After dropping out of school at the age of 15 to join an acrobatic troupe in the Kawangware slums of Nairobi, where he lived with his family, Andrew Simiyu’s life changed when he saw a visiting American perform card tricks.
Over the years he read and studied every book he could find on the subject. “I was fascinated by card tricks but as time went by I started to understand how magic works and I chose things that fit my personality,” says Andrew. “I came across some coin tricks and that’s when I learned about sleight of hand.”
While working at a circus in Spain, Andrew was called upon for his first performance, which included card tricks, stage magic, disc manipulation, illusions, and close-up magic to amaze the audience. [Further reading: “What types of magic are out there?”]
Returning to Kenya to pursue his newfound art was, however, far more challenging than Andrew anticipated.
“I came back in February 2016, and it was very difficult because the Kenyan people initially did not understand or believe what I performed. At first, they were amused, but there were different reactions. Many would say it is witchcraft,” he explains.
Africa.Magic asked Andrew some questions about his journey in magic.
How do you address the challenges of the acceptance of your art in your home country?
“When I see the reaction of the audience it motivates me to do more interesting things, and to learn new things to keep up my art.”
Have you noticed any changes to this over time, and if so, in which ways?
“Yes, many – like meeting new people who are interested in my art. They want to see more of my performances because they hear about me on social media and television. I also get many requests from people who want me to perform at events.”
How have you honed your skills over the years?
“I have invented new things that make big changes in my performance. If I compare my art performance now with past performances, there is a big difference because every day I learn and get exposed to new things.”
What are your preferred/favourite illusions?
“Mostly I like performing The Floating Table.”
What do you love about magic?
“I am always overwhelmed when I perform, and when I see the happy faces in the audience, that is my best feeling ever … seeing my performance change their faces. When I see them happy, I am happy.”
Tell us how you feel about performing at the Bishkek Magic Festival in Kyrgyzstan in March 2018?
“I am very happy to be part of this show. It will be different from anything I’ve done before because I will not be alone. There will be artists from all over the world, and I will be representing my country. I’m looking forward to sharing the stage with them because that’s how we all learn – from each other.”
“Hans Klok from Holland is my role model and I admire him because he inspires me to be a greater magician.”
What can the audiences at this show expect from your performance?
“It will be a great surprise because I have prepared so much and I won’t disappoint my audience.”
Magic.Africa wishes Andrew the best of luck performing in Bishkek!
The Bishkek Magic Festival in Kyrgyzstan is the first of its kind and features performers from throughout the world, including Thrillusionist David Davinci & Jamieleigh. The festival will take place at the Kyrgyz National Philharmonic concert venue in Bishkek on 9 & 10 March 2018 (Russian).
(With additional reporting by Editor-in-Chief, Marcel Oudejans)