By Vincent Gono
Television dramas have always been a source of entertainment for many households both in town and in the countryside and the name Gringo is not new in this genre, as the man has been able with so much ease to keep viewers glued to their sets with his rib-cracking wit and an unfettered display of naughtiness.
Lazarus Boora, popularly known as Gringo for his role in the Gringo series of dramas that were penned by veteran script writer Enock Chihombori who is now based in Botswana and whose cast also included the equally comic Mbudziyadhura and the controversial Mudhara Gweshe Gweshe opened up to Sunday Leisure last week.
In an interview with Sunday Leisure, Gringo lamented lack of corporate and Government support dogging the arts industry saying it was sad that the country was losing arts talent to better paying countries.
He is the man credited for having provided a fitting replacement of the late Safirio Madzikatire of the Mukadota fame and the late Paraffin who were well known in the country’s drama circles during their days for their humour laced approach to serious societal issues.
And now the country’s drama industry is slowly but surely sinking into oblivion and is no longer as vibrant as it was during the days of Mukadota owing much to piracy and lack of corporate support.
The lack of support in the arts genre has witnessed a glut of rushed and poor quality dramas being produced while some scriptwriters are holding on to their work and wondering what to do with it as the scourge of piracy continues eating into their productions, leaving them poorer.
Gringo said without the financial support from Government and the corporate world, the arts industry would remain a far cry to the anticipated standards that regional counterparts now have as more talented artistes would be leaving the country to explore their chosen careers in other countries.
“The arts industry is not being supported in the country. Both the Government and the corporate sector are not doing much to support the industry. In some of our regional counterparts and in sound economies, the arts are not only taken as a hobby but a serious industry that feeds into the national economy.
“The problem we have in Zimbabwe is that we thought indigenisation means we should be on the streets selling pirated discs.
“The trend, however, has been that if you see a vice that does not end in Zimbabwe, there are big people who will be benefiting and that has been the case with piracy and it’s quite sad,” said Gringo.
Due to lack of support for the arts he added, arts companies that used to employ hundreds of people such as Gramma Records, Zimbabwe Music Company and Ngaavongwe Music Records have either folded or are operating at below capacity.
He singled out the Culture Fund as the only available funding for the arts but was quick to point out that it was oversubscribed and could never be enough for all arts projects.
Gringo also said he felt the Arts Ministry should be superintended over by someone with a wholesome appreciation of the arts industry and not someone with little or no theoretical knowledge of the sector.
“I would appreciate if Oliver Mtukudzi is to be one day made Minister of Arts. I think that is when we are likely to see a real paradigm shift in the whole arts sector because he has the experience of how it feels to be an artiste who is expected to produce for the nation without much support,” Gringo added.
The Gringo series of dramas where he plays main character include Gringo Ndiani, Gringo Mari Iripi, NdiGringo Chete and Gringo The Trouble Maker although they are not the only dramas that he starred in.
He was also part of the cast of the Aaron Chiundura-Moyo written Mafuro Manyoro that had 13 episodes but only four episodes were aired before it was abruptly stopped allegedly after some couples complained of invasion of privacy while they were at various picnic spots.
According to Gringo, Mafuro Manyoro was a portrayal of real life societal ills where adultery and cheating was at the centre stage.
He also took part in the movie Yellow Card with the likes of Leeroy Gopal who was the main actor. Gringo said had it not been for the gross exploitation that he had faced in the industry he could have done more of himself. He said he could have even bought a house.
“The issue is that there is a lot of exploitation. At one time probably because of the ZBC monopoly we were told to take it or leave it but because there was no other option we were forced to accept the little that they were offering. So I think multiplicity of television and radio stations helps in improving the quality of arts programmes,” he said.
Gringo who is now 42 years old and a father of five said he started his acting career when he was in primary school. He said it was not much out of passion but out of naughtiness that he found himself acting in various dramas.
He admitted, however, that it was partly hereditary as two of his grandparents were famed for entertaining villagers at various beer gatherings.
“At school I was a little naughty and would feign illness when it comes to sporting and other activities. I used to tell teachers that I was asthmatic although I did not even know where it attacks and how it was like to have asthma.
“Then it happened that there is a teacher who gave me a script and told me to go and read it as part of punishment for refusing to take part in other activities.
“I went and read the script and on the morrow I recited it and the teacher was impressed. That is how I was roped into the school drama club and from there I knew exactly what I was capable of,” he said.
He said he was a proud member of the Johanne Masowe sect whose greatest possession was his family. Gringo urged artistes not to work for “jolly juices” but to value their work. He said he once worked in a mortuary adding that he was hard working and would do anything that was legal to earn money and feed his family.
“Even if you give me a snake to sell I can do it as long as you are going to give me the amount of money that we will have agreed on. What I detest is to be exploited,” he said laughing. Sunday News