Since the 1960s, Pieter-Dirk Uys has been poking fun at the country’s past while finding hilarious ways to ensure it progresses positively. The satirist, performer, author and social activist was recognised for his ample contributions to the arts at the 19th annual ACT Awards.
“As an organisation that prides itself on protecting the rights and copyright of artists, playwrights and authors, DALRO is proud to sponsor an award that bestows such a distinguished honour on South African artists who have spent their lives contributing to our nation’s extensive cannon of theatrical work. It is through the work of such profound artists that South Africans can engage with a high calibre of artistry for generations to come,” says DALRO.
And Uys certainly is such an artist. Closely associated with both the Space Theatre in Cape Town and Johannesburg’s Market Theatre during the 1970s and 1980s, he has written and performed 20 plays and over 30 revues and one-man shows throughout South Africa and abroad.
Over the years Uys, and his celebrated character Evita Bezuidenhout, have received a bevy of Awards for both their theatrical work and their humanitarian efforts. Uys was awarded South Africa’s prestigious Truth and Reconciliation Award in 2001. He has received honorary degrees from Rhodes University (D.Litt.Hon. 1997), the University of Cape Town (D.Litt.Hon. 2003), the University of the Western Cape (D.Edu.Hon. 2003) and the University of the Witwatersrand (D.Litt.Hon. 2004). While Bezuidenhout proudly received the Living Legacy 2000 Award in San Diego, USA. In 2011, Uys was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Teddy Award at the Berlin International Film Festival, and in 2012 he received the FW de Klerk Goodwill Award.
His plays Paradise is Closing Down, Panorama, God’s Forgotten, Auditioning Angels, Faces in the Wall and Just Like Home have been performed internationally, and his one-man shows Adapt or Dye, One Man One Volt, You ANC Nothing Yet, Truth Omissions, Live from Boerassic Park, Dekaffirnated, Foreign Aids, Evita for President, and Elections & Erections have been presented in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Australia, the USA and Canada.
Recent successes include Desperate First Ladies and F.A.K. Songs and Other Struggle Anthems, which he has presented throughout South Africa and toured to Berlin, Holland and London. During 2012, Uys launched his latest one-man onslaught, Adapt or Fly, throughout South Africa and later toured it to Namibia, while in 2013 he added An Audience with Pieter-Dirk EISH! to his repertoire, and premiered a new Bambi Kellermann cabaret, 50 Shades of Bambi, at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town.
Also an accomplished author in a variety of genres, Uys’ 2000 novel, Trekking to Teema, was South Africa’s first e-book, before being published as a hard copy. He has also written Evita Bezuidenhout’s biography, A Part Hate A Part Love, as well as a book based on his 12-part 1994 M-Net television series, Funigalore, in which Evita Bezuidenhout, interviewed the new democratic government’s leaders, including Nelson Mandela.
Since 2000, Uys has been travelling around South Africa, visiting over 1.5 million school children, as well as prisons and reformatories, with a free AIDS-awareness entertainment show called For Facts Sake!. He has also released a corporate AIDS-information video, Having Sex with Pieter-Dirk Uys, as well as the family-friendly video, Survival Aids, and Just a Small Prick!, which tackle the fears surrounding testing for HIV.
Uys believes that without art the world would be a very different place. “Art is the oxygen; culture is the calcium,” he says, “without them any society would be without breath or movement.”
DALRO echoes this; “It is through the arts that our communities can actively engage with our heritage, identities and the myriad cultures that make up our diverse nation. The arts remain the most evocative, spiritual and personal way we as South Africans tackle ideas, conflict and change.”
Always up for a challenge, Uys believes that the highlight of his career is “survival in spite of all the pitfalls and dongas of life”. He believes that failure is essential to success; “without them, there is no eventual award,” he concludes.