By Bruce Ndlovu
Clive Chigubhu grew up without a father. He was not the first, neither was he the last entertainer to grow up without the loving touch of a father in his life.
He did not experience the joys of being the apple of his father’s eye nor did he experience the simple gestures of love some sons may take for granted. He does not, for example, remember a father’s words of encouragement ringing in his ears as he learnt to ride a bicycle.
When he dreamt of being a young football prince, as most young kids do in the townships, he dribbled the ball around imaginary opponents when time to practice came.
His absent father was not on the receiving when he hit glorious cross-field passes across his family’s dusty township yard. It was this missing father’s touch, the crucial lack of paternal love and warmth, that convinced Chigubhu from an early age that when his time came, he would be a better father.
“Being a father is such a blessing and it’s an experience that I always wanted to have. I grew up without a father and I understand that void. First of all, I told myself that whether I’m rich or poor it doesn’t matter, I will be a father.
Being a father is being responsible for your actions or whatever you say,” he told Sunday Life in an interview.
However, fatherhood during the pandemic has been tough for a lot of people. Across the world, lockdowns, designed to put brakes on a pandemic that seems to outpace some of the best thought-out strategies, has put breadwinners on the back foot.
Unable to earn as they did before the pandemic started sweeping across the globe, many have had the displeasure of listening to the unpleasant symphony of their children’s grumbling stomachs.
For Chigubhu, as an entertainer during a period when most showbiz avenues are closed, the lockdown has shown him the tougher side of parenting.
“During this pandemic, things have been tough but it’s not like I’m raising this child alone. I’ve got a very supportive wife and partnership is all about that. It means handling your finances properly. I asked her what she wants since her birthday is in January and she was telling me that she wants a princess dress and a pony because she has been watching Fiona and these other fairytales. In reality, when you look at the situation in Zimbabwe right now, it’s tough. However, don’t deny a child imagination because you’re broke,” he said.
For Clive, the joy of holding his daughter, whom he already regards as funnier than he is, has been one of the sides of the fatherhood coin. The lockdown has introduced to the other face, the rougher side that has seen parents scrambling to put a few crumbs into their children’s mouths.
“Children yearn after anything. They’ll see something on TV and fancy it. It doesn’t mean that you have to steal to give her that. You just nurture and make sure that she understands life properly. At Early Child Development level that’s where you shake the brain of a child and you know a few things about the child. I’ve noticed that she is very quick and sharp. She has a good memory. Now when I’m on stage, I’m very inspired because I know that I’m doing it for her. This will end one day. The struggle continues.
“It’s the kids that inspire us to work up every day and go to work. Daddy has to work and daddy has to get paid. I’m enjoying every moment but I hope that I’m not too harsh on her. She is a daughter and the world out there is tough so I have to equip her for it. Wait until you see this young Chigubhu. She is funnier than me. I’m enjoying the blessing of such a family, whether I’m broke or I have money,” he said.
As a parent, Chigubhu knows that one cannot give up. After a year in which revenue from live performances has completely dried up, he encouraged comedians to look for solutions instead of crying for opportunities lost to the pandemic.
“Business has been quite low. The new normal is scary. I say this because we have been surviving through weddings and all of that. The very same people that we get money from are broke because their own avenues are also closed.
So, it’s been difficult but I would say the new normal says we need to take advantage of the internet. It’s easy to do business via the internet.
“As artistes, we have seen that we have to use and abuse these social media platforms and make money out of them.
That’s the only way now because it looks like the current situation is going to go on for a while,” he said.
Like many others, revenue has not been the only thing that Chigubhu has lost during the pandemic. He has been among the hundreds of Zimbabweans that have also had to calculate the human cost of Covid-19, saying goodbye to loved ones in unceremonious burials that left a bitter taste on the mouth even before the tears had dried on the cheeks.
“I can’t separate my personal and professional life when it comes to Covid-19. I can’t really say this is business and this is not because all in all it has just brought a lot of panic into my life. I have lost a lot of relatives during this pandemic. The one time I lost my aunt, there were just a few of us there crying and mourning for her. Five people went to bury here. It was just weird. I’m a comedian but that wasn’t funny at all. For me that was some kind of inspiration because even though we might cry about business, as an artiste our job is to entertain the people who are feeling as sad as we do during those low moments,” he said.
Chigubhu has made a living from putting a smile on the faces of people going through strife in their lives. However, when he is sad, as he was when he lost some loved ones to Covid-19, he also does wonder to who comedians turn to when life turns sour.
“As a comedian, sometimes these things come to your mind. You wonder who cheers you up when you’re feeling down. But I think I have great friends. I have people who, whether Clive is on stage or off stage, will come to me and crack jokes. Even Babongile Sikhonjwa does that. He will drive up and say mafana how are you doing and we have a laugh. It’s important to have those kinds of genuine friends. Cheers to all the people that make me laugh. Especially my daughter and my family. Those are my best friends,” he said.
Like many others in his trade, Chigubhu craves the stage. After almost a year-and-are-half without stage perfomances, he misses the laughter of an audience when a joke lands and the energy that their joy gave him. It was the wind in his sails, the encouragement that kept him coming up with even funnier material.
“As for missing the stage, I don’t know how to express this to people. Everything is just different because as a comedian, you throw a joke and everybody just laughs and that laugh motivates you and you are looking at their faces and building off that energy. That whole picture is now gone. It’s just you and the camera people. Some are laughing and some are not.
“So now you have to imagine the laughter . . . I think we are now living in an imaginary world. I have to picture my audience, how they are feeling as they watch me. However, I really want to focus on the positive aspects. What do we need to do now? What does the corporate need to do? This is how they make money. They pay us and they get paid as well. We don’t have to rely on Non-Governmental Organisations. We really miss the stage but on the other hand we also need to deliver as artistes,” he said. The Sunday News