THE use of film, especially comedy, as a propaganda tool before independence became an important aspect of the Rhodesian domestic policy to ‘train’ Africans on how to live in hopeless subservience.
Films such as The Adventures of Tiki were made by the Colonial Films Unit of the British Empire with the aim of ridiculing Africans.
The Adventures of Tiki was very popular wherever it was shown as villagers were delighted to see one of their own, Andrew Kanyemba, then later on Patrick Chiroodza, on the silver screen.
With the phenomenon of watching movies still an enigma for many in the country’s remote areas, humorous adventures of Tiki proved very popular.
The whole village would become a ghost town as villagers, from the village and kraal heads to school children, left for the growth point to watch the bioscope or bhaisikopo as they were called.
The film was beamed from a projector, mostly mounted on a Land Rover bonnet, while the running commentary came from a loudspeaker or hailer.
To make sure the project’s objective of spreading the regime’s propaganda, of ‘inferior’ Africans and ‘superior’ British colonial masters was effective, the regime played Tiki productions for free.
Tiki was a very naughty young man who went to Salisbury and played funny tricks, cheating people and each time he did that, a white man chased after him.
Tiki could run very fast and almost flew (fast forward) over hills, rivers and mountains.
But the whiteman in the film always caught up with him and slapped him hard on the cheeks, telling him what a bad native boy he was.
Villagers would laugh at Tiki’s silly tricks and call him a fool.
At the end of the movie, there was some music and scenes of white people walking about the city.
Glued to the screen, villagers would marvel “Ah, murungu akangwara” (The whiteman is smart).
That was the main objective of the Tiki productions — he was never a hero or legend in all his popular productions.
It is now 49 years since Tiki, the silent comedian’s films, were shot but they are still exciting to the older generations who watched them in schools or at growth points where they were screened by the Mobile Cinema Unity under the Ministry of Information.
However, despite the popularity of the films, the main actor (Tiki) never realised much from the productions.
Thus, it is unfortunate that the Zimbabwean veteran and pioneer actor in silent comedy, Patrick Chiroodza, famous in the 1970s and 1980s, has nothing to show for his contributions, unlike his counterparts in Europe — the likes of the late Charlie Chaplin who died US$400 million richer on the Christmas day of 1977.
Tiki, as his sarcastic character suggests, was paid very little money and never signed any contract which could have earned him a lot through royalties since his productions were watched all over the country countless times.
The Patriot caught up with the silent comedian in his rural home in Domboshava where he reminisced over the old days.
In an interview with The Patriot, Tiki revealed how he never knew that the Rhodesians were using him as a tool to spread their propaganda and how much he could have earned had he negotiated for a contract.
“I wish I had met you during the Rhodesian era,” said Tiki.
“Chokwadi kusaziva mumvuri werufu (ignorance is death).
“It is only on reflection that I realise that I was used to further the agenda of the colonialists and was not even meaningfully paid for it. I used to think I was a hero, a superstar during the time.
“Because we had no exposure, I did not know that my fellow actors like Charlie Chaplin in the US, during the same period, were earning millions of dollars,” said Tiki.
“I am, however, happy because the liberation struggle proved to my fellow Africans that we are not as dumb as Tiki, the role I played in those productions.”
Tiki, the village head of Chiroodza Village in Domboshawa, is now small-scale animal husbandry farmer and he is into piggery and poultry.
Chiroodza was born on November 28 1950 and started acting at the age of 12 while at Chogugudza Primary School, where he did his substandard A and B.
He said his acting skills were honed during his secondary education at St Philips, Magwenya, in Guruve were he did his Junior Certificate before he relocated to Highfield to seek employment.
His career in silent comedy began when he passed the Tiki auditions which were held in the capital (then Salisbury) close to the Kopje area on March 3 1970.
His uncle, Alexander Mutyambizi, had informed him about the auditions.
Chiroodza, a father of four (Tawanda, Tapiwa, Nicky and Freeman), said the producer, Catherine Elsworth, was impressed by his acting skills.
“I was then told to play the role of Tiki,” he said.
“The name Tiki was derived from a Rhodesian coin which was usually paid to Africans as their wages.”
The talented actor, who featured in 11 short films as the main character which include Tiki the waiter, Tiki learns to drive, Tiki and the stolen suitcase and Tiki and the pot plant, among others, said he was only paid Rhodesian $10 upon shooting, which could only buy a pair of shoes, trousers and a shirt.
He used to act together with Offson Nyaungwa and Josephine Gonzo.
During those days, Africans in rural areas were interested in two local productions which were Tiki and Safirio Madzikatire’s Mhuri yekwaMataka and later, Mhuri yaVaMukadota.