How did you know you wanted to be an actress, where did you pursue your acting studies?
Since childhood, I have always wanted to act. When I was little, in Cape Verde, we would reenact dialogues from TV series. Still, I can very easily bring myself back to a fantasy world. There are times when I am alone, turn to my imagination and imagine myself playing a character. Sometimes I find that creepy ...(laughs) but it's something I really enjoy doing, that’s just me! Now for example, I'm feeling all frustrated with the whole corona thing. I can express my emotions through acting.
“There are times when I am alone, turn to my imagination and imagine myself playing a character. Sometimes I find that creepy ...(laughs) but it's something I really enjoy doing, that’s just me”
In Belgium, at elementary school, I took theater. Teachers noticed my gift, said I had real talent and should do something with it. But how do you start? In secondary school I had to choose a direction. My teacher at the time convinced me to go to Pius X. The first two years at Pius X, I followed art and creation, but was not so strong in maths. That's why I went to the BSO. I stopped studying for a while. Encouraged by friends and family, I restarted and started taking acting courses. I wanted to return to the basics of improvisation. I have also always had an interest in film and anything to do with cameras. For two years I followed courses with Kees Meerman and theater / film training in Merksplas, Jabulon with Eddy Vereycken.
You participated in the theater performance ELUSIVENOIR produced by dramatist Drussilla Mputu-Mola. How did this collaboration start and what role did you play?
I was a member of a Facebook group, 'actors wanted'. Suddenly I saw a call for a theater performance in the Netherlands, and so I ended up at theater group Elusivenoir. Together with some other Belgians, I did an audition. ELUSIVENOIR was founded by the twenty-three-year-old dramatist Drussilla Mputu-Mola. ELUSIVENOIR was her graduation project, which played at the SKVR foundation. But because of its success, she gained the necessary faith and confidence to continue the theater concept. Since last year, ELUSIVENOIR is an official, theater company. The willpower she has used to form this cast is incredible. Our theater group seems more like a family and that’s fantastic!
To my feeling, ELUSIVENOIR means uniquely black. ELUSIVENOIR is about, racism, colorism and discrimination, young people looking for their identity. A theme which we can all easily relate to in these times. ELUSIVENOIR is physical theater. Dance becomes, for example, a choreography with which you tell a story as an actor, acting dance. I am not so good with lyrics but stronger in physical expression. Thanks to dance I can bring the audience into my own world.
We have a lot of say and freedom in our theater group. It's not like Drussilla gives us a script and forces us to learn it by heart. We come together and pool ideas. Drussilla pours everything into a script. That's super hard work, I'm in awe of that. She gives us as actors, the freedom to challenge ourselves. She is a very driven person, who despite her own further studies / education always makes time and puts ELUSIVENOIR first.
We have had a show in Theaterzuidplein (Netherlands), participated in a competition in which we were nominated three times and won two awards. Last year, we should have performed in the Antwerp Arenbergschouwburg, but due to Corona everything was postponed.
Our theater group consists of a mix of black and white people. Racism is everywhere, it's not only with black people, but also with white people. There is also colorism, discrimination within your own skin color. Our group consists of Africans and Europeans. It is important to say that at ELUSIVENOIR we also work on themes such as the KKK. There are also white actors in our theater group and there are scenes, where we call them names. The white actors at ELUSIVENOIR understand the story from both sides. We try to express our feelings on both sides. It is what it is, we just show what happened and what is still going on! It doesn't mean at all that we as black people, say or think that you as a white person are bad.
I produced a monologue, about black people. In it I used the word ‘blank’ (a Dutch word for white). It made me think. I didn't like others calling me nigger girl either! I'd rather use the word black. I started looking things up and came to the conclusion that the word ‘blank’ is also a swear word. I thought to myself, that I also had to be aware of my own choice of words towards white people. We want to teach people about racism. I also had to be mindful of my audience, I didn't want to attack them. White also sounds much softer than ‘blank’ I think. I remember my audition for ELUVISENOIR was about mules. Most people say they are mulatto. Before my audition, I didn't know that the word mulatto came from the word donkey in Portuguese. When I call myself mulatto, I'm actually cursing myself out. It's métis, half-breed, mixed-race, whatever. A mule comes from a horse and a donkey! It would mean that a white and a black together are a failure! We often don't realize as black people that we are naming ourselves with swearing words.
