[i] Okay [name]. Can you introduce yourself first, please?

[r] Hello I’m [name], I’m 21 years old. I was born on February 22, 1997 in Maputu, which is the capital of Mozambique. My parents are Rwandans. And I have 2 sisters, two younger sisters.

[i] Where are your parents from?

[r] My parents are from Rwanda. My parents are from Rwanda.

[i] Could you tell me your earliest memory? From the past. The oldest you can remember?

[r] No, I don’t remember anything. I remember going to school, but I was six years old. Apparently there were floods for a few days in 2000. It had rained a lot in Maputu or Bowani in Mozambique. And then I sat on my father’s shoulders. I remember that, but it had rained for three days in a row. That was in 2000, but I was three years old. I was one of the oldest. I was also baptized when I was very young. I was one and a half years old. Or a few months old. But these are things I remember because I saw them in the picture. And then I try to remember that moment. That’s very difficult. But I do remember that when I was 6 years old I went to school on foot. With friends sometimes, and that was fun.

[i] Back in those memories of yesteryear. In flashes you might see. Where did you grow up? And I who’ve never been there, and I don’t know what it looks like. I have no idea, I’m a white young man from Belgium. How can I imagine what that was like? Where you were born and raised. What did it look like? That house, that street, that neighbourhood?

[r] Yes, I’m going to start with the Province. Because you have Mozambique on the coast of Africa, with the Indian Ocean. There you have Maputu at the bottom and in Maputu I lived in Patrice Lumumba. Patrice Lumumba is the name of a well-known Congolese politician. And my father happens to be called Patrice as well. Patrice lives in Patrice and my mother’s name was Alice. Patrice and Alice that rhymes. But so Patrice my father, who lived in Patrice. My father had a pharmacy there. There was a lot of beach. Orange beach I think, maybe it was orange because of the sun. There was a lot of sun. Always 33 degrees, 34 degrees. Always that very warm sun. Almost the whole year, only in July and August it is cold. But that is 18, 19, 20 degrees cold. But so much beach. My father was first renting from 2000 to 2005 on a street where several… They are not terraced houses but so quintal. How do you say that so quintally. Such a single house, with no floors, everything on the ground. Three rooms. The street was just sand on the ground. From where we lived to my father’s work was about 10 minutes, about 15 minutes walking. But my father went by car. There were many trees, ‘koku trees’. What is that? Is that coconut? Coconut trees.

[i] Palm trees.

Yes, many palm trees, but also many mangos. Almost everyone has mango trees. Especially fruit and the fruit automatically ripens there. And sometimes they fell and then we asked our friends if we could get grapes from them or something. And then we climbed into the trees, picked it and ate it. So we hardly ever bought fruit, because we had it on our own. At home we had a mango tree.

And then in 2005 we moved to a street that was like that. We had bought something there and built a house. We lived there for a long time. We lived with a large family. With daddy, mummy, me, sisters and then there were brothers and sisters of my parents from Rwanda. But they did not want to stay in Mozambique and went on to South Africa. We were once used to being with the parents and children. There were always more people, cousins and nieces.

[i] Can you say something more about these family structures? Who were your brothers and sisters? The names, your parents? Where were they born?

[r] My brothers and sisters?


[r] My father’s name is Patrice, and he was born in Rwanda in ’62. I personally have not been to Rwanda yet. He is 11 years older than my mother. My mother is also from Rwanda. After the genocide they fled to Mozambique. First to Congo I think, where they were married, and then to Mozambique where I was born and all my sisters too. My oldest sister was born in ’99. Her name is Rosine Kosua. My other sister was born in 2007, Yvette. There are three of us and we also lived with cousins in Maputo, Mozambique. I don’t know all my uncles and aunts and cousins because my father probably has 10 brothers and sisters and some of them died during the genocide. My mother has so many, but I think I know 2 or 3 from each side or so.

You are the oldest? Always been?

[r] I am the oldest of my father’s children. So I have to set an example and all that, too much pressure.

[i] Do you know where your parents come from?

No, I’ve heard things about Botari, but I don’t know the provinces. I’ve never been there, you know. We hope to be able to go to Rwanda soon. It is very important that you go to your roots. That you see what your origin is. If I make it, I also want to do something for the people. Building a school in the municipality.

[i] In Rwanda then?

[r] In Rwanda, and in Mozambique also something. I feel a feeling of guilt. I have to do something for the people there. I think school is very important because you can learn a lot of things at school. So I hope that somehow… I would really like to be able to work with Unicef to do something. Because I am also helped by UNCHR or something like that. Those are the blue tents that help refugees.

I was born as a refugee.

[i] That’s from the UN, the United Nations.

[r] I’m on pictures, maybe it was in French, but that was 5 letters.

[i] It’s called UNCHR or something.

[r] I think they helped my parents in Congo then. And that my parents were also married there in those tents.

[i] You were born in a tent?

[r] I don’t know. My father said that I was born in the Hospital National de Maputu. But those tents were in Congo. Maybe they made me there. But in ’96 they arrived in Mozambique. I was born in February ’97. We were also helped by priests. My father used to want to be a priest, but then he met my mother and he didn’t succeed. My father is still very religious. Christianity, a Christian. We are also Christians, we went to church almost every Sunday. We were raised that way, too. But, that’s about it…

[i] There are several things you’ve said that we’re going to come back to. Because if we go into that now, it’s a little too chaotic. I’m going to try to remember them and ask more about them in detail in a moment.

What are the people like in Mozambique? Maybe a little comparison with Belgium.

[r] There are Nigerians, Mozambicans and Rwandans in Mozambique. I know many Rwandans who went to the same church as us. And those Rwandans went to parties almost every Sunday, when someone was married. Of those super big parties. Because those Rwandans have shops, they sell food. Mostly self-employed people and stuff. I think my father was one of the first generation of Rwandans to arrive there. And then they started selling clothes to build something up little by little.

[i] Those were all people who fled the genocide?

[r] Yes, yes, most of them.

[i] Have they been well received in Mozambique?

[r] I think so, but I don’t know. My father never got the Mozambican nationality while he lived there for sixteen years. I don’t know if he didn’t look for it or not… We hardly ever went on a trip outside. It was just work and stay there. I feel partly as a Mozambican and partly as a Rwandan.  I had Mozambican friends. But when I went to live or study far from the city, they also saw me as a Mozambican. Because I spoke the language and dialects of Mozambique. They knew that my parents were Rwandans, but sometimes they thought they were Burundians. So they called us Burundians. Burundians, and that was exactly a swear word. Okay, we are Burundians then, but I wasn’t even Burundians. I thought it was exactly a swear word when they said Burundians… so yours are not ours, you are Burundians. That’s how I grew up and so did many Mozambicans. Because we were not so poor, there were also people who wanted to be my friends. And by other interests and stuff. I remember stealing money from my father, I can’t say that. I was influenced by someone from the neighbors who said of going to steal this from your father.  And that I was going to show that and open it up. I hope that one day I will pay him back. I never discussed that with my father. But I have that memory. And then I got beats, why do you do that [name]. We were beaten a lot when we were young, yes, by… That was okay at school, too.

