The actor, Lazarus Boora, popularly known in Zimbabwe as Gringo was born in the Eastern part of Zimbabwe known as Nyazura in a village called Rukweza. He did his grade one at Rukweza Primary School in 1981. The following year he moved to Harare where he did his grade two and three at Glen View Number Two Primary School. He then went back to Rukweza to do his grade four up to grade seven. In 1988, he came back to Harare and settled in Mabvuku Township where he did his secondary education at Tafara High School. Mabvuku became his adopted home.
Lazarus recalls that his interest in acting started way back in 1984 when he was still doing grade four in Rukweza. His teacher then, the late Mr. Sangare was quick to notice the potential in his acting abilities. He encouraged and greatly influenced the young Lazarus Boora to pursue this form of art. He was not aware he was nurturing a talent that was to mature into one of Zimbabwe’s well known comedy actors. Still at school, apart from acting, Lazarus was also fond of singing, soccer and athletics where his favourite discipline was the marathon.
After school, with his assured acting talent, Lazarus inevitably found himself joining theatrical clubs in Mabvuku. He became a member of Yamaguchi drama club and Tamuka Theatrical Arts. With these clubs Lazarus gained much needed acting experience as he went about performing with his colleagues within and around Mabvuku. With his focus on acting, he joined Avondale based Reps Theatre in 1993. Here, his professionalism in acting was honed. He got to meet and work with highly professional theatre gurus like Gorgina Goldwin, Bart Wolfe and John Denison. He got involved in productions such as ‘Mhondoro’ which was written by Jeremy Summerfield. At Reps he also worked alongside his old time acting friend from Mabvuku, Stewart Sakarombe (Wideway in the drama ‘To my Nephew Moses’).
In between acting jobs, Lazarus had to find other means to sustain himself. In 1994 he informally worked at a popular market-place well known as Siyaso in Harare’s Mbare Township. Here, he got engaged as a salesman who dealt in second-hand car spare parts. Selling became a part of his life. That same year he joined a company called The People’s Roadshow. This was the first marketing company in Zimbabwe to run roadshows particularly meant to sell and advertise merchandise for and from various companies within the country. His acting skills came in handy here as his colleagues and himself were required to communicate with their audiences using short plays, sketches and DJ skills. With The People’s Road show Company, Lazarus travelled the length and breadth of Zimbabwe and reach places such as Gokwe, Mutoko, Lupane and Gwanda.
In 1996, he joined Screentalent, an acting club in Harare. As its name suggests, Screentalent was a club awash with most of Harare’s acting talent. Lazarus Boora got to rub shoulders with such prominent television and film actors like Yanai Psvuura, the late Makomborero Muza, the late Collin Dube (John Banda in Gringo), Charles Kapfupi (Wakanaka in Studio 263) and Pretty Xaba (Mai Muvengwa in Studio 263). The following year Lazarus had his television debut when he acted a minor role as a Junior Policeman in Aaron Chiundura-Moyo’s popular television drama series ‘Chihwerure’. The series was produced by The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and it was directed by Dorothy Chidzawo. That same year, 1997, a new member by the name of Enock Chihombori joined Screentalent. A strong and long working relationship between Lazarus and Enock was about to be forged.
Enock Chihombori was a cartoonist for a weekly newspaper, Kwayedza. The main character in his cartoons was called ‘Gringo’. That year (1997) he wrote a television script with ‘Gringo’ as the lead character. The following year, Lazarus Boora was cast as Gringo in the first adaptation of the cartoon character to a television comedy drama series. He became an instant hit with Zimbabwean television viewers. His co-actors also found themselves in the lime light as the Zimbabwean TV audience fell in love with the drama series. Prominent amongst them were William Matenga (Gweshegweshe), the late Stembeni Makawa (Mai Gweshegweshe), the late Collin Dube ( John Banda), Memory Guzha (Anna), Memory Makuri (Madhumbe) and Fanuel Tonganai (Firimoni). The writer Enock Chihombori also shared the lime light as he acted the part of Toby Waters. The series was produced by Zimbabwe’s national broadcaster ZBC and Dorothy Chidzawo was the director.
1999 was to be an eventful year for Lazarus Boora. With the exposure that television gave him, he soon found himself being hired to perform or to be an announcer at various gatherings and functions like weddings and parties. By the middle of that year, he was rehearsing for the second instalment of the Gringo series called ‘NdiGringo Chete’. Most of his colleagues from the first one were present for this one. Again, it was produced by ZBC and directed by Dorothy Chidzawo. This series cemented Lazarus’ position as one of the country’s leading television comedians. His colleague Collin Dube (John Banda) also saw his popularity soar. Before the year came to an end, Lazarus and Collin were cast in one of the country’s best feature films ever, ‘Yellow Card’. Lazarus played the part of a humorous garden boy. The partnership between him and Collin in the Gringo series did not last long as soon after completing work on ‘Yellow Card’, Collin passed away in an unfortunate swimming pool incident in Bulawayo. His loss was a major blow to the series.
The popularity of the Gringo series did not go unnoticed by the corporate world. Nestle, a baby-products manufacturing company based in Harare decided to buy all the advertising space during the airing of the series on TV. Lazarus himself got engaged by the company to market some of their products. With his previous road-show experience, this proved not to be a difficult task for him as he assembled a team that ably carried out their mandate as marketers and merchandisers.
Nothing much happened on the acting scene for Lazarus during the year 2000. In 2001 he was on the set of yet another Gringo drama series. Again the script was written by its creator, Enock Chihombori and it was titled, ‘Gringo Ndiani’. It was produced by ZBC, but this time the director was the veteran film-maker Arnold Shoko. Shoko executed his work well and managed to maintain the high standards previously set by Dorothy Chidzawo. ‘Gringo Ndiani’ saw the emergence of yet another acting star. The character of Mbudziyadhura was introduced in this series and a relatively unknown actor called Blessing Chimhowa played the part. Mbudziyadhura came in as Gringo’s side-kick and immediately won the viewers’ hearts with his laid-back type of humour.
