When I try to remember when I met Senki Mogethi for the First time, I realise now how angry he was. Angry about what white people did to him, his family and the young girls of Mahlatswetsa locationtownship of Excelsior. But also angry to Zakes Mda the writer of the novel “Madonna’s of Excelsior”. He told him all about the sex-scandals in 1971 and Zakes Mda wrote one of his best novels. And what did he got out of it, maybe a few drinks and copies of the novel. But no money. And even worse, while nobody of the community was talking about it, he did. Most of the people of Excelsior, black and white want to forget about the past. Senki Mogethi is an angry man, but he didn’t show it when I met him the first time.
Jerry Pooe, my friend and co-director, and me visited him in January2012. In his small house in Excelsior, it was a Sunday afternoon and Senki drank some beers to much. In front of his house he told us about the sex -scandals that shook the whole apartheid nation to its foundations in 1971. How his mother who was one of the excelsior 19 gave birth to a coloured baby and was brought to trial. How in 1995 he became the first black councillor of Excelsior and how the past is not past but walks backwards. “These things have not been forgotten but flow from the sins of our mothers”. We realised that we walked into the novel and that all the characters that Zakes Mda described are still alive. Before we said goodbye I gave him some money for all his time and stories, he looked happy.
A few month later, just before the start of the rehearsals we visited Senki again with all the actors that were casted. We thought it would be a good and inspiring for them to meet Senki and all the sites described in the book, places that were still there one and a half hours drive fromBloemfontein. Senki invited us in his garden in front of his house. We listened to him, actors asked a lot of questions. Behind us the rest of the community gathered. Speechless. What were these people doing in the small township where never anyone from outside came to visit? What was Senki doing and talking about? They all knew and didn’t like it. Why dig it up? The past is the past, forget about it. Some of the neighbours called the police, they came with two cars but stayed on a distance. We were just talking in Senki’s garden. Senki who liked all the attention, was also unhappy with the negative vibe his neighbours were sending out. I remember he showed his anger more saying how much he hated white people till this day. Never trust them. When we left we promised to invite Senki and his wife to the first night show in Bloemfontein four weeks later. Again I gave him some money for all the information and stories he shared.
Three weeks later I went to Excelsior to make the arrangements for Senki to come as a special guest to the first night of the show in Bloem. I thought he would be happy but he was not. He wanted money specially when I asked him to speak to some journalists after the show. I understood and told him we would arrange something. He also said he was not able to appear with his old clothes in front of journalists, he wanted new clothes, I did not know if that was something I should give him. Not him alone but also for his wife and two sons who he wanted to come as well. I told him I would discuss the matter with the company in Bloemfontein. I understood that he wanted something out of it and that he was looking for a way to improve his situation that was hopeless, being jobless without perspectives. But also I realised I could never change his anger about the past. I told him that the theatre company should organise the transport and discuss a fee. A few day’s later the artistic director who phoned Senki to organise his visit told me Senki wanted a hudge fee, new clothes for his family and neighbours. Otherwise he would not come. “What did you do?” I asked the director. “You tore open a can of worms” he told me. “I think he is still to ashamed and angry, and doesn’t want to come, he is asking on purpose to much money, he knows we will never pay him that much.”
That day I see 10 missed calls on my cell phone from Senki. When I call him back he is swearing that I am one of those whites that are not to be trusted. I made empty promises, and abuse him and his situation for my own profit. I feel bad but don’t know what to say. You can’t talk with anger that is consuming someone. I still think a lot about Senki, is it unfinished business or must I just let go.