For years I wondered what had happened to them, two black theater artists from apartheid South Africa. I remembered their first names, Selaelo and Moeketsi, but that was it. I even forgot the title of the play – though not the play itself, which was powerful – they had performed on an April night in 1983 in the Monterey Peninsula College theater in Monterey, California, before a painfully sparse ``crowd'' of several couples a night after playing before a full house at Stanford University.
Perhaps that was because Nancy and I went out to an all-night diner with them after the Monterey performance and listened as Selaelo, a playwright, actor and director, and Moeketsi, an actor and singer with the craggy good looks of a Morgan Freeman, told anguished stories of torture and bloodshed in South Africa, which I wrote about for the Monterey County Herald. It was those stories that stayed in my mind.
A day after the story appeared one of our daughters, Amy, just a kid, picked up the telephone to have some guy tell her what kind of violence he was going to do to her father for writing that story; he could have had the decency to wait until I came to the phone. It was after that call I realized it is a good idea for journalists to not have their addresses listed, and over the years I was glad of that decision.
In any case, I lost a copy of the story – in the 1980s newspaper stories were not ending up on the internet, at least not any I was doing. So over the years, when I have thought about them, I have put Salelo and Moeketsi's first names, paired with guessed-at last names, into the internet, hoping Google would come up with one or both, but failed to find them. It haunted me a bit.
Then, the other day, working my way through some old filed legal papers that had nothing to do with journalism or apartheid or black theater artists, I came across my story, folded and yellowed and headlined ``Apartheid Exiles,'' and there they were, Selaelo Maredi and Moeketsi Bodibe (and the play they performed, written by Maredi, ``For Better Not for Worse'').
I Googled them quickly. I found little on Bodibe and, indeed, my guess would be that he is deceased or very old. I did find that he had appeared in two plays about South Africa in New York in 1985, ``Carrier'' and ``The Box,'' by Paul Benjamin, and I liked that, that Bodibe had continued the fight.
There is quite a bit more on Maredi. He is a prolific playwright – perhaps second only to Athol Fugard among South African dramatists – and courageously outspoken. I was warmed to see that a few years before appearing at Stanford and in Monterey he was quoted in a newspaper lambasting American black peformers for performing in South Africa. He said: ``Do they value the money more than their souls?''
Looking back over my story, Maredi spoke of trying to escape South Africa and, being caught at the border, then taken to a room with white walls splattered with blood and asked ``How do you like our wallpaper?'' Maredi had electrodes connected to his ears and testicles and, with the current turned on, water poured over him. Later he learned the police had simply taken to breaking off their victims' teeth with pliers.
Bodibe said of his life in South Africa, ``Looking back, I can't believe I lived that way, though it seemed the natural thing then. It was what you expected.''
In Maredi's play ``For Better Not for Worse'' the security police send a child a package. When she opens it, it explodes and kills her. ``People ask me if that still happens,'' Maredi said in 1983. ``It happens all the time. A few months ago, a white woman, anti-apartheid, and a feminist, escaped to Mozambique. She was sent a package. She opened it. She died. ''
It was in the 1970s that Maredi first toured America, especially colleges, with his anti-apartheid plays. Outspoken and holding nothing back, his family told him returning to South Africa would surely result in his death. On that night in April of 1983, both men were sure they would never again see South Africa.
But perhaps they did. I don't know if Maredi is still living. I can't seem to find anything on him after 2001 or 2002. His play ``Beautiful Things'' toured in 2001. I'm glad he was seeing some beauty in the world. If Bodibe is gone, I hope he lived until 1994 to see the fall of apartheid in South Africa.
I'm happy now just to know their names again and tell this small part of their story again.
Causes Steve Hauk Supports
City of Pacific Grove Public Library, Pacific Grove, California; Animal Friends Rescue Project, Pacific Grove; Animal Welfare Information and Assistance,...