[i] That was different than here?

[r] There are also people here who used to beat. Personally, I think that helps, but not always.

[i] What does family mean to you?

[r] A deep question. Family? Family is living together. Family is… communication, bond through blood, children, parents, large family. But friends can also be family if they support you in difficult times and stuff. And neighbors can also be friends, and friends who eventually become family. But I don’t know my family, my whole family. And the problem in Rwanda is that I don’t have the same family name as my father, still like my sisters. My three sisters are from the same parents, but each with a different family name. Because we have a first name, usually something in French, and then a surname, usually something in Rwandan. Two names like that. In Mozambique there were three names. First name, middle name and surname. And then I did that so much, [name], and then I wrote my father’s surname, because I wanted to belong, to the Mozambicans. But when I grew up I thought of, when I was in the fourth or fifth, I wrote all three names on the keys, but when I saw my papers they were two names, [name] just like that. And means “thanking God. Kushimwa, thank you.

[i] And why didn’t you have your father’s surname?

[r] I once asked my father, because other Rwandans said it was a problem in the genocide. Imagine if your grandparents, e.g. Mr. Lübbert, did something or something. If you ever go to Rwanda, then that’s Lübbert, and the ancestor has done something and then you can have consequences from your ancestors. Maybe that’s tradition too, because when I see other Rwandans they usually have two names.

Or maybe your father had a name of Hutu or Tutsi and if you have another name, e.g. “Shimwa”, maybe that’s free of those worries?

[r] No, I don’t think so. I don’t think I… From Hutu and Tutsi, I don’t know if, I thought that was more of an appearance. I don’t think it’s anything with the name. I just see they’re Rwandan names. Imane, means God, and many people have this family name. My mother was Alice Uimane, Alice of God. My father is Rugugabebe, I don’t know what that means. My sister is Tulikuma, my little sister, that means being together. That’s always something about God, because they are very religious. I Africa a lot of people are very religious because they live in misery and they have something to believe in and so they forget their misery a bit. I don’t think it was something about Hutu or Tutsi. But I do believe it will be something with the grandparents. But it can also be the culture, because all Rwandans have 2 names in Rwanda. Also for the genocide I think, the president and everyone. Such a two names is the culture there.

Isn’t it bizarre that you don’t have the same surname?

[r] Yes. I don’t understand that either. I might investigate that if I ever go back to Rwanda. That is also country to country, isn’t it? In Western culture they do that of you being my seed, and I give you my name. I don’t know where that came from. I can’t find my family like that online. I also get messages from people in Rwanda that I am the son and daughter of that, and she is a brother or sister of your father. I don’t know my family, and if my father dies now, then I have… I know who I know, and the rest yes, sorry. I don’t feel like I know my family and stuff. My family is just my father, my mother and the sisters I have. I know them, and the rest is just right for me. Just friends; I have friends at school, I have friends of this, I have friends in the movie, or friends of youtube. Those are different groups. I have different groups. I can’t talk to someone who loves movies about my family or talk about youtube, so it’s different with everyone. It’s hard for me at home to talk about my youtube or about my… I try to choose the same subjects everywhere that have to do with those people or with what we experience together.

[i] What do you know about your parents’ flight from Rwanda?

[r] I know that they went to Congo first. It was usually in a group, and probably also on foot.

[i] Tell me as if I were someone who doesn’t know anything. You explain to me why your parents left Rwanda? What happened there? How or what, why? I don’t know anything about that…

[r] I’m going to say what I’ve seen in the movie and try to link it to what I’ve heard. In ’94 there was a genocide. The president then was Habyarimana, who was a Hutu and who was murdered on a plane trip and it is said that the Tutsi killed him to carry out a coup d’état. I think the President was later a Tutsi or something. The President who is there has been President for almost all my life. And that is not democratic anyway. So the Tutsi killed the Hutu president, and then the Hutus thought of “wooow they killed our president”. The Hutus were in the majority anyway, they killed our president, they are going to kill us. And then I think the Hutus started killing the Tutsis and the Tutsis were going to kill the Hutus. So everyone went to each other… But you also have the Elwatwa, another ethnic tribe. I don’t know how it is divided, in provinces or something like Flanders and Wallonia… They said you can see if someone is Hutu or Tutsi because the Hutu, that’s what I also read on the internet…. The Hutu are darker, fat and big and the Tutsi are lighter and lean like the president now. But there are also children of a Hutu and a Tutsi, but what are they? Are they 50/50 or so? How do you see them? These groups started to kill each other. But it all started because the president was murdered. I recently asked what my father is and they are Hutu, my parents. But I don’t feel Hutu or Tutsi, I just feel a little Rwandan. But I feel more Mozambican. I am also in a group on facebook of Africans and I say there is no Hutu or Tutsi… There are just Rwandans for me.

It’s what you say, because until recently you didn’t even know what you were…

Yes, I don’t think that’s important either, from Hutu or Tutsi. But it is important to know why that happened. But Belgium has a lot to do with that and France. And when people ask “Why did you come to Belgium?” Well, because Rwanda was a colony of Belgium, and that there are many people… The Belgians are the reason why I lost many of my family members, and France and so on. And they can say sorry, but I don’t come here either from “I hate belgium and I’m going to kill Belgians…” I have forgiven them, but I can see people who are my friends. Or I’ll probably marry someone who has hurt her grandfather or her ancestor. But I forgot. No stress, no worries. No… No pain or something like that. That’s what happened. The genocide, the Holocaust is also something very dark. But I don’t know, if those great genocides happen, I don’t know why that happens. But those are things that stay that way, deep. And people can get psychological problems from that. I recently read that one in four people, Rwandans, suffer from the…

[i] Post-traumatic stress.

[r] Yes. At home there are four of us. Dad, me and two sisters. So one of us or several of us will have those consequences. I try to forget that. When I go to Rwanda, I’m going to visit it anyway where it is and stuff. But my father has been through a lot. His father was murdered there, and his youngest brother is there too… not with bullets but with…

[i] Machete.

[r] A machete, wooow I saw that in the movie, it doesn’t look very nice.

[i] Hotel Rwanda?

[r] Hotel Rwanda, Shooting dogs and then another one. So twenty years later I went… When was that? In 1994, so that was in 2014, I went to the library to look for the genocide of Rwanda and films about it to learn more about it. You have more films that are pro-Hutu than pro-Tutsi. But I try to look at that as neutrally as possible. I think they fled shortly after the genocide. Or in those years. There are many thousands of people, if not millions, who died from April to July. I think that is how they went to the Congo. I do not know how long they stayed in Congo. And then, probably, to Tanzania. But my father had just graduated I think he had received a scholarship to study somewhere in France or something. I think he had studied in Marseille. He had studied something with radiography. And then he went to work in Rwanda and that’s when it happened. He had just bought a house in Rwanda.