“We try to express our feelings on both sides. It is what it is, we just show what happened and what is still going on!”
2020 was a special year for me. It was a year of searching for myself. Who am I, where do I want to go? How did you experience this year? Did you learn any lessons from this year?
I'm going to be very honest, I was pretty shocked. I had always worked hard in the restaurant industry.... Suddenly not being able to do anything was a hard knock! I felt so useless. At first I had a really hard time, but had no choice. I couldn't be depressed all the time. I tried to make the best of it. When we were both working, my roommate and I lived completely separately. Because of Corona, we do things together now; Laughing, cooking, talking. You learn to enjoy the little things again.The job, it is what it is...try to keep your family and friends close to you. You always have to have a plan B. My plan B consisted of rehearsing online or doing livestream hostings instead of a physical performance. Always keep thinking positive and also make a plan for when things are better again.
Life is short. Corona really made me realize that I really want to go for my goals!
“Life is short. Corona really made me realize that I really want to go for my goals!”
You are from Cape Verde and live in Belgium. How long have you been living in Antwerp?
I have lived in Belgium since I was eight years old. As a child, Europe was an illusion to me. I always saw it on TV, lots of lights, huge buildings, etc. For a child it was incredible!I came to Belgium because my parents thought I would have more opportunities here. My mother still lives in Cape Verde, she has never been here. I came to Belgium with my father. It was a totally different world. In the beginning it was hard to leave my family behind. You have to imagine arriving here as a small child - and I'm still small - (laughs). Everything is so different. A new language, new friends...fortunately, I am a social person.
I'm not going to lie, I didn't have such an easy childhood. When I was searching for my femininity, it was very hard not to have my mother close to me. I may have missed a mother figure, but she has always been there from a distance. Fortunately, I could also turn to the mother(s) of my friends or ex-boyfriend. Without support I would not have known, how to deal with my situation.
Still, I'm also glad I'm here. Otherwise I would never have known my friends or been able to do this interview either. It could also have been someone else, who had the chance to come here, but I am here. That's why I'm so motivated, to make something of my life!
What are the positive aspects of Europe and what characteristics can Europe adopt from Cape Verde?
Belgium can learn a lot from Cape Verde in terms of the warm feeling! Here people are a bit sour (haha). Everyone in Cape Verde is so cheerful, so different. In Cape Verde I knew the whole neighborhood. Structure and standing up for yourself, Cape Verdeans can learn from the Belgians. For example, pay more attention to service in the hospitality industry (laughs). I feel like I left a lot behind...and actually I did. When visiting my homeland, it is often difficult to recognize family members or former classmates. If I don't notice old friends right away, they think I'm high class.
My dream has always been to return. I was born there, I am African and I love Africa! When I leave here, of course I will miss Belgium too! I’ve lived here longer than in my own country.
What other places would you like to live in and why?
Africa! If I don't choose my own country, it's Senegal or Ethiopia for example. No matter which African country I go to, I always feel at home there. Who knows what tomorrow will bring, Europe is also possible. I came here to Belgium for a reason. I have learned so many things. The knowledge I have gathered here, I can share with my compatriots. If you are smart you can get far in Africa, everything is much cheaper and easier to start with. If I want to live in Africa, I have to have a plan and be financially strong.
Founding my own theater company, doing something with art, theater, film, hosting, media, teaching acting/dancing lessons, starting a bar with my girlfriends, these are my future dreams. I think the Nigerian film and music industry is top notch! I really want to go to Nigeria one day. My stepfather is from Nigeria, my roommate and best friend, Lientje is also half Nigerian.
I watch comedies like Emanuella. It's just so funny, I laugh myself to death! The humor, the (chipping) during dialogues. My dream would come true if I could act in a Nigerian movie, then I am would be happy . Music, dance, film, with everything Nigeria is on top! Although Ghana is also doing very well, regarding film, docu and music.
work: Lientje de Bodt and friend
On your instagram there is a link to Spititout. Can you tell us more about this?
