LAWRENCE GINO: Respect.
Lawrence Gino or Big Money Gino, as he is known on the Tasmanian hip-hop scene, was born in South Sudan and moved to Australia after fourteen years of living in refugee camps. Gino is well known face around Hobart and can usually be found either gracing a stage sharing stories about his childhood and peace through song, or at his family owned supermarket on the Eastern shores of Hobart.
Gino is the proud father of two biracial kids and through his own family has learnt the importance of respect and love. Values he hopes his own children will always possess.
MEET LAWRENCE GINO.
THE PIN. Can you briefly describe your childhood?
LAWRENCE GINO. I grew up in a big family, on my dad’s side I’m the youngest and on my mums side I’m the oldest. I’m the firstborn for my mum and the last born for my dad.
Was the topic of culture talked about? Did you talk about racism?
L. No, when I was growing up I was never aware of difference between people. Never.
When you first came to Australia, what stood out?
L. Freedom, I suppose. Everything seemed to be better really. It was a relief to just be here, to be able to go and have a shower; to go to the store and get food.
We spoke with poet Abe Nouk who said that in South Sudan you had to think about the community whereas in Australia he felt he could be an individual. Have you had a similar experience?
L. Yeah, pretty much. Back in South Sudan, if you were to get married, or anything like that, the community would get together. If people had a fight, the community would bring everyone together and if it got bigger than the family, they would get the whole community involved. In Australia, if you do something wrong you’re in charge and if you do something right, you get your credit. It’s a lot different. Two separate worlds, big time.
When you first met your wife Eris and her family, were there cultural things that were new to you?
L. Not really, the only thing was language maybe. You know, sometimes a mother can swear at the daughter and the daughter can swear back at the mother, or the father does it in a joking way. If I was to do that with my mother I’d get my head cut off.
It’s understandable, it’s the culture, it’s what they’ve grown up with. You’re allowed to open up your feelings. I’m not saying in my culture I’m not allowed to, it’s just sometimes it feels really weird to do that and talk to your parents about what’s going on. They’re there for that though, they provide solutions. But in Australia, everyone is really more open.
Do you feel like you’ve learned a lot from becoming a father?
L. Oh yeah. A lot [laughs]. It’s changed a lot. I’ve learned to respect a lot of people. My childhood was shit, really bad. I had a rough life, I found no reason to care. I had no one to back me up. I didn’t have a mother or father I could run to and ask for help. I couldn’t do that, so I had to survive. I had to work hard to achieve it. With my son Eli, it’s more like work hard but give respect to people. You don’t have to block everyone out and it’s okay to trust people. Back home, I didn’t have a reason to trust anyone. My mother was killed, why would I trust any other human being after that?
With your children Eli and Lola do you hope they will embrace both their Australia and Sudanese heritage?
L. Yeah, I hope so. One thing I disagree with in Australian culture is the lack of respect between parents and kids. I respected my mum to the very last day of her breath.
I want them to be able to respect me and I want to respect them, so when I say something they know I am serious and when they tell me something I know they are serious. I don’t want hidden secrets. Let’s be straight with each other.
Do you get asked where you’re from?
L. Yeah, now and then. It used to be a lot. But now, not so much.
Is it a question you’re happy to answer?
L. I am happy to answer it but it depends how they ask. It also depends who and it depends on their attitude as well. If they have an attitude I just say, ‘I’m from Bellerive (Tasmania), you got a problem with that?’. But if someone is just curious and they want to know who I am, I’ll tell them.
Do people ask where the kids are from?
L. Yeah, once Eris got told off and another time someone said ‘oh, where did you get them from?’. Even on the internet people have said to Eris she has betrayed her own race by having biracial children. It’s sad that people think they can make comments like that.
Is there any particular advice you would give your kids, Eli and Lola, about growing up biracial?
L. Respect everybody but be careful. Learn to protect yourself and give as much love out as you can. Give as much love as you can, but be careful.
THE PIN. If you give your younger self a piece of advice about being in the skin you’re in, what would it be?
LAWRENCE GINO. Probably don’t break too many laws [laughs]. Just grow up, keep going to school and don’t start trouble. The biggest piece of advice I would give would be to not have had the first cigarette I ever had.
-This interview has been edited and condensed