[i] He was actually young and quite successful?

[r] Yes, in Rwanda and then that happened. If you’re smart, it doesn’t matter where you go, you’re going to make something out of it anyway.

[i] And does your father have any…

[r] Contact in Rwanda?

[i] Yes, among other things, does he still have a bad feeling about it? Do you think it would be difficult for him ever to go back to Rwanda?

[r] He says…

[i] More difficult than maybe for you?

[r] For daddy?

[i] Yes?

[r] I don’t think so. He wants that anyway. He wants to go and see his house, because some of his sisters are there. And those who live from that house, those who rent it out to other people and use that money then for their children there or to survive there. My father wants to see that because a few years ago what he had bought becomes smaller and smaller because people grow that and so on and then they take a piece of land from him. And that frustrates him because he is sitting here and there is nothing he can do there. He probably wants to see it and improve it. If I could see what he has, I would like to make it an international company, a company. But people are very materialistic and I think my father just wants to go and see what it’s like there and his things. Because he has things there.

[i] For a moment a leap in time. Afterwards in Mozambique, the life there as you described it to me was a pretty good life. What has changed to get out of there?

Lately a Rwandan had been murdered close to our street. Apparently he was murdered by his wife. His wife had paid people to kill him. Probably a family quarrel or something. Imagine your wife paying for you to be killed. That was very bad and the TV was there to film. That was very strange and in a very bad way, and they also had children together. Murdered probably for wealth. In 2007 they stole my father’s car, which had an automatic car. Not a manual one, but an automatic one, and you just had to put it on D. It was beautiful and new. Someone had stolen it and he didn’t believe it then. It was also Rwandans who stole it from each other, from the successful Dan. My father usually didn’t drive the car, because most of the time he had a driver who drove and stuff. Probably they had made a masterkey that can open all the cars.

[i] At that time your father had a pharmacy?

[r] Yes, he had a pharmacy, but not of him just with another man. They were partners because they had also studied together in Rwanda. They are still good friends. Together they had opened that pharmacy. And that man now has about 10 pharmacies in Maputo or almost all of Mozambique. It is called pharmacy Africa. Then he has Africa 1, 2 and 3… and other names in the districts of Maputo.

[i] So the car was stolen?

[r] Then they looked for it and didn’t find it, the first day. For they went looking for it in the Maputo ciudade. While he went to Matola, that’s the other side towards Swaziland and so on. And then they didn’t find it anymore and then my father bought a second hand car. That started to get unsafe. My father is also… People kept waiting for him when he finished work. But on that day, he didn’t come at eleven o’clock or midnight, but came a little later around one o’clock or two o’clock. And those people said to him, ahhh that took a long time to get here and then my mother was there and my father just drove on. The streets were small, and then those people started to follow him and he said that they shot behind his car. He thought they were going to kill him. It became unsafe and it wasn’t always… The Mozambicans said they were Rwandans. There were also Rwandans who were jealous of… And sometimes there have been riots when the price of the bread rose and the price of the bus rose. I saw that instead of arguing for the ministry of food or work, the Mozambicans were going to break the shops of Rwandans and of the Nigerians. The local Mozambicans opened it to steal food and so on… And then I thought they were really focusing on foreigners, on Rwandans and stuff. The police were there, but they did almost nothing. Sometimes you had to pay the police to defend your shop. That was really ridiculous. I experienced that and saw it all. Once people wanted to open my mother’s shop, but it was well closed. They wanted to open it, but they didn’t succeed. And one of my uncles had taken a machete. I really liked “eeeeeeehmmmm”. You panic, because people want to be so… Why do they want to steal our things? Then he found good people on the street who grabbed him and calmed him down. They could take away the machete and use it against you. That was very bizarre. And then my mother died in 2011. And then my father didn’t like it anymore. His mother had died too, and one year later his father had died as well. My father was very scared because we didn’t have much close family. I was 14 to 15 years old then. If he died one year later after my mother, I would be 15 years old. What would I do? Even though we were rich… You are stupid, you are young, you want to enjoy yourself. And then he made the choice to leave everything behind and go to another country where the future is safer. Or where the government would do something for us if he died. That’s how I see it. If someone dies, you can still graduate. But in Maputo, see for yourself. I could also become independent in Mozambique and open a shop.

[r] When I arrived in Belgium I thought, there is another way… I can make a lot, I can be more creative. I have always been creative. When my mother died, I had to process it somehow and then I started writing texts, rap. I started rapping in Portuguese, and that helped me to process that.

[i] Do you have a text or a song like that?

[r] I have songs online in the Portuguese I wrote.

[i] Do you have a text or a piece?

[r] A text not necessarily about my mother, but about… they were mostly American instrumentals that I used… Anything of text? I may have something on my mobile phone, but I don’t know, or on my laptop. Not such a text no, it was mostly punch-lines. So smart with text and stuff. Puzzling, rhyming, lots of rhyming. I also wrote when I lost my mother that I felt it was my fault because I hadn’t talked to her much in the last few days. When she went to the hospital, I was laughing with my friends. The last few weeks I have been massaging her feet and stuff. She asked that. She was also very religious in the Igresia Universal. That’s a Brazilian church where they ask for ten percent of your monthly income. One time my mother came back from there and said, “I am healed. I was really happy about, “What? Does the church really work?”. And then I believed that. She then watched the TV, because from midnight to seven in the morning it was on the TV and she believed that people couldn’t walk and then suddenly walk. I thought, “Is that real? Mommy’s healed, and she’s happy and all.” They had probably prayed for her. And three days later she was back in bed and couldn’t get out. She then said that she was going to die. And I said, “Mama, no, you’re going to live a long time.” I was fourteen then. I massaged her feet, I remember. I think she lost a lot of blood in the hospital. I hate hospitals, I don’t like hospitals very much. I think if you go to a hospital, you will die. You can’t get out of there alive. When she was ill, my father didn’t take her directly to a hospital. Because he was a pharmacist, he gave her insulin or something. And she was lying on the bed there to get it. And then she went.

[i] Did your mama have a lingering disease? Was she ill for a long time? Or short?

[r] I don’t know how long she was ill, but she got thinner and thinner. I don’t know if she ate. But we were young and they didn’t tell us what kind of illness it was.

[i] Did they keep it a secret?

[r] Yes, yes. I don’t know if that was a good thing, but I would have preferred them to have said that. Otherwise, I would have enjoyed the last moments with her more. If you know something, you’re more ready. When they went to the hospital, and my father came back by car. When I came back, I said, “Where’s Mommy?” Mommy went to the hospital and I thought it was okay to go. I’m going to go tomorrow morning, and my cousins had come and we had prayed together in the morning. Around four to five o’clock my father came back, a day in the hospital. He came to me and just gave me a hug. And then I knew that Mom wouldn’t come back. I knew that. It was the first time that my father hugged me. And yes…

[i] Are you still praying?

