Kiza Magendane co-writes Op Weg naar Wisdom

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Great news: writer Kiza Magendane is going to walk the Walk of Wisdom and is co-writing our second book of pilgrimage hours On the Way to Wisdom.

Kiza Magendane
Kiza Magendane

Kiza writes regularly for NRC-Handelsblad and the Groene Amsterdammer and recently published a book: Met Nederland in therapie. In it, he describes how, as a 15-year-old refugee from Congo, he eventually ended up in Friesland with his grandmother and after many years became a Dutch citizen. A long journey in which he mastered the Dutch language fluently at a relatively late age. After high school, he graduated from university with a degree in political science. He has since embarked on a promising career as a writer and columnist.

“It takes courage to be grateful”

In Faithful Kiza Magendane recently said that gratitude is an important attitude to life for him. An attitude to life that balances his criticism of all the inequality in the world. “I see a lot of people around me who pat themselves on the back and say: ‘The fact that I’m standing here now, I have to think about myself.’Kiza points to the coincidence of all success. What you are and can do depends on so many factors and circumstances: your talents and character, your family, your passport, where you live.

In an article in the Groene Amsterdammer , Kiza travels back to Assen, where he teaches language teacher mrs. Van Schaijk visits. It was thanks to her that he did not end up in a usual MBO trajectory for a migrant, but was able to go to the atheneum. People like her, but also two host families, members of a church he attended or a local branch of the CDA, made him feel appreciated and included in this country. It gave him confidence to contribute to the country.

That gratitude is well addressed in his Ted talk: Why you should adopt a refugee . It made me want to help refugees with their development: here you can make a concrete positive difference in the lives of others.

“We are all migrants through time”

One of the most important messages from his book Met Nederland in therapie is the dynamic nature of citizenship. Our national identities are not concrete constructions that have existed for centuries. They are constantly on the move. Moreover, societies today are changing so fast that everyone has to endure a considerable number of intrusive social and technological changes in a lifetime. “We are all migrants through time,” he quotes Moshin Hamid.

According to Kiza Magendane, migrants have something to convey with their experience of the fluidity of national identities. While the world has become fluid or ‘elastic’, many white Dutch people are often still stuck in one, exclusive, national identity. Being able to deal with change or switching between different codes of cultures is a quality that any society can use. Awareness of the coincidence of your birth in Dutch prosperity can also contribute to greater appreciation and care for the beautiful state of the country.

Still a stranger?

Kiza Magendane officially became a Dutch citizen and had to take an oath as a newcomer: “I declare that I respect the constitutional order of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, its freedoms and rights. And pledge to faithfully fulfill the duties that citizenship entails.” However, when he asks white Dutch people in a room whether he also has the right to criticize Zwarte Piet, the answer is no. A young man kindly tells him that you don’t criticize the way a painting hangs on the wall when someone is a guest.

Eva Jinek
The white Eva Jinek is never introduced as an immigrant

Apparently, I’m not really a Dutchman in their eyes, Kiza thinks. And, later in the book : Why am I so often typecast as a migrant or black writer, while other Dutch people with a migration background are not, such as Eva Jinek or Kajsa Ollongren?

Uncomfortable mirror

Kiza Magendane holds up an uncomfortable mirror to white Dutch people in Met Nederland in therapie (With the Netherlands in therapy ). He makes you realize how arbitrary it is that people in the Netherlands are born with so many rights, while so-called ‘fortune seekers’ in Africa are not. It is not our fault and not their fault. If we want to combat the flow of refugees, we will have to do something collectively about inequality in the world. And with that, something against the injustice of the ‘birth lottery’ that now prevails.

Reluctant racism

At the same time, I also feel recognition and connection with Kiza’s book. I recognize the reaction of the white Dutch people in that room, something in me also reacts that way to non-white people. I grew up in a commuter village in North Brabant with a few Turks and a few fellow students adopted from Asia. The homeland of my childhood is white and (na)Christian. I cherish very cosmopolitan ideals, but my subcutaneous reaction towards people of color and a different background is often discomfort and alienation. For example, I remember well how I arrived in Enschede by train at a time when I was one of the few white people living in a neighborhood in The Hague. I stepped off the train into a sea of white people and my relaxation was physical.

For a long time I was ashamed of this reaction – I was a ‘gutmensch’ after all! – and kept her hidden. This became easier because I went to live in Den Bosch and Nijmegen. Cities where people of color are still far in the minority. I now live in Amsterdam. I am no longer ashamed of my racism, because it is unwilling. It stems from unfamiliarity. Unfamiliarity with people from different backgrounds. I challenge that unfamiliarity in new contacts.

Reading Met Nederland in therapie really feels therapeutic. It makes me realize that I and many other white Dutch people are in mourning. In mourning the disappearance of the familiar country in which we grew up. Space is needed for that mourning, those feelings are allowed to be there. Kiza Magendane is critical in this without attacking. He’s looking for the conversation. That creates a sense of belonging for me. He shows me that the “story of the Netherlands” is not finished. It is constantly evolving. A new story of the Netherlands is in the making. The great class of Kiza Magendane is that he invites you to contribute to this together.

I look forward to his pilgrim’s report.