Dutch | Beninese/Nigerian
I identify as mixed-race, of Dutch, Beninese and Nigerian heritage. My Mum is from Benin and my Dad is from The Netherlands. Besides this, my Mum has cultural links with Nigeria, Senegal and Ethiopia. My parents met in Ivory Coast where they were both working for the ILO. My Dad invited my Mum for some ice cream and that’s how it all started.
Apparently I realised I was mixed when I was around 4 years old. My Mum told me that one day, I kept staring at my parents and suddenly asked why both of them had a different colour. Later on, I became conscious of my dual heritage when I realised the language I spoke to my Dad (Dutch) was different from the language I spoke to my Mum (French), which was even different from the language I spoke at my international school (English). I feel blessed to have been raised surrounded by different cultures. Not only did I have a multicultural household, but I have lived in different countries as well: The Netherlands, Haiti, Jamaica, Eritrea and Kenya. Having all these influences definitely shaped how I see myself, a person enriched with different cultures, how I look at others, through an open-minded lens and it shaped my norms and values, which are founded on respect, appreciation and perseverance. Both my parents are cosmopolitans and share the same values and visions, which I think is also one of the reasons why they are still together.
Having been immersed in both the African and the Dutch culture I have to say I have not yet found a place where I have felt 100% integrated. I feel like whenever I am in Africa, I am seen as ‘the White person’, and whenever I am in Europe, I am seen as ‘the coloured person’. This in itself for me isn’t necessarily a problem. What I do struggle with however is when people either expect me to look a certain way (e.g. when I am told my name does not fit my appearance) or expect me to behave or speak in a particular way. With time, I have learned how to deal with this and I now actually enjoy surprising people with my unexpected characteristics.
I love being able to combine my cultures through my hairstyles, way of dressing and music. You’ll find me with my hair in box braids, wearing a vintage lace dress, whilst listening to Starboy. Whenever I am surrounded by my African family and mixed friends, my multi-cultural inner self blooms. During moments like these, I don’t feel judged talking about racial issues (hair struggles, discrimination, lack of products for my skin type and so on). If I were to be born again, I wouldn’t change a thing.