[r] Vienna?

[i] Are you still praying?

[r] Pray. When I have exams. If I haven’t learned well.

[i] In what language?

[r] Nowadays I try in Dutch or in Portuguese. Usually it is in Portuguese.

[i] What do you say?

[r] When I eat, I say, “Deus obrigado pa la comida”. Then I thank God for the food and thanks for keeping us strong, give us strength so that I do my exams well. Amen. Then I say something like that. But I go to church less and less.

[i] Have you always gone to church in Belgium?

[r] In the beginning I did. Young people also went to Mozambique, but here in Belgium only old people go. I thought I was going to meet beautiful girls in church. Probably my future girlfriend who is also a believer and then we get married. But only old people. I thought, this is not motivating.

[i] Which church did you go to in Belgium?

[r] We went to the Catholic Church, the ordinary church of the church or the city. My father went there to pray so that we would be well received in Belgium and continue to believe. But I got older and Christianity… I tried to combine the real world with Christianity. I still believe in God, and that we are here through God somehow. I still believe that very deeply. That doesn’t stop me from enjoying life or from enjoying… and in Mozambique life is… The style of the Mozambicans is a lot of going out, partying and making music. That is also the same as here. The problem is that there, even though we were all black, they focus on you as a foreigner. Everywhere I lived they knew that. I’m black, so you stand out here anyway. And that’s okay, I’m an African. But I also feel more like a world citizen now. I don’t feel like a Rwandan, Mozambican or Brazilian or Belgian. I just feel like a world citizen.

[r] May I call Theo Francken?

[i] No censorship.

[r] Explicit content.

[i] Yes, please.

[r] So in 2013 we came to Belgium…

[i] Do you remember the day you left Mozambique for Belgium?

[r] Yes, that had to be done quickly. And we were not allowed to say goodbye to anyone or to say that we were going to Belgium. So I said that I would study in South Africa with my best friends and would come back in the holidays. But I also didn’t know that we could stay in Belgium. We came to Belgium by plane. It was very cold in Belgium and I didn’t expect that. I hadn’t looked up the weather. That was early 2013, when we arrived in Belgium and it was snowing. It was the first time I saw snow in real life as well. I do know that we went to the North Station to apply for asylum the next morning and so on.

[i] Did you come with a tourist visa? Or what kind of visa?

[r] I don’t know, we had a passport. I didn’t see it personally or keep it or anything. Everything was with my father. But then I didn’t see the passport anymore. But it was everything, a smuggler also something like that I think. People pay to come. It was not that we came as a tourist or we came as a visitor and so on. But then I didn’t know that, I just followed my father.

[i] But it was with a normal plane?

[r] I went to great lengths. First to South Africa. It was difficult to get on the plane as well. Where are you going and what are you going to do there? They were just white people in line and then they had kept us apart. I thought we were almost going to miss the flight. Then someone came to check our passports from where are you going? Belgium…  Brussels… I was really angry, because I saw that they were discriminating against us in the queue. Why are you stopping us? I dared, but my father was a bit scared and waiting for them to say something. They let us through last and then we got on the bus that went to the plane. Then the first and only time I was on a plane. That didn’t feel right. And then when we arrived in Brussels we didn’t have our suitcases anymore. I said and our suitcase? And who said we are going to take that later. We had left those suitcases behind, lost those suitcases. My father said that one day we will go for it. I always try to remember, “What was in those suitcases that was so important?” Don’t take so much, okay, I’ll take those clothes. A pair of trousers from Real Madrid, and some T-shirts. I had really taken little and a chessboard and stuff. And then that was too much. We’re going to leave the sisters in one suitcase. And when we arrived here, we don’t even take those suitcases. I should have left everything there. I only had the satchel left. Then we applied for asylum here. And then they sent us to Limburg. The asylum application was also in a row in the morning and so cold and then you have to take your clothes off and then they scan your body. I thought what the fuck is this. I think we applied for asylum on 20 February, because two days later my father had his first interview and it was my birthday. My sixteenth birthday was in Brussels. It was the worst birthday ever, because I went to Brussels with my father from Limburg. And then I was sitting there on the North Station so alone. Yes, I’m sixteen. Yes, my sweet sixteen, it was just the opposite of sweet sixteen. When I was fifteen in Mozambique, my friends had taken eggs, eggs hit someone’s head, sand on his… You really had to walk. But they celebrated your birthday. But then I was sitting there at the North Station. And there were also people who had just arrived, mostly asleep, just at the entrance. There I was, and my dad was recording the interview, not me because I wasn’t that old. But I did go with my dad to see it on the train and stuff. It was also a change from Limburg in Overpelt and so on, there we were in the Centre Valkenhof. So yes, that was my sixteenth birthday. And then, a few months later, my father recorded a second interview. I couldn’t go on facebook either, I couldn’t say anything about it. Africans are also very religious, if you say something that hasn’t happened yet, it can have a bad influence or give a bad chance. I don’t want to remember either, but my girlfriend and ex. I had money on my mobile phone from credit. Suddenly I had sent everything to her and she said why do you send it? I just said yes. And the school was actually going to start the following week. It was all so very fast. I couldn’t have said goodbye to her either. It was a part of my life that I left behind, so fifteen years bye bye. From the airplane I saw Africa and thought I would come back one day. In Belgium it was completely different. The weather was different anyway. If you are going to travel somewhere, check the weather first. See what clothes you need. Imagine if I would come up with this. I thought then that it was hot everywhere. If you travel, you become smarter. I thought then in things below it’s warm, then it’s upstairs reversed. If you see it or experience things, then you know it. Then you can couple and stuff. So the weather is very important when you travel somewhere. So then we applied for asylum and they took our fingerprint, name of our things and stuff. I don’t know what my father said in our file. Then they gave us a pager and sent us to the Centre of Valkenhof in Neerpelt. I think it was almost a border municipality with the Netherlands.

[i] Did your father speak English.

[r] My father doesn’t speak English, so only French. I also thought Belgique, so that’s French and in Mozambique we had French at school. I took all my papers from French…  I had to do something about the 2012 Olympics, I think it was in France. And I was the best in French in my class. But my French was also so broke. Actually not that great, but I was the best in class in Mozambique. I took all those papers of French, I’m going to learn it and practice it for Belgium. And then we were on the train; “We arrive at Neerpelt station”. I hear that and shit. I don’t know French very well, but this is not French at all. And you look around in the train and see the countryside, and think of France and Paris… Or Belgium, that must be a city like Brussels. And there were just cows and green, and I thought of we are probably in the wrong country. And that station was so small, really nothing. But in Mozambique we didn’t have a train or train station. Then someone came to take us to the Centre, and we lived there for four months. I learned my first words in Dutch there at school. From March to June we went to school there. And after four months you can apply for a house if you have a large family. Then they would have given us a house in Izegem. They didn’t take us there, so we had to take the train to Izegem ourselves. So we had one room with four beds. We all slept in the same room. And that’s where I started my youtube channel, I think.

