Pieter-Dirk Uys

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Pieter-Dirk Uys
Pdu.jpg
After the show Foreign Aids in Berlin 2006.
Born 28 September 1945
Cape Town, South Africa
Occupation Satirist, performer, author, social activist

Pieter-Dirk Uys (/ˈs/) is a South African satirist, active as a performer, author, and social activist.

Life and career[edit]

Uys was born in Cape Town on 28 September 1945, to Hannes Uys, a Calvinist Afrikaner father, and Helga Bassel, a Berlin-born Jewish mother.[1] Hannes Uys, a fourth-generation South African of Dutch and Belgian Huguenot stock,[1] was a musician and organist in his local church.[2] Bassel was a German concert pianist whom the Nazis expelled from the Reichsmusikkammer in 1935 as part of their campaign to root out Jewish artists.[3] She later escaped to South Africa and managed to take her grand piano with her, with which she taught her daughter, Tessa Uys (b. 1948), now a concert pianist based in London.[1][3][2] Bassel spoke little about her Jewish past to her children. It was only after her suicide that they discovered she was fully Jewish.[1][2][3] Uys and his sister had an NG Kerk upbringing and their mother encouraged them to embrace Afrikaner culture.[4][5][2]

He received a B.A. from the University of Cape Town where he began his dramatic career as an actor under the tutelage of Rosalie van der Gught, Mavis Taylor and Robert Mohr, among others. His performances at this time included roles in Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs, The Fantasticks and Once Upon a Mattress. He later studied at the London Film School in the early 1970s. It was in one of his student films, an advertisement for milk, that he performed in drag for the first time (as a milkmaid).[citation needed] He then began a period in his dramatic career as a serious playwright. Several of his plays were performed at the Space Theatre, Cape Town and his 1979 play Paradise is Closing Down was performed in London and later produced for Granada Television in 1981.[6] He switched to one-man revues at the height of the Apartheid era.

Uys is particularly well known for his character Evita Bezuidenhout (also known as Tannie Evita), a white Afrikaner socialite and self-proclaimed political activist. The character was inspired by Australian comedian Barry Humphries's character Dame Edna Everage. Evita is the former ambassadress of Bapetikosweti – a fictitious Bantustan or black homeland located outside her home in the affluent, formerly whites-only suburbs of Johannesburg. Evita Bezuidenhout is named in honour of Eva Perón. Under Apartheid, Uys used the medium of humour and comedy to criticise and expose the absurdity of the South African government's racial policies. Much of his work was not censored, indicating a closet approval of his views by many members of the ruling party, who were not so bold as to openly admit mistakes and criticise the policies themselves.[citation needed] For many years, Uys lampooned the South African regime and its leaders, as well as the sometimes hypocritical attitudes of white liberals. One of his characters, a kugel (social climbing Jewish woman) once said, "There are two things wrong with South Africa: one's apartheid and the other's black people".[7][8] This was later erroneously attributed to Uys himself.

Following South Africa's first non-racial elections in 1994, Uys starred in a TV series, Funigalore, in which Evita interviewed Nelson Mandela and other prominent politicians of the day. In the theatre, Uys/Evita's performances include You ANC Nothing Yet. He and his character are known for their tireless work in the frontline of HIV/AIDS activism and education. He is currently involved in teaching AIDS awareness to children and education in the use of condoms, travelling to schools all over South Africa. Uys also serves on the board of directors for the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, a non-profit organisation founded to provide treatment for and conduct research relating to HIV.

