Joseph Ogola Olita (31 March 1944 – 1 June 2014) was a Kenyan actor who was best known for portraying Idi Amin in Rise and Fall of Idi Amin (1981) and Mississippi Masala (1991). Olita remains one of the most celebrated and accomplished actors that Africa has ever produced.
Early life and education
Joseph Ogola Olita was born on March 31, 1944 to mother Regina Oduma. In 1951, Olita attended Pap Oriang Primary School. In 1958, he enrolled at St. Mary's Yala where he went for his O level and was an active drama club member.
After completing his secondary education, Olita was an employee of the Brooke Bond Company in Kericho and the Union Carbide in Nakuru. Olita was a deeply spiritual man having attended Barding Secondary School, between 1956 and 1960, and later proceeded to Yala Seminary School. Olita was working for USAID when the opportunity to act in 1981's Rise and Fall of Idi Amin presented itself.
According to NTV Uganda, Olita did not know much about Amin, so he "read a lot about him through books, through newspapers and the clips." He missed the chance to act as him when he was approached to portray the role in the 1976 film, Victory at Entebbe. When it came time to portray him in Rise and Fall, "I really had to master his mannerisms." Rise and Fall of Idi Amin won five awards, including Best Actor, at the Las Vegas International Film Festival. Olita not receiving an Oscar nomination for his performance has been considered one of the worst acting snubs in the history of the Academy Awards. "You see these wazungu are so selfish. They just wanted to make one of their own a star. (Forest) Whitaker’s performance and role in The Last King of Scotland is nowhere close to what I did and still able to do," says Olita.
In 1984, Olita portrayed the minor role of the First Policeman in Sheena. In 1991, he reprised his role as Amin for the second and final time in Mississippi Masala which also starred Denzel Washington. Olita also portrayed an army general in The Black Forest Clinic.
Life after acting
Following the election of Barack Obama as the first African-American to be President of the United States in 2008, Olita founded a tour company named ”Kogelo gallamoro tours” which took opportunity of the foreign visitors who kept pouring into Obama’s ancestral home town, Kogelo.
Personal life and death
When he acted his known role for the first time, he wrote a letter to the real Amin requesting to meet him but Amin never responded.
In a 2013 interview, Olita admitted that he was a born-again Christian. He also admitted to have had three wives as well as having fathered eight sons and four daughters. One of his wives died from diabetes.
Olita died about 11:00 AM on June 1, 2014 at his rural home in Pap Oriang’ in South East Alego of the Siaya District at the age of 70 after succumbing to high blood pressure. He had reportedly returned home on the day before from Nairobi, where he had been living after the funeral of his mother. According to his brother, Matthews Ogola, Olita was suffering from arthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure at the time of his death. Despite his stardom from Rise and Fall of Idi Amin, Olita died a poor man.
According to Sipross Odero, a relative of Olita, his body was removed to Bama Private Hospital mortuary. A funeral committee has been set up in his home village chaired by the South Alego Ward representative Joshua Osuri. Along with his aforementioned living relatives, Olita is survived by one wife, by the name of Alice Atieno, and several children including daughter Risper Odero, and grandchildren.
- Rise and Fall of Idi Amin (1981) - Idi Amin
- Sheena (1984) - 1st Policeman
- Le miniere del Kilimangiaro (1986) - Tribe Chief (uncredited)
- Mississippi Masala (1991) - Idi Amin (Last appearance)
- The Captain of Nakara (2012) - Muntu's father-in-law
- Joseph Olita biography at The New York Times
- "Lifestyle - 'Idi Amin actor' passes, aged 70". Standardmedia.co.ke. Retrieved 4 June 2014.
- Team, KTN Home Video, Standard Digital News - Renowned Kenyan actor Joseph Olita dies at the age of seventy, retrieved 2018-04-27
- Oloo, Eric (3 June 2014). "Idi Amin actor Joseph Olita dies in Siaya". The Star. Retrieved 2 December 2014.
- "The Rise and Fall of Joseph Olita: A Tribute". 5 June 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
- Kenyan Actor who Played Idi Amin In Film Passes On on YouTube
- Kakembo, Titus (3 June 2014). "Joseph Olita of Rise And Fall of Amin dead". New Vision. Retrieved 2 December 2014.
- "Kenya's Idi Amin – Joseph Olita Dies". Retrieved 1 May 2015.
- Ashaba, Anita (3 June 2014). "Joseph Olita who Acted As 'Idi Amin' Passes On At 70". UGO News. Archived from the original on 17 July 2014. Retrieved 2 December 2014.
- Joseph Olita at YouTube
- Langiri, Gerald (2 June 2014). "Joseph Olita (Actor Who Played Idid Amin) Dies at the Age of 70". Retrieved 1 May 2015.
- Obituary: Joseph Olita on playing Idi Amin at YouTube
- Lawrence, John (15 March 2015). "Kenyans who could have won oscars but didnt". The Nairobian. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
- Lawrence, John (15 March 2015). "Kenyans who could have won oscars but didnt (part 2)". The Nairobian. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
- "Kenya's Acting Fraternity Mourns the Demise of Two Talented Artists". Kenya Forum. 3 June 2014. Retrieved 2 December 2014.
- Veteran Actor Joseph Olita Dies at YouTube
- Abeka, Moses (24 July 2013). "From acting to selling pirated movies, The Rise and Fall of Joseph Olita, the "Idi Amin" actor". Big Eye. Retrieved 2 December 2014.
- Renowned Kenyan actor Joseph Olita dies at the age of seventy on YouTube
- "IDI AMIN" at YouTube
- "Joseph Olita the Star actor in the Rise and Fall of Idi Amin dies in Siaya". 2 June 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2015.