"South Africa" by Akwasi Ansah
Last year I was invited by the Netherlands Consulate General in Cape Town, to come to South Africa to perform and host seminars and workshops. I couldn’t get my head around the fact that they invited me. When I asked: “why me?”, I received the following response: “Akwasi’s style, content and deliverance resonates with the type of Dutch artist to be showcased in a country like South Africa, given the history between the Netherlands and South Africa, as well as the strong links between Dutch and Afrikaans.”
A few weeks later when waiting in line to go through South African customs, I could hardly fathom that I was in Africa. Is this really Africa? How come I’m the only black person in this room of white people? Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind, it just baffled me. I was then called over by the extremely friendly customs officer who smiled at me and with the typical South African rolling pronunciation of the ‘r’, she said: “Akwasi, welcome to South Africa my Dutch brother from Ghana.” We saluted one another and I walked on, passport in hand.
I was invited to represent the Dutch government in South Africa through performance and spoken word. Everything was organized down to the last detail: from an elegant hotel to restaurants; even my Mini…everything was in my name. Note that I’m not traveling alone, my girlfriend came with me to simultaneously carrying out my interests as an artist.
Everything seemed to run smoothly until I arrived at the hotel and was completely ignored when picking up the hotel key. I do understand after all, that I’m here with a beautiful woman, so I let my girlfriend take care of it.
I then had my first performance in Cape Town which was a great success and I couldn’t wait to do it again. But first things first: food. The table had been reserved in my name. I politely greeted the waitress with a “good evening”, yet my words didn’t seem to reach her. My girlfriend on the other hand was welcomed with a friendly greeting. After giving them my name we were shown to our table. I felt invisible, which is strange because I should actually have stood out among the other guests; everyone was white, most of the staff members too, except for the servers… they were black.
My light of complexion coloured girlfriend was getting agitated because up until now I haven’t been spoken to in any of the restaurants or hotels by anyone. For me it was clear: My girlfriend is my spokesperson and sometimes also my wildcard, but the darker the color of your skin, the more invisible you sometimes become.
“Sorry for being black” is the title of a spoken word text I wrote back in 2007. As I recited it to the mixed Cape Town audience it appeared to still be highly relevant. Amazingly enough, at the end of my performance I was greeted with an unforgettable standing ovation from the South African rainbow audience; white, coloured, indian, black, everyone. “Who could’ve known that a young black man from the Netherlands deals with the same issues that black people in South Africa still deal with?” This still resonates in my head.
Unfortunately, when we moved from the hotel in Cape Town to the one in Wellington, it appeared that a lighter complexion is still preferred. Isn’t it crazy that I flew eleven hours, all the way to the most southern tip of Africa, only to realize that things are the same as in the Netherlands? While on my way back to the airport and looking out over the townships, I positively looked towards the future and proudly raised my black fist out of the window of the moving car. We do matter!
Akwasi Ansah (@Antonkarel)
All Our latest posts
Together with South African partners, the Dutch Embassy and Consulate General are venturing into the space of IDENTITY issues with the #cocreateIDENTITY Experience on 4 to 6 June 2022 in Cape Town. Its programme seeks to open meaningful dialogues around questions of identity and transformation in the context of our countries’ shared cultural heritage, including Dutch historic ties through trade and slavery. These conversations will take place through cultural, scientific, […]Read More
You have heard about The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, but have you heard about the sisterhood of women in STEM? After two years of Covid-19 related restrictions and lockdowns, the Inspiring Fifty South Africa network came together once more to celebrate the winners of 2021. What made this year’s awards extra special is that the event was held during Women’s History Month – a month dedicated to honouring the […]Read More
The Dutch government in South Africa will be welcoming more than thirty Dutch businesses virtually to the shores of South Africa during SANL Tech Week (22-25 June 2021)- a week of collaboration and knowledge sharing in the areas of fintech, healthtech, and smart logistics. The Netherlands is an innovative and entrepreneurial country. One of the contributing factors is the country’s success in creating a space where business, innovators and government […]Read More
Between 5-9 October 2020, the Kingdom of the Netherlands partnered with The Hague Institute of Innovation and Law (Hiil) and held a #BarcampforJustice to find technology-based solutions to the scourge of gender-based violence in South Africa. It was an exciting week of ideation, co-creation and sleepless nights with teams trying to come up with winning solutions. We would like to congratulate the winners – Guardian Gabriel and CASA. Guardian Gabriel is […]Read More
The Kingdom of the Netherlands believes that we can co-create pioneering digital solutions to local challenges by facilitating innovative partnerships. Read more on the companies below and click on the logos to visit their website.Read More
[9 July 2020]. The Dutch government has teamed up with local online retailer Yebo Fresh, as well as Netherlands-based Run4Schools, a foundation that finances and organises in-school and after-school sports care in the townships of South Africa, to help families in need in the Mitchells Plain area. With donations of 530 food parcels to be delivered, this is a contribution to relieve many people who have been struggling to cope as […]Read More
The Netherlands in South Africa in partnership with the House of Le Cap, draws attention to the importance of equal rights for LGBTI people this year on 17 May, in celebration of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT). Each year we commemorate International Day Against Homophobia with a collaboration event and this year is no different. We are having a quarantine ball! The Quarantine Ball will be […]Read More
CALL FOR APPLICATIONS Participate in the pilot of The Water Hub accelerator programme: Western Cape, South Africa Check out the application form here The Water Hub invites Dutch water technology companies to apply to participate in the pilot of the Water Hub accelerator programme. If you have cost-effective, innovative solutions that fit into one or more of the categories below, please apply by 30 September 2020: Water pressure management systems […]Read More
After two intense days of workshops and plenaries, our track facilitators share their feedbackRead More
CAPE TOWN (30 January 2020). This year’s #cocreateDESIGN FESTIVAL will gather at the vibrant Guga S’thebe Cultural Centre on 24 and 25 February 2020. The event will host two days of inspiring speakers, practical workshops, Oxford-style debates and networking receptions. This year’s theme, “Towards Digital Inclusion” will focus on the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) and its impact on the creative industry. The event is hosted by The Kingdom of the […]Read More