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Life & times of Charles Ouda: From bartender in New York to nurturing talent in Kenya

By Winnie Onyando February 15th, 2024 2 min read

The funeral of the late Kenyan entertainer Charles Ouda is currently taking place at All Saints Cathedral. He will be laid to rest in Kariakor later today in a ceremony attended only by close family members.

Charles, affectionately known as Charli, passed away on February 3, according to his older sister Elizabeth Ouda and fiancée Ciru Muriuki.

During the service, the family reflected on Charli’s life and the choices he made to further his career.

In his eulogy, the family detailed how in April 2013, actor Charles ‘Charli’ Ouda made a pivotal decision in his career.

Also read: Bye bye baba! Charles Ouda’s mother pays heartfelt tribute

Driven by a relentless pursuit of excellence, he recognised the importance of honing his craft. Despite his considerable experience, Charli believed in the adage that there is always room for growth and learning.

With this in mind, he set his sights on the prestigious Lee Strasberg Institute in New York.

In true Charli fashion, he wasn’t afraid to aim high. He applied for the coveted Eleanora Duse Scholarship, embodying the mentality that “the worst they could say is no”. To his delight, he was awarded the scholarship.

Charli embarked on a two-year programme at the Conservatory, immersing himself in rigorous training and countless projects.

His time in New York was marked by a flurry of work and accolades, a testament to his unwavering commitment to his craft.

After graduating from the Institute, he ventured into various projects, demonstrating his versatility and skill.

Also read: Charles Ouda’s family talks about losing him and shares fond memories

Following his graduation, he delved into numerous projects, spanning from “Exposure 36” to “Mad,” “Happy Birthday Mr. President,” “Waiting Room,” “The German King,” and “Quantico” (voice work). Remarkably, he juggled these endeavours while serving as both a bartender and a deli server.

Not content with pursuing his career, Charli had a deep desire and sense of responsibility to nurture talent back at home.

In 2021, he decided to return to his roots, believing that nurturing local talent was essential to truly elevate the industry.

Upon his return, Charli wasted no time in making an impact. Immersing himself in rehearsals for productions such as ‘Subira’, he seamlessly integrated himself into the local scene.

From appearing in and writing for shows such as Crime & Justice and Salem, to running workshops for aspiring talent, Charli’s presence breathed new life into the industry.

His decision to return home wasn’t just about furthering his own career; it was about giving back to the community that shaped him and nurturing a new generation of talent.

Also read: Heartbroken Ciru Muriuki reveals wedding plans to late actor Charles Ouda

He was actively involved in numerous other productions such as “Higher Learning,” “Know Zone,” and “Discovery +254.” In many of these shows, Charli donned his directing and writing hats, showcasing his multifaceted talents.

Amidst his busy schedule, he also dedicated time to musical theatre, participating in acclaimed productions such as “Fiddler on the Roof” (2005), “Malaika” (2005), “The Sunbirds” (2006), “Sterling Q at Ten” (2009), and “Out of Africa: The Magic of Kenya” (2012).

Additionally, Charli took on roles at Phoenix Players, where he showcased his acting prowess in productions like “Love by Shakespeare,” “Tom, Dick & Harry,” “Chat Room,” and “Seven Stages of an Affair.” Furthermore, he landed a role in the movie “The First Grader,” adding to his diverse portfolio of work.