The following year (2002), the major event of the year for Zimbabwean artists was the inaugural National Arts Merit Awards (NAMA) which was staged in Harare. This is Zimbabwe’s premier event in which excelling artists and their works are honoured. In the Film and Television category, the drama series “Gringo Ndiani” came out dominant. It won the Best TV Drama Series award. Lazarus Boora won the best Actor award. Enock Chihombori won the Best Film and Television Script writer’s award. The end of that year saw Enock write two short stories on Gringo to celebrate the festive season. One was titled “Gringo – Christmas presents” and the other was titled “Gringo – Christmas Dinner”. The two stories were produced and directed by Arnold Shoko for ZBC. They helped cement the Gringo series’ position as one of Zimbabwe’s finest comedies and further affirmed Lazarus’ excellent acting abilities.
In 2003 Lazarus went on to work on yet another rib-cracking long running Gringo drama series titled “Gringo Mari iripi?” Again, this production was directed by the veteran film-maker Arnold Shoko for ZBC and Enock Chihombori was once again the writer of the hilarious script. Gringo’s popularity soared together with that of his side-kick Mbudziyadhura. In this series, Lazarus was re-united with his long time friend, the highly talented Stewart Sakarombe who played the part of a thief. Emmanuel Tembo, who played the part of Tyron, Gringo’s antagonist in the story also played his part well. With such a cast, the drama’s popularity soared to even higher levels. Unfortunately, to date, this was to be the last successful Gringo drama series to be produced by ZBC.
The year 2004 passed without any major filming activities for Lazarus. The following year started at a very promising note. Enock Chihombori struck a deal with ZBC and Shamiso Studios to write and help direct a yearlong Gringo Drama series. The series was to be titled “Gringo Aripo”. Immediately work started on the new series. Six episodes were shot and packaged before the deal between ZBC and Shamiso was unexpectedly cancelled. The drama that was supposed to run for a year was no more. Everyone involved was devastated. Some actors struggled to get paid for the work they had done on the six episodes. This was the most disappointing Gringo series as ZBC aired the six episodes and left viewers hanging with an unfinished story. It was a big blow to Lazarus’ career as the series lost some of its credibility. The situation was made even worse by the fact that no Gringo production was undertaken the following two years. Sadly, it was also the last Gringo series in which the inimitable Stembeni Makawa (Mai gweshegweshe) featured. She passed away in 2006. Her death, like that of Collin Dube (John Banda) was a great loss not only to the Gringo series, but to the Zimbabwean arts industry as well. The cancellation of the contract between ZBC and Shamiso saw Lazarus Boora go on to join Doves Morgan, a funeral parlour in Harare. To everyone’s surprise, he was now working as an undertaker. He undertook this job from 2004 to 2005. When he left Doves Morgan, he spent most of his time at his rural home in Rukweza.
In 2006, Lazarus was off to Victoria Falls were he participated in a programme called ‘The Tourism Challenge’. This was a competitive game show which tested participants physically and mentally. His participation in this show was well received and it helped keep his image in the lime light as the show was shown weekly on television. While he was having the adventure of a life time in Kariba, Enock was busy working on yet another Gringo script titled “Gringo Ndini”. This one was not to be a television drama series, but a feature film. A sponsor for the film was found and arrangements were promptly underway to start shooting. Rehearsals were conducted. Like the last Gringo project he worked on, this one also had its own share of problems. The problems started when the final budget was drawn up. The sponsor withdrew by indefinitely postponing the shooting date. Lazarus and the rest of the acting crew hopefully waited for the shooting schedule, but it never came. Enock who was negotiating with the sponsor soon gave up the fight and turned to The Zimbabwe Culture Fund for financial help. His application was successful, but the money was never used to finance the ‘Gringo Ndini’ film project. Instead Enock wrote two short Gringo scripts titled ‘Gringo-The Ring’ and ‘Gringo-The Restaurant’. As usual Lazarus gave his best performance on these two short stories. The stories were expertly directed by Webster Gutsa. The following year (2007) Lazarus worked on yet another Gringo short story titled “Gringo-The Cake”. This story was produced by the record company Zimbabwe Music Corporation (ZMC) and it was featured on a DVD compilation under the title ‘Enock Chihombori’s Gringo Stories’. Other stories on the DVD are Lazarus’ previous works, ‘Gringo-The Ring’ and ‘Gringo-The Restaurant’. Gringo-The Cake was directed by Remmington Mbeya. This short story proved to be quite popular with viewers who managed to see the DVD and it re-introduced Gringo as one of the best comical actors in Zimbabwe. His side-kick Mbudziyadhura and his employer Gweshegweshe (always played by William Matenga) also featured prominently in this story. After this story, Lazarus’ involvement with Gringo took a respite. He went back to his home village, Rukweza.
The same year, 2007, he came back to settle in Harare after getting a marketing job at Mutomba Supermarket. He worked at Mutomba till 2010. From there he went on to work for a merchandising company known as Large Data. Large Data are his current employers and he is engaged as a Marketing Officer.
Towards the end of 2011, Enock Chihombori came calling again with his yet-to-be-produced ‘Gringo Ndini’ film script. The film was produced by independent producers. In this story, Gringo plays a role in which he ruins a young man’s plans to get rich quick. As usual he is ably supported by Mbudziyadhura. The story was rehearsed in December and it was shot in January of 2012. After shooting, the story was renamed to ‘Gringo-Troublemaker’.
Thanks to Enock Chihombori