” Simwogerere says of the 68-year-old fallen actor.
Vigil for Kitamirike was held at his home in Masooli, in Wakiso District.
By press time, his remains were due for burial at the family ancestral home in Namulonge, Nabalanga Village, on Gayaza Road.