Art and Craft market at Evita se Perron

Uys converted the old railway station of Darling, where he lives, into a cabaret venue called Evita se Perron (Perron is Afrikaans for station platform) and performs there regularly.[citation needed] He is openly gay.[1] During 2004, Pieter-Dirk Uys took part in a Carte Blanche story, dealing with genetics and unlocking the mysteries of race and ethnicity, entitled "So, Where Do We Come From?". Uys discovered that he has khoisan heritage from his mother's side.[9][10] Uys received the Special Teddy Award 2011[11] at the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) for his commitment to AIDS education at South African schools and for his on-stage alter ego, Evita Bezuidenhout. An independent jury presents the Teddy Award to individuals for lifetime achievements for films with LGBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) topics.[12]

Awards and honours[edit]

  • The 2011 TMSA Naledi Lifetime Achiever Award[13]
  • Special Teddy Award at the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) 2011
  • Reconciliation Award in 2001
  • Mrs Evita Bezuidenhout was awarded the Living Legacy 2000 Award in San Diego
  • The lifetime achievement award from the Cape Tercentenary Foundation
  • Doctor honoris causa from
    • Rhodes University: D.Litt. (Hon.), 1997
    • University of Cape Town: D.Litt for distinguished, socially-responsible creative work in 2003
    • University of the Western Cape: D.Ed. (Hon.), 2003

Books[edit]

  • Farce about Uys : A Legal Assembly in Two Riotous Acts (1983) Jonathan Ball and Ad. Donker Publishers ISBN 0-86850-077-1
  • Selle ou storie: A play (1983) Ad. Donker, Johannesburg ISBN 0-86852-027-6
  • Paradise Is Closing Down and Other Plays (1989) Penguin Books Ltd ISBN 0-14-048228-8
  • Funigalore: Evita's Real-Life Adventures in Wonderland (1995) The Penguin Group (SA) Pty Ltd ISBN 0-14-025313-0
  • The Essential Evita Bezuidenhout (1997) David Philip Publishers, Cape Town ISBN 0-86486-349-7
  • A Part Hate a Part Love: The Legend of Evita Bezuidenhout (1994) Hond, Groenkloof ISBN 1-874969-08-6
  • No space on Long Street ; Marshrose : two plays (2000) ComPress, Cape Town ISBN 978-1-919-83310-1
  • Trekking to Teema (2001) Compress, Cape Town ISBN 1-919833-10-2
  • Elections & Erections: A Memoir of Fear and Fun (2003) Zebra Press, Cape Town ISBN 1-86872-665-7

Films/Documentaries[edit]

  • Skating on thin Uys, a 1985 comedy lampooning P.W. Botha
  • Darling! The Pieter–Dirk Uys Story, a 2007 documentary by Julian Shaw

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Tallmer, Jerry (5–11 November 2003). "South African performer hands a shovel to the head-buried president". The Villager (New York, NY) 73 (27). Retrieved 9 August 2012. The word is mainly associated with the Nazi extermination of millions of Jews, gays, gypsies, and others during World War II,” said Uys, gay and the son of a Berlin-born Jewish mother. “But does genocide always have to be at the end of a machine gun? Do we have to kill six million and one people to be worse than the Nazis? [Mbeki’s] strategy is starting to look like a systematic planned extermination of those who are poor, unemployed, in prison, on the streets, and hopeless. The new apartheid has already established itself. Black and white South Africans will live. Those without money will have no access to medication and drugs. They will die. 
  2. ^ a b c d Alan Cowell (25 March 2004). "Piano Returns To Berlin, Releasing Family Secret". New York Times. 
  3. ^ a b c Jennifer Gallagher. "Interview with Tessa Uys". AVIVA-BERLIN.de 4/26/5774. 
  4. ^ Allan, Jani (1983). Face Value. Cape Town: Longstreet Publishers. ISBN 9780620070133. 
  5. ^ PIETER-DIRK UYS: ‘I'm just the dumb blonde with the jewellery’ janiallan.com. Retrieved on 23 June 2014
  6. ^ Paradise is Closing Down at the Internet Movie Database
  7. ^ www.teddyaward.tv
  8. ^ www.newstatesman.com
  9. ^ Uys' background
  10. ^ Cape Slavery Heritage website
  11. ^ The Special Teddy Award
  12. ^ Uys to bear it and grin in Berlin
  13. ^ The TMSA Naledi Lifetime Achiever Awards