In her over 30 years of life, Asia Namirembe, Alias Asia Wa Charles, was not known beyond Mulimira Zone—the dusty locality in the Kampala suburb of Kamwokya. That was until 2021 when she became a TikTok sensation.
Her rise to fame may have come as a surprise to those who knew her back in the day.
Rogers Ssebunya, alias SB4, however, saw a talent in Asia that was primed to sprout forth.
“When I saw a rare video of Asia posted by someone on TikTok two years back, I knew there was something unique about her that everyone else had not noticed,” SB4 says.
After months of searching with no success, SB4 would later trace Asia at her home in Kamwokya. And, like they say, the rest was history.
Hailed as one of the most popular Ugandans on TikTok, a short-form video hosting service App, Asia’s career and life was cut short by a chronic stomach illness that claimed her life last week at Mulago hospital.
This left a cloud of sorrow above several Ugandans who enjoyed watching her skits.
The fourth child from a family of seven, Asia was born on November 10, 1988 in Conte Africa Zone Kamwokya, Kampala, to Jesica Nakonde, a shop attendant, and Muliki Kalanda, a farmer.
Ms Nakonde says Asia was a breech baby (born in a feet-first position).
Upon birth, Asia was named “Babirye”–a name for the elder of female twins in Buganda. Although she was not born with her other half, she received the name anyway.
The Kiganda culture stipulates that a breech baby automatically becomes a twin.
Asia suffered a mental disorder that reflected in the way she expressed herself.
As per her mother, this sad fact about her life was only discovered when she joined school at St Maria-Goretti Nursery and Primary School in Kamwokya.
“While in Top Class during her nursery school, her teacher raised the concern to me after monitoring her situation for some time,” Ms Nakonde told Sunday Monitor, adding that her situation was later medically diagnosed and she was informed that it would be managed with special care.
Her situation deterred her from learning and grasping at the same pace as her peers.
Her parents and teachers, nevertheless, managed to see her through Primary One at the same school.
As she moved to Primary Two, she was identified by a charity organisation run by Whites.
They took her to Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) Primary School in Kamwokya, a school where they were managing other children with mental disorders.
She studied there until Primary Four when her mum fell critically ill, being forced to move back to the village in Kyotera District. Ms Nakonde took Asia with her, convinced that no one could properly handle her.
“While in the village, Asia missed the chance of being taken abroad by the charity organisation that supported her education,” her mother told us, adding that her daughter only learnt of the opportunity after her return from the village.
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Written by Patrick Ssentongo