My dream is actually to have my own talk show. I didn't really know how to start SPIT IT OUT. I try to work with live recordings to see how people react, how I can expand it and what impact it has. I want people to give their opinion on a certain topic, spit out what they think! It's important to be able to hear people's opinions, because then you can form a picture of this person.
I worked for Violencia for a long time. Violencia, gives young people a chance to get on a stage and offer studio sessions. I have been able to build a bigger network and gain more knowledge by meeting many different types of artists. Thanks to Violencia, I got the chance to host for the first time. It was a new challenge, I got to know myself in a different way and discovered something in myself that I really enjoyed! Then I started thinking more about how I could mix my theater skills with my host work.
For example, I'm doing more interviews now. It could be young hip-hoppers, but equally people from poets, designers, actors, people with clothing brands. I also like to invite emerging artists, give them a chance to express themselves. I talk to them about their lives, how they got started. I ask them to give advice to the next generation. It's like Tarik El Zammouri, who was also motivated by someone else. I really want to pass on the same motivation. I myself am also still looking. Every time I go live with someone, I get motivated too!
SPIT IT OUT in general means: Having your own opinion and story, being able to say everything, motivating! SPIT IT OUT is very broad.
“I myself am also still looking. Every time I go live with someone, I get motivated too!”
You're a big fan of Queen B. Why?
When I was at home, my sister and aunt often put on Britney Spears, Destiny's Child, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez and Beyoncé. I got to know Beyoncé that way. Roki, a good friend, and I were huge fans of Beyoncé during high school. As teenagers, we were always fighting about who could be Beyoncé (laughs).
Why Beyoncé? She motivates me a lot, she's a really strong woman, I've always looked up to her. Since childhood, she's worked hard on her career. As a kid, I wanted to be on TV like Beyoncé, acting here, acting there with my friends....that was pretty much my childhood.
If Beyoncé can do it, so can I! Beyoncé will probably go through a lot of things too. She's only human, too. That's crazy, but when I'm in a bad mood, I have to listen to her. Thanks to her music, my girls and I feel much more feminine about ourselves. Beyoncé teaches us to embrace our feminine values. A performance by her, is worth its money! While shopping, I secretly ask myself if Beyoncé would wear it too, hahah!
You know what happened once? When Beyoncé came to perform here, I thought she was staying at the Hilton. I then went to the Hilton with a friend to ask if Beyoncé was staying there. The guy behind the counter said he didn't know Beyoncé. I didn't believe him, really I had the feeling she was there. When I saw a black bus pass by at Astridplein I could not believe my eyes! That had to be Beyoncé. I saw people getting off with badges that said Beyoncé. I went crazy! I then ran into Luke James. Out of nervousness, I was babbling and bullshitting. My English was really terrible!
I've known you for a while now and what strikes me, is that you are a cheerful and positive person. Have you always been a cheerful type?
Positivity is something I've always had. I don't like other people to see when I'm sad or in pain. I always try to shield the people around me from that. Some say I'm too social, but I really need that in my life. In Africa, I just start chatting with the cab driver. My mother is even more social, next level, I swear! But mind you, when I have my bad days it's also very obvious! During a moody moment, I can happily be myself with my girlfriends.
African Diaspora artists, are consistently underrepresented. How can this be improved? What do you think should be done to improve this?
We have to start somewhere, take the initiative ourselves to make something of life. We cannot sit around and wait. We are in the minority. Alone we will not succeed. Now is the time to come together and prove ourselves. By networking, uniting, fighting for our chances, improvising and coming up with projects. I've also kind of given up on the film industry. I keep getting the typical roles, like a refugee etc. Once in a while you have someone who gets into the spotlight, but how many out of thousands, maybe five? Why? If we keep busy, eventually they will start to notice and acknowledge us. It doesn't always have to be that we go to them. It can be the other way around too.
“Now is the time to come together and prove ourselves.”
What would you like to achieve in your life?
Gosh, what do I want to accomplish with my life? Work on my career first, before I start having kids. I want to focus on what I really love first. Whatever will happen will happen.I can't know what will come tomorrow either. I still want to see many African countries, learn a lot from other people, have a happy family. I will do everything I can to always combine acting and hosting.
Text: Naomi Uten
Copywriter: Anouk Fraweel
Photography: Studio Nu
Published on 23/04/2021