Today’s guest is Artist Terefe Lemma. He is a veteran artist who, as an actor, had successfully served for decades in the Addis Ababa City Hall Theatre and Cultural Centre. He also got himself involved in a range of films and television drama series. Aside from getting himself involved in various stage plays revolving around social and economic issues of the general public, he had produced a number of song lyrics.
More to the point, he had established the Ethiopian Housing Administration Cultural Troupe. In the same way, he was honored a gold medal in lightweight boxing division which took place in Ogaden.
In addition to these, he was awarded a certificate for serving many years in the City Hall Theatre and Cultural Centre. As well, according to his contributions, he had been awarded more than 35 certificates of achievements.
Therefore, The Ethiopian Herald had a short stay with Artist Terefe Lemma with a view to familiarizing readers with his personal and professional life. He had touched upon a number of issues focusing on the nitty-gritty of Ethiopian theatre: past and present. Excerpts:
What was the reaction of people towards Ethiopian Theatre in the earlier decades?
Honestly speaking, the general public was passionate about Ethiopian stage plays. It is really too wonderful for words. They were all crazy about our stage plays
At that specific point, we were the talk of most audiences. We were in the habit of pleasing audiences time and again. Hence, they were always on our sides. In fact, we were not bringing into play a range of stage arrangements: theatres in-the-round, thrust stages, theatres in-the-round, Arena theatres, studio theatres, platform stages and what not.
We were making use of local stage arrangements with beautiful acting which had the power of capturing audiences’ attention within the shortest time possible. We were working round-the-clock. For this reason, harvesting the fruit of success was as easy as shelling peas and as simple as winking.
To the surprise of many, quite a lot of people were attending our stage plays with all their hearts. Most of them were in the habit of touching upon the general public’s societal and economic issues. More often than not, we were constantly making documentary films.
We really had a wonderful time as we were pleased our audiences. Most parents from the left, right and center of the country used to come with their children to attend our works at that specific point. We were also crazy about the profession since we were giving our all. And we were not money-oriented. We were receiving a standing ovation over and over again. That was our imbursement. In different words, it was our greatest permanent attainment but money comes and goes.
Would you please enlighten us about the current Ethiopian theatre and films?
Nowadays, I would say, most people are not interested to watch Ethiopian films as they do not reflect the real Ethiopian culture. They as well are copied from a range of sources. In this way, it would be easier said than done to achieve the desired goal. At the present time, most actors and actresses focus on making money. They do not care a brass button about the message they would like to put into words. They should be able to understand the interest of the general public.
They simply blow their own trumpet. The situation really makes my blood boil. As for me, film should be able to reflect the authentic situation going on behind closed curtains. To tell the truth, young actors and actresses are not good at acting. But they should be able to meet the interest of the general public.
In recent times, the general public considers films as one of the leisure time activities. From films any layman can learn about the ups and downs of life and other related aspects.
In the course of our time, people were in the habit of learning a lot from our stage plays. When one sees a certain stage play, they should be able to get something out of the play. If not, it is considered as a waste and all the films are like peas in a pod.
By then, all stage plays were reflecting the real culture of the country. The progress is as slow as a snail.
Why is the Ethiopian theatre dominated by only few actors time and again?
To the best of my knowledge, stage play is a high-ranking standard of human turn of phrase and inspection. And, it offers the general public with a deeper understanding of itself as a communal as well as persons through an amalgamation of goings-on and lessons. If we are on familiar terms with the dos and don’ts of a film, we can be fruitful in a short time. We do not have to embrace famous actors and actresses for the love of fattening one’s pocket.
Despondently, to point out one of the basic reasons behind the domination of few actors, it is that the main target of most film producers is money. They concentrate on money. As you are all aware of, money cannot purchase the whole lot.
As I have tried to mention so far, at some point in our time, our main focus was on the profession and pleasing our audience. We were focusing on the ethics of theatre. We were not alarmed about money as the profession was more than anything under the sun. Whenever I encounter a film which gets off the track, I fly into rage.