[i] In Izegem?

[r] No, in the Centre. I remember watching Photoshop a lot in Mozambique in the last months of 2012. How to make a vampire with Photoshop? With the Photoshop tools, and how to change the color of the eyes to red and so on. So that’s what I was looking for in Portuguese. That’s when I started… I was looking for something when I had a problem. How do you install a new font on a computer? Then I would look for it, and if I knew that, I would make a video of it and post it on my youtube channel. And that was always about Photoshop and computers. I was looking for a problem and then I made a movie about it. So people who went looking for a movie also looked at mine, because mine was usually shorter. But it was really low quality. It’s still on youtube, with bad audio and stuff. But I liked it so much because I couldn’t be busy with music, but I still had to be creative to forget that we were there and I was bored. So every time after school I made such a film in Portuguese about Photoshop. And then we went to live in Izegem. In 2013, in the summer in July. I didn’t know how long we were going to live in Izegem, but we lived there for four years. I got my diploma there. If I could, I would have looked for a friend there. Because you don’t dare make a connection with someone, because you don’t know how long this is going to take… I thought it was normal not to think about that and just to start and see something. But I didn’t dare, I was insecure because maybe I should leave the country in 2016 because we also got negative. I think I went to work for the first time in 2017, or 2016, when I would have done a holiday job. Or maybe in 2015… A neighbour knew… I was seventeen, or almost eighteen. Or nineteen, I don’t remember. How old was I when I did my first holiday job? I think that when it was probably in 2015. Because the neighbour said she knew a place in a restaurant. And then I had to do the dishes, which was a lot of fun because I was also doing something else. And I kept on making youtube movies. I was also afraid to do youtube because I thought that when I do youtube, I have to film my life. And you don’t want to film your situation in the Centre, that’s not nice. On youtube people always show beautiful things of look at my car… wtf, you’re not going to show any depressive shit, because nobody has to see that. It was very hard to think of… I make movies of it… I thought you know, the first Photoshople classes were without a camera, it was just recording the screen and my voice just.

[i] In the asylum centre. How was that there for you?

[r] The asylum centre. Many Afghan, young Afghan who were without parents. They usually played soccer. I also wanted to play soccer, but I was not allowed to go in the car. My father had to do everything for me than if I wanted to play soccer. He had to register me there, and see how I had to go there by bike. It was nice that we ate together. We had hours to eat. In the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening. Everyone came and every room had a table where you sat together. And Wednesday after school it was chicken with salad and fries, that was the best day. I didn’t understand why they had half a day at school. I wanted to cycle quickly from the school to the Centre to eat the fries. You knew it was fries and meat on Wednesday. It was a lot of fun. And the different cultures when we played soccer in the center with other young people. It was fun because we also had a soccer field there. And there we played soccer, and also when I was in the OKAN. The welcome class for foreign-speaking newcomers. There were Poles, Afghans and Africans, and all playing soccer together. Football brought people together. It was nice to see the various young people do something together. You also learn more about other cultures because we lived there with Africans and Muslim women who are completely covered, or with other young people. Sometimes there was a fight, but there are also assistants who are there to guide things. And each room also had one week to work, that they had to clean something, or do a job, and then they get a little money from the Centre. That was about 2.5 euros a day. It was cool and we had a TV there too. We sat there in the evening watching football with others. I also got to know the channel 2B there. That is probably name changed. There you had a movie almost every night and they spoke English, I could speak English, but I read the subtitles in Dutch, and that also helped to quickly learn Dutch. The little things… We also had internet there. And then I could log in again on Facebook and see the friends. Many messages from [name], where are you? In Portuguese… Because I had been in Belgium for six months or a few months. I couldn’t see it anymore, but I didn’t dare tell them face-to-face that I was here. They already knew something. I had also made a song called “Viajar”, traveling. And that was for my girlfriend. I said of: “Sorry baby, I have to travel from my dad, I have to be a doctor”. It really was… I had made that song with two other people and when she heard that song she thought of, [name] really meant what he said in that song. Those are so secret things you do and don’t say. But if someone pays attention, they make the connection.

[i] Weren’t you mad at your daddy for having to leave?

[r] I was angry that I couldn’t go after those suitcases. Still a bit because, I don’t know what was in those suitcases, but I know there was something important in them. Probably also pictures of my girlfriend and me. I don’t know what was inside. Things they had given me. The most expensive T-shirt my mother ever bought me was also in that suitcase.

[i] Why didn’t you want father to get those suitcases or look for them?

[r] Because it was probably dangerous for them to see us.

[i] Maybe it wasn’t…

[r] Like, we’re here and we’re not going to go back. They’re probably going to be difficult and then the police are going to come from what you’re doing… It was harder when you say you are coming to visit someone. In Africa they can’t check that. But if you say you are coming to visit someone here, they can check it out here. I think when you travel to a country, you should have a reason. I don’t know, because I had never travelled by plane before. They say, “Why are you coming here?” I’m here for a festival. But he had such a vague reason.

[i] In the asylum centre as you describe it, it was an adventure for a 15-year-old boy. It probably wasn’t for your father?

[r] My father was a real opponent. I think he probably experienced something in Congo as well. I don’t know. That one… I don’t know what happened in Congo, but he had a trauma. He was scared, especially of the girls than that they were going to hang out with other boys. He was a little worried as a parent. For me, I wouldn’t do anything criminal there or deal drugs or anything. I wouldn’t do that there. There’s nothing to do. You cycle, you sport, you shower with other people you don’t know.

[i] Afterwards, life in Izegem, when you arrived there?

[r] They were good neighbours. Those good neighbors helped us immediately. Where is the Aldi? For we knew the Aldi to buy things to eat. They took us directly to the shop the first day. With their car, and that was a long way.

[i] You have good memories of Izegem?

[r] Yes, if I had to choose a home in Belgium, it would probably be Izegem.

[i] You’d think, that’s a small village… Wasn’t that difficult?

[r] Sometimes I went to wash the dishes and then someone asked: “How does it feel to be the only black person on the street?” I didn’t know what to say. I said, “Yes, it feels good.” The only Africans here. But West Flanders… I love that… of that country feeling. When I’m old, I’d like that. But now that I’m so young, I want to be in the city of Brussels. Such creativity… But if I wanted to rest, I would go to West Flanders. Really total rest. That’s cool.

[i] How did you decide to continue your studies after graduation?

