Home and Away – Lesedi Moche

2012-02-04 12:16

When 32-year-old filmmaker Lesedi Moche returned from exile in 1995, she had high expectations.

“I thought it would be like (the American sitcom) Cheers, where everyone knows your name,” she explains over a glass of water in a trendy Greenside restaurant.

“You were always told about South Africa and the spirit of community here, where you can go borrow sugar from your neighbour and all that. But coming back was like reading a book before you watch the movie: the movie is never as good.”

Moche was born in Leipzig, East Germany, where her parents Victor and Temsy were ANC exiles. Her mother knew exile life intimately, having grown up in Zambia after leaving South Africa when she was still a child herself. Victor Moche was a foreign correspondent in Berlin when Lesedi was born in 1979 and Temsy Nkula-Moche was studying at the University of Leipzig.

When she was two, the family uprooted to Lusaka and spent six years there before relocating again, this time to Ottawa, Canada, where Victor became the ANC’s chief representative – the equivalent of an ambassador. This is where they stayed until they came home in 1992.

Understanding the liberation struggle was difficult, even if you had a front-row seat like Lesedi.

“When you were outside (SA) you always had people coming to stay. You didn’t really know why, you were just told you were gonna share a room with your sister for a while.”

Returning to South Africa, Moche was shocked by how little her school friends at posh St Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls in Pretoria knew about politics.

“They didn’t know who Steve Biko was,” she said in disgust.

Coming home proved traumatic. “People told you your family ran away while everyone else stayed to fight. There is a notion that life was better in exile, while we felt we were robbed of our family, rootedness and language. You were ‘othered’ when you were there, and now you’re ‘othered’ here.”

Abandonment is a feeling exiles know well. “As an exile you are abandoned on so many levels – as a citizen, in your family, your sense of culture.

Wherever you were, you knew that you didn’t belong there. Even though I’d never been to South Africa, I knew not to assimilate elsewhere. We were told not to settle because at some point we’d go home.”

Home was a confusing, sad place for Moche, but exile had taught her not to be afraid of change. She returned to Canada to study film at Carleton University, Ottawa in 1998.

“I had to fight for my sense of belonging, so I became a storyteller.”

Today, Moche makes documentaries and is a TV producer with shows like Late Night with Kgomotso to her credit.

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