Robyn Sassen

Speaking Through an Interpreter

It seems that South Africa's most famous woman ambassador -- who doesn't actually exist -- is making ripples all over the world. The man behind this Evita Bezuidenhout-like puppet, Pieter-Dirk Uys (pronounced "Ace") is a talent of unquestionable integrity and sophisticated wit. Indeed, he and his puppet have a firm and tenacious grip on the ridiculousness of the ongoing status quo in South Africa.

Born nearly 60 years ago, a white gay Afrikaner in a racist, homophobic land where hatred was legally sanctioned, Uys had a lot of issues to work through while developing into an adult with integrity. The child of an Afrikaans father and a German Jewish mother, he has quipped in his autobiography that he belongs to two chosen peoples (Elections and Erections: A memoir of Fear and Fun, Zebra 2002. Since reaching maturity he's been banned, he's been threatened, he's had the finger of officialdom wagged at him -- but he has yet to be silenced. "They could have put me up against a wall and shot me," he commented, regarding the regime of apartheid that he mocked so overtly for so long, in an interview for the New York Times last year.

The New York Times offered a story of trouble brewing between Uys and our current State President, Thabo Mbeki. The article was a preamble to Uys's recently written play "Foreign Aids," presenting an Aids-awareness shtick to thousands of schoolchildren all over the country, which he took to the world after developing it in South Africa. This play, which was cushioned in the drag-lampooning style for which Uys has become known, had a hard-hitting core . It deals very directly with AIDS awareness and his president's notorious and public pussyfooting around the issue in apparent avoidance of the crisis. A vignette is cast in "Elections and Erections":

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