[r] That was a coincidence. I first went to Bruges or Kortrijk. Either to the Vives of Howest because I had my diploma in 2017. I thought it would be 2017, and if we continue to live in Izegem I won’t go to Ghent anyway, because I knew that my father wouldn’t let me go to a barn. I went to see where we live, and what’s close by… In the last year they help you choose things. So I had a few options. Creative things, and also things with technology. That’s what I definitely wanted. So I went to the open house of Vives in Kortrijk to see for design, programs and Photoshop and technical things. Making drones or programming things. Or in Howest there was also something about IT. Then I thought I could repair computers and laptops if they were broken. But in the sixth, my teacher said, “Don’t do anything with math… I had that in mind, of something to do without mathematics. And after four years we had to leave the social house in Izegem and go to Brussels. I don’t know why, but I think it was something from Theo Francken that says they want to centralise people or something. So I thought that everyone who was still in an asylum procedure had to go and live in the centre, in Brussels.

[I] You had to go to Brussels?

[r] Yes, we had to go to Brussels. It was not our choice. We had to go there.

[i] From Izegem to Brussels?

[r] Yes… It was actually happy for me because I had just graduated. I thought of why this is happening. I had also done the fifth one again and it came out well. I thought I would have more choice in Brussels. The RITCS was also one of the schools I had on my list. I thought… I’m busy with youtube… Image, sound and editing. Or maybe something with film because I did film every week. I filmed my daily life. I thought editing would be fun to puzzle. I had also met “The smartest person” in Izegem, with Eric van Looy and such. And then I was watching and I thought wooow. It was the penultimate episode. Then it was done and I wanted to know who was going to win. Then I thought, the person who edits that knows that probably already. I want to edit “The smartest person”. That’s why I’m going to study editing, because when I assemble that, I know who the winner is. Then I’m not going to tell anybody and wait for them at home, while I know that. That’s one of the reasons why I went to the RITCS. There was an admission test, and I didn’t work that summer. I had taken that very seriously. I had seen many Flemish films, I had seen information about the RITCS and I had seen that Stijn Coninx was there. I went to see films by Stijn Coninx. You have to say why you want to study there and what programs you like. Make a moodboard with your favorite movies. I had done all that and also mentioned Stijn Coninx because I knew he worked there. I had mentioned things that had to do with the school. But I had also seen a lot of Flemish films. I really liked the fact that films are made in Flanders. In Africa, where I lived, most of the time there was no fiction, or probably there was, but I didn’t know that. I thought, I live in Brussels and then I won’t study in Bruges or Kortrijk. I thought I was doing the entrance exam and then I was in at the RITCS. They asked why we should let you through and not the others? I said yes, I’m different, look everyone is different, everyone is equally creative… I do think it’s important that we have different views from different people on one subject. That’s what I said to the jury of the RITCS. We also had a photo assignment and I was inside and now I’m in the second year of editing.

[r] I’m tired of moving in Belgium too.

[i] Why did Brussels make you move again and to where? From Brussels to?

[r] Now we’ve moved from Brussels to Geraardsbergen.

[i] Why didn’t you stay in Brussels?

[r] Why don’t we live in Brussels? So in Brussels… In Brussels we had an Orange card… That’s not an official… That’s a document you have to renew every three months, every month. But on 1 August, in August 2018, we received papers. What is that? A certificate that we were registered as refugees somewhere here in Belgium. So Belgium accepts us as refugees. So they protect us as refugees I think when we are abroad or something. So we have a card with that on it. If you get that, you can no longer live in a social house, then you have to find your own house. Then try to improve your life. Then you are no longer a refugee who cannot work or who cannot do anything. You have to try to do something then. My father had been looking for a house all summer. He had also seen something in Liedekerke, but it was not allowed or something else. They always asked about the income of the last three months, and because he’s unemployed he couldn’t show it. But then they found a house in Geraardsbergen, a house of another African family. And they wanted to rent it to us. A fairly large house with three or four bedrooms. My sister, who is almost eleven years old, didn’t want to sleep with her other sister anymore, could sleep separately and so on. It is the first time that everyone has a bedroom.

[i] How was life in Brussels? The rapprochement from Izegem to Brussels? Was that fun or did it cause more problems? Were you more anonymous there, because there are more foreigners? What was it like in Brussels?

[r] Brussels was more chaotic, beautiful, French, much French. On the street everywhere in French. In the beginning I had to look for places where they spoke Dutch. When I learned Dutch I started to hate French. I hate French, I hate speaking French. I don’t know, I really feel like a Fleming when I hear French. Like wtf, and especially in Brussels. So why don’t they speak Dutch, it makes me so angry while when I came to Belgium I thought in Belgium they speak French. It was very strange, but I can speak French. Je parle Français. Je peux parler Français. But in Brussels you have to talk about the two languages. You have to speak the two languages. I have nothing against the French speakers. French is much bigger and much more international than Dutch. Even on the train or in the street, people automatically address me in French. Also the conductors and so on: “Bonjour”. No, I speak Dutch, act normal! But you have to get used to it, don’t you? Brussels is more lively, in the summer there is always something to do. And in winter there are always parties on the streets. I did find the library in Brussels, the largest library is in Dutch. There are both Dutch and French-speaking libraries. So if I went to those Dutch-speaking libraries, I didn’t have any friends there, but I went there to choose Flemish films, watch them to learn a bit about the culture… What has already been done here? If I want to do something new, what should I do? And choose books. In the library there was also internet. I love libraries, they are the most beautiful places where you can rest, sit and learn something. That was the only place where I still felt good, so to speak, in Flanders. Also in the Station, because that’s where you hear Dutch. But everywhere and all the shops, French… In Brussels, everything is French. But now I know a few organizations, I started volunteering at the Flemish Youth Council. That was also in Dutch. Then I started volunteering at various organisations and I discovered more Dutch-speaking places in Brussels. There are, because Brussels is bilingual. In the summer there is always something to do in Brussels. In Izegem you had a market. Everyone went home after school or did sports. I didn’t play sports, but I did play chess in Izegem.

[i] Your adaptation to Belgium went well. You speak Dutch, French and things are going well at school. You’ve done a lot in a short time. You will feel good about yourself. But what was it like for your father? Was it different for your father?

