Housing the oldest university in the Netherlands – since 1575, Leiden prides itself as the centre for Dutch modern research, and one of Europe’s most prominent scientific cities. With many scientific discoveries up its sleeves, Leiden’s motto doesn’t fall short in emphasising this characteristic, proclaiming the municipality as the ‘City of Discoveries’. Taking glass jars and test tubes aside, a local initiative in Leiden proposes a different kind of discovery, and it is not local but international. Karibu (Welcome, in Swahili) is a young, Dutch organisation based in Leiden that has a clear focus: discover Africa. It seems that Leiden stays true to its motto.
The story of Karibu is an overall story of discovery, from personal to cultural and professional. It has all the elements of a ‘coming of age’ adventure started by two friends in 2011 in Africa, which transformed into a real, cultural and social change-making project in Leiden. Vince de Jong and Thimaud Lallemand de Driesen were teenagers when they decided to leave Leiden for a three months backpacking journey through East-Africa. Experiencing various cultural perspectives throughout the continent made them realize there are amazing stories behind each African country, stories, which need to be told and experienced back home, in Leiden.
‘Karibu means more than ‘welcome’ in Swahili, it is a reflection of a culture based on togetherness.’ – Thimaud Lallemand de Driesen
Four years after their African journey they started, together with David Waterdrinker, Karibu a non-profit organisation based in Leiden which offers citizens the opportunity to experience the (night)life in Africa though a series of events under the name ‘Welcome to Africa’s nightlife’. Now, there is a ‘twist’ to these events.
‘Karibu is a cultural and social project in the ‘jacket’ of a party. Each time we hope people will get a taste of Africa and learn about the continent and its cultural diversity through the right atmosphere’- Vince De Jong
Having the set-up of a musical journey throughout various African cities, Karibu events are focused on the cultural and social aspects connected with the African community in the Netherlands. The format is simple: each event is constructed around three African countries and the attendees are invited to take part in a ‘travel experience’ for one night. ‘Music represents the foundation of the events’, says Thimaud, who is passionate about discovering novelty sounds within the African music. Yet, that is only one part of Karibu. The focus of their events is expanded to African dance, art, food and fashion.
‘Karibu is like a plane that transports you to Africa.’ – Vince de Jong
It might be seen as difficult for three young Dutch men to be able to fully represent the African culture based on a past experience, and that is where the social, community aspect of Karibu comes in. As mentioned above, Karibu events have a ‘twist’, and that is the result of a strong connection with the African community in the Netherlands. What they strive to accomplish through their events, from start to finish, is to work together with people from the selected African places that currently live in the Netherlands. The social inclusion aspect behind Karibu provides two opportunities for various African communities. First of all, through Karibu they are able to interact and represent their culture within the Dutch context. Secondly, they are able to built stronger connections with the other communities themselves, Karibu bringing together people from Zanzibar, Kenya or Congo.
“This first of all provides the opportunity for African communities to represent their culture within the Dutch context. Secondly, it lays the foundation for new connections between African communities and Dutch residents. This means that after experience, interaction is a vital part of Karibu: bringing together people from Kenya, Holland, Congo or any other country. “ – Vince de Jong
The overall goal of Karibu is to expand their community and be able to ‘travel’, while in the Netherlands, through the whole of Africa. The bar is set high, yet step-by-step, within the last two years, new cities are added on the list and new connections are built. Their most recent event, which will take place in Leiden on the 24th of February 2017, sets the itinerary through Burkina Faso, Angola and Kenya. Combing the rhythms of Kenyan dancehall with soul-food from Angola and dance moves from Burkina Faso, Karibu promises a one-night cultural and social African experience in Leiden.
Watch the video below and feel inspired to discover Africa.
With an extensive number of scientific developments and medical advancements, community initiatives, as Karibu, are the ones that emphasise Leiden as the ‘City of Discovery’.