What should be done to take the theatre industry to a new chapter of success?
As for me, young artists should acquaint themselves with the fundamentals of theatres and acting accordingly. They should follow our footsteps with the purpose of pleasing audiences. If they do, they can materialize their dreams in a little while.
As to me there should be somebody who would shower them with pieces of advices time and again. They should behave themselves.
Above and beyond, youngsters should be able to learn from their mistakes. The media should play a great role in promoting the real cultures of the different Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia. If we bring into play a range of mechanisms, we can achieve the desired goal in a little while. I have the nerve to say, we are heading in the right direction despite challenges. This is really a great achievement. We have a great wealth or resources. We should be able to do a number of things to be on the right track all the time.
Why do you think most veteran artists lead a hand to mouth life?
To the best of my knowledge, as the retirement income is not a sufficient amount, the veteran artists end up leading a hand to mouth life. The situation is tear-jerking. Some of them are not feeling up to the mark. When they get retired, they simply sit binding their hands and feet. Without exaggeration, there is no anyone who can keep up with them.
The veteran artists are excellent at acting and melting audiences’ hearts in next to no time. If we, the former artists, come together and partake in films, we can be successful in a short time.
All veteran artists know the inside out of the art world with no trouble. We can effortlessly achieve the target. At this point in time, whenever producers would like to play a certain part in a certain film, they pay us some amount of money.
Though it is not fair, we get ourselves involved in the film willy-nilly. There should be somebody who would give veteran artists the chance to partake in a range of films. I have the courage to say, nobody can catch up with the past generation over and over again. The government should do something to change their lives. In doing so, we can achieve the desired goal.
What is your reflection on Ethiopian music video clips?
I am not happy with most Ethiopian music video clips given that they do not reflect the culture of the various Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia. Some video music clips directors make an effort to reflect the real culture of Ethiopia.
Quite the opposite, some of them end up incorporating foreign cultures. I do not like this kind of video clips for they break my heart. As for me, earlier than coming up with a certain clip, directors should be able to familiarize themselves with the nuts and bolts of the cultures of the different Nations, Nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia.
If they do so, they can produce music video clips which can easily win the attention of the general public. We do not have to fail to remember our roots. We do not have to miss the intended target.
Despondently, in some video music clips artists adorn themselves head to foot with foreign clothes. The clothes have nothing to do with our cultures. Even worse, some of them end up dyeing their hair in a range of styles. To be best of my knowledge, video music clips and traditional songs should be able to match. Otherwise, we end up missing the intended target.
Are there some little things that really irk you, if any?
If truth would be told, the City Hall Theatre & Cultural Centre does not possess my personal records. If somebody would like to get some information about our history, it would be difficult to find one. I was one of the pillars of the City Hall Theatre. I had played a major role in taking the city hall to a new chapter of success. As an actor, I had served there for decades. If we take as an example, about other theatres, artists can easily get fully-fledged information about themselves in a jiffy. Whenever I am thinking of that, I really get furious.
As a final point, is there anything you would like to convey?
All and sundry, should respect one another. The general public should place much emphasis on love and respect. If not, we cannot harvest the fruit of success. Without exaggeration, the two elements play a major role in achieving success. And if we fail to do so, we cannot achieve the desired goal.
In other words, our efforts will go for nothing. Moreover, we fail to reap the fruit of success in a short time. Even worse, directors avail themselves of the same actors and actresses.
One can encounter the same faces in a range of films. Respecting oneself and others plays a major role in materializing one’s objective. Respect is bordering on love. It is the key for everything. One should be able to respect one’s boss. Our biggest accomplishment is respect.
As well, if we tend to hold a grudge, we cannot fruitfully discharge our works. Before we fully get ourselves engaged in a certain activity, we should be able to get to the bottom of the problem. Above and beyond, when we get ourselves involved in a certain task, our focus should be the time.
BY ADDISALEM MULAT