[r] Yes, because he doesn’t want to talk about it either. Then I can’t really know. But what I see, I think that he… is depressed anyway. He tries to hide that too… It’s still from the mentality of men not crying. I don’t know if he’s trying to show that he’s strong so I stay strong, but he’s also very stubborn. I tell him: “If you want help, tell him, I’m going to help you.” He still only goes shopping on foot. If he says it to me, I can go with him and carry things. But he doesn’t say that, he is very closed. While I am more open, and I talk about feelings and I try to lie as little as possible. You don’t have to lie, or you don’t have to tell the whole truth, but communication is very important. I asked in the beginning, we have to make rules at home of who does the dishes, when, and so of those little things of what are we cooking. If we know from Monday we cook this, and Tuesday this, until Sunday. Then you just have to buy the same thing every week, and then everyone knows what is expected of them. But he’s so excited to see what we’re doing… There are days when there are dishes when I haven’t eaten at home and I come home from school, and I wonder why there is so much washing up. And after a few days I think I’ll just wash it and then I’ll be everything. There are no rules. Maybe that’s because there is no mother figure to organize it. I say of it then: “Daddy, you have to try to do that.” He doesn’t want that and he just buys things. Always rice and fries and beans and it always cooks the same because it doesn’t know what to cook. There’s no one-time spaghetti, it just boils what’s there. He always buys beans, because he likes them because his parents probably used to make them too. That’s improvisation, you can see that we’re improvising a lot now. If you cook every day, then food breaks down as well. I think structure is very important. If there is a structure we have to do this and this for so long. Then we can calculate what is needed. He says so: “You can’t say I’m not a man until I can’t pay school for you anymore.” He pays the school for me and the transport. I don’t know how hard it is for him. I see that he has no work and until when can he pay the rent and the school… I say, “Should I quit school and then find work, or combine it?” Do I have to get my driver’s license now? We don’t get pocket money either. When I asked, the one from when my houses in Africa are rented, I can get money and give it to you. I thought so: You can’t even buy underwear for yourself”. Then I thought of wtf, okay I’m going to find a job. That was when I got the strength to look for work and hard work, that’s it. And since then, I haven’t stopped both working and volunteering. Just being busy with something, you don’t think about those problems.

[i] Your daddy, who wants to work as a pharmacist?

[r] He doesn’t want to work as a pharmacist, because that’s not what he studied, but in radiography. But I say yes, that’s not possible, because you don’t speak the language or you have to know people. You have to start from below, with voluntary work. He had been to UZ Gent a couple of times and knows a good doctor there who was going to help him, but when we got negative that had gone wrong. But he wants to do something with his diploma. But his diploma is from a long time ago and now everything is more computerized. So now he’s learning to work a bit with the computer and smartphones for one year and whatsapp and such. He is now trying to understand that. Because the technology has changed a lot now, he should learn something new. He does speak French, I think he would work very well in Brussels or Wallonia. I think he shouldn’t think of wanting to do something with his diploma but should be open to everything. But it’s difficult with my 10-11 year old sister, she can’t go to school alone yet. My father brings her, and especially in Izegem we only had one key and there always had to be someone to let her in. Our father said that he was our father and mother at the same time. Now I am older and more independent and I have a lot of quarrel with daddy. With 16, 17, 18 and 19 years old always hesitant to leave home and start a life of their own without worries. Sometimes you have to release ties from something that stops you from moving on. But I thought I didn’t want to see my sisters in the future and they would think I was a bad brother who had left them. And then we didn’t have any papers, that was the hardest time. I was already a pussy… We are gathered here and so we stay together! I thought everything should happen automatically.

[i] When you got your papers, was that a turning point?

[r] My father… I was at school and my father called from we have positive! I thought what? I was really happy because then we also got the news that I was allowed to participate in VRT-Next in the summer. It was then the end of May and we were going to move again from Brussels to Koekelberg. And then my exams started and I could not study well during the moving period. I didn’t feel like moving during the exams. I almost always have to move during the exams. You lose a lot of time by cleaning up and taking things with you. I wanted to concentrate on something. And then I wanted to live alone and be able to choose for myself. I’m going to study and make my own planning. That’s why I wanted to. Yes positive… but after five years you think fuck yes… the worst part would be that we have to leave the country…. What? After all that effort and then we got positive. I was just as happy and thought I could work more, but I was allowed to do so with restrictions and so on. The only thing I haven’t done yet, is that I can go abroad now. I want to go to the Netherlands so badly, preferably before the end of the year, to eat a good KFC.

[i] Haven’t you been to Holland yet?

[r] No, no.

[i] Since you’ve been in Belgium? Haven’t been to the Netherlands yet?

[r] No, no.

[i] But that’s just around the corner…

[r] No, not yet. I went once to Paris, to France with the school. You have those GP weeks with the school. But the next year we were not allowed to go, because our papers were no longer valid. I had that in August and it is now October. I want to go to the Netherlands one of these weeks, check on Amsterdam. That’s so close, isn’t it? I’m thinking, either by train or by bus. What is cheaper and what is better… But I want to go to Holland this year anyway and probably next summer as many European countries as possible. Because now you can, now you can, now I’m someone! But I was born as a refugee and I hope one day to die as a king. That’s a song. I was born as a refugee, but I want to die as a king.

[i] Is that a new song?

[r] That’s a line I thought in my head. But I’m thinking how I can connect it. I was born a refugee. If I’m going to write a book about my story, that’s going to be the title. But, I want to die as a king… I don’t know if that should come right after, or at the end. It has to be such a link. King… What is king? Someone whom everyone looks up to, or who lives well. With a big big big seat with lions, such a king of the jungle. You see, the king has everything for himself.

But a refugee is someone who is on his way… If you are born as a refugee on the road and if you die as a king, then… then it has to be super. I think I’m never going to be a king, because that’s in the family, isn’t it? That’s a comparison, isn’t it? What does a king do? Everything is done for him. If you’ve achieved a lot and helped people, that’s living like a king in one way or another. That I don’t have to worry about eating at home, or being able to pay my rent, that you buy a house… or a castle maybe. A king lives in a castle. A castle is ridiculous… Those are materialistic things. The most important thing is to be happy.

[i] Have you always been happy since you left Mozambique?

[r] Not in the beginning. But most of the time I am, I’m a pretty positive person. I always try to see the positive in people. Until I have met N-VA… then it was no longer possible… Also the media and all those negative things. With IS and the attacks and stuff. When I lived in Brussels, when I was in the tram or metro, I thought who were those people who were in the tram when it exploded because I saw blood and stuff in the news… That metro is always so busy, and when it explodes… You can see everyone, children, women, young people, French-speakers, foreigners, tourists…. You’ll see everyone in that subway. When I was in Brussels, I would think of… Who was on the subway at the attacks? I look at their faces and then I think, imagine if this explodes now? What happens… Life is something weird. IS, the Islamic State, that’s not good what they do.

[i] If you make an analysis… how different did you become from when you were in Mozambique?

[r] I am older. My father says that Europe has changed us. I think it’s just more age. In Mozambique we had a father-son relationship that was distant. I just went to my father to ask for money, and permission. Now also, but less permission because he always said no and at some point when I was 18 years old I thought I’d never ask him again. I don’t tell him where I’m going anymore. He has my number, and if he needs me he can call me. That’s a click I made in my head. Why do I have to ask permission if he’s going to say no? I thought I’d just go to my dad when I need money from him. If I need money for school, I’ll show it. But I’m not going to go to him with my personal problems because he’s not open. I asked him, “Why aren’t you so open? Why do I feel that I can’t go to you?” He didn’t know what to answer. But I don’t feel I can trust him. He doesn’t give me that feeling of security. That’s why I have a hard time talking to him. But I think the older you get, the better you can deal with your father. I’m still going to be his child, but it’s hard for him to be open with me. He also said when my mother died that he wouldn’t look for another woman because she would probably treat you badly. But he has to do something that makes him happy… If you think that a woman can make you happier, that will make us happier too. What I would like to do is make it, the Belgian dream. Making it and then buying a house for my father, or a house where we will all live together. And that he can work and enjoy his last days, because he also fled a lot… of Rwanda, Congo, Mozambique… That also does something to someone if you can’t stay stable in one place and you can’t develop well.

