This is
Wajipha Chongwe (1969)

Country of origin

In Amsterdam since
Three months

Visual artist and singer

Being together with people

'Umbuya, her grandmother and the food.

Would like to
Expose her work in the Stedelijk Museum

Zambia in Amsterdam
‘I still have to find out, but I see al lot of Africa in Amsterdam, the music, clothes and the African colors on the street.'

“My mother comes from Australia, my father from Zambia. My father was the first coloured student at the West-Australia University. Which is where my mother met him. Four years later they moved to the Zambia together.

I lived there until I was eighteen and then I lived in Australia for twenty seven years. The past three months I have been living with my Dutch husband in Amsterdam. I met him in Australia, where we both live. Four years ago I went with him to visit his family in the Netherlands. I didn’t know much about the country. I had associated it with apartheid and colonisation and had no particular wish to go there.

So I flew to Amsterdam in 2013 without any expectations. I was in shock. It was beautiful here: the canals, houses, reflections on the water in the evenings, architecture, but mainly the colourful mix of people. So many people out and about on their bikes. Everyone full of passion, speaking with a wide range of expressions and hand gestures. It’s a city full of life.

This was the first time I had ever lived within a multicultural community. With a white mother and coloured father I’m biracial. I always felt a little different. Now I feel like I’ve come home, I belong here and am not very noticeable. Everywhere I look there’s a mix of people. White mothers with dark children, dark men with white women, two men of different nationalities together, and so on.

People always ask me where I’m from, whether I’m in Zambia or Australia my skin colour always stands out and because of this I don’t feel I belong anywhere. In Zambia I was once attacked because of the colour of my skin, and was glad to leave for Australia when I was eighteen. I could walk on the street there, but even in Australia there were plenty of places where I was the only coloured person to be seen. In Amsterdam it’s a refreshing feeling not to be noticed. My white mother is exactly the same as my dark skinned father, I know that. All I see is colour. Others only see the colour difference.

I was recently spoken to by a Dutch woman. I couldn’t understand her, unfortunately, as I still don’t speak Dutch. When I said I didn’t understand she said, “Oh, I thought you were from here”. That was a special moment. For the first time in forty seven years someone thought I was actually from the country I was living in.

I’ve lived in two different worlds for many years: Zambia and Australia. I missed the colourful vivacity of Zambia when I lived in Australia. And I missed the freedom and safety of Australia when I was in the Zambia. Amsterdam has brought these two worlds together.”

23 people in Amsterdam have the Zambian  nationality


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