[i] Another chapter, something totally different that we haven’t talked about yet. Have you ever had to deal with forms of discrimination in Belgium?

[r] Anyway, I’m very conscious of that because I know I’m black. Sometimes I forget that I’m black, because you don’t have to think about it much. If it’s something small, I see who the person who did it is. Ah yes, a racist. Then you think that automatically, and especially in public transport. In public transport, in the train, in the metro or on the tram. And then no one sits next to you. They’d rather stand there while there’s room… ahhh a racist. I, if there’s a seat, I’m not going to stand, I’m going to sit next to that person. In Africa we had to fight to get on the bus and we were all stuck together. And here you are in a bus with five free seats, and then you’re alone… What? That’s a big contrast. In public transport I notice that a lot. I don’t think that if I met Bart de Wever he would say something racist or Theo Francken. Sometimes they make racist statements and so does Donald Trump.

[i] To come back to the discrimination given. Are there any other things that have happened to you personally?

[r] Not that I know of. Maybe I forgot. Nobody has come to give me a slap… hey nigger or something. No, no. That didn’t happen. That’s usually indirect. Personally, it’s me who makes the link. Also with left and right. I try not to feel left or right. I try to understand that way: “What if I were a white man in Africa?” How would that be? Would I talk to that person or would I say what the fuck is that white person doing here? The rich one just comes here to steal from us… How would I think, you know? I try to imagine what those people would think of me. How would I think in Africa. So: “First our people.” I would wear that T-shirt too, but first the Africans. I mean something else, but that’s also… Politics is so weird. I’m trying to feel a bit of both… I recently sent a message to “Shield and friends”, to Dries Van Langenhove: “Bye Dries, can I join Shield and friends?” My answer was, because I would be funny. The answer in my head was van: “No [name], you can’t do that because you’re too fat.” I thought of, I’m pro-diversity. I think it also helps to learn from others. I grew up all the time, in Africa it was a little less because everyone was black and all that… But we also had Portuguese from Portugal. But here I learn about other cultures. I think that’s very important, because it makes me smarter. You learn other languages and you get to know people. I don’t think I’ve experienced discrimination yet. When they talk about refugees on TV, I can feel that they talk about me. There’s not exactly someone who shouted at me: “Profiteers.” That hasn’t happened yet. But people think so. Who is going to dare say that?

[i] There are people in Antwerp who do…

[r] Yes, in Antwerp they do. The people of Antwerp have a big mouth. I hate the people of Antwerp… no sorry cut! I don’t hate people from Antwerp. The people of Antwerp dare to… but the Dutch have a big mouth. They say right away, but Belgians are still too sweet. They can think that, but they don’t usually say that. Sometimes they can say something and hurt you… But imagine, I’m from the left and you’re from the right… We can talk, can’t we? Why do you believe that? Because I think those people are coming to benefit. Why? They get money from… But do you know what it used to be like? All that gold from here in Belgium comes from Africa. Ahhh, yes? Yes, and through slaves… My ancestors were slaves. I didn’t know? That way you can talk about it in an ordinary way. But there are people who are not open. I think so, and that’s the best way. You have to be open to other opinions. Listen to both and then make your own opinion. That’s the most important thing.

[i] We’re almost there. How is your relationship with your country of origin?

[r] What do you mean? Mozambique or Rwanda?

You know that?

[r] I don’t know that. I don’t feel like a Rwandan at all. My father is angry because we don’t feel Rwandan. I feel Mozambican. Mozambique… (Sings national anthem) That is the national anthem of Mozambique. Patria amado. What is that?

[i] The national anthem.

[r] The national anthem of Mozambique. It is the national anthem of Mozambique and we used to sing it before we went to class. Each time with the flag of Mozambique and all classes in a row. In another school we had to pray before we went to class. But not here in Belgium. You see the soccer players and they don’t know the national anthem. I don’t know… It is less nationalistic. I think that’s very bad… I would very much like to… “For the sovereign, for freedom and for justice…” I always like national anthems so much. I don’t know about Rwanda. A little, wait. Rwanda… (sings). And always when there’s a party in the country they sing that and with different instruments. But I hope to get to know Rwanda better in the future. That’s my parents’ country. I always say that I am a Mozambican with Rwandan parents. But I feel more like a Mozambican, or a Brazilian. In Brazil I would also feel very good, because in Mozambique they speak Portuguese. We grew up with Brazilian TV programmes, Brazilian soaps and telenovelas. So Brazilian women are also good actresses (makes a wink).

[i] Maybe your vision will change when you go back to Rwanda? If you are going to get to know where your parents come from.

[r] I don’t think so, I don’t know. Rwanda… Yes. Rwanda is Rwanda. I think maybe I could be the president of Rwanda. If I were president of Rwanda… I would give to the people. Building streets… I would really make Europe… I would start from the edge to the centre…. of most of the people of the center…. but beginning of the edge. Everyone on the edge gets a job. We do this and we build streets here, we create jobs… I don’t know if that’s possible. Many African politicians put the money in their pockets and do nothing for the people. It keeps turning, doesn’t it? It keeps working. I think I would give more, give something to the city. Something would change that so that the future generation could live and study safely there. I don’t necessarily miss it really Rwanda… I do want to know what it was like and see where my father was born. This is where you were born, ah okay. But I also experienced in Mozambique that we ate with our hands. We had food every day, I think. When I was six or seven, I realized that. We also had people who cooked for us, a cook and people who worked for us, servants and so on. My father saw how bad it was in Rwanda, but now I’m happy in Belgium with the fact that we just have water from the tap. You just have to turn on the tap and water will come out. Those are the things I was so happy with in Belgium that we had. I feel more Mozambican because of the language, because of the culture.

[r] First the making, or normal life in Belgium. I still have the feeling that we are surviving. Allez, my family and me. We are surviving. I want to come at the moment that we are going to live. When are we going to start living? That’s what survival is all about now. People who make decisions above us about us, where we have to live… First you need a good basis to keep the building stable. If you start building things unstable from underneath, then the building will fall at a moment. If the base is stable and then you build, then that remains stable.

[i] It is also a fact that you can’t build anything without papers. And you’ve only just got it. Without a residence permit…

[r] Yes. And the problem is… One of the good things is that I didn’t stop… I don’t go to school because I don’t have any papers anyway, I’m not going to be allowed to start a college anyway. It was a mix of coincidence… obrigado de Deus (thanks to God). It was a mix of coincidence and decision making and also God… and I don’t know where that’s going to end!