This week is the Anti-Racism Awareness week and our university Radboud University contributes to this with an amazing program created by the DEI office and the ARA network! Have you checked it out already? If not, just quickly jump over there!
But what do we contribute to this? As our platform strives to not only present women that shaped our society but by doing so, be an inclusive and open platform committed to intersectionality, we also see Anti-Racism as a position we have to take. It is not enough to be non-racist, but we have to actively speak up and fight against racism by being anti-racist! And with this said, we wanted to find a way to contribute to the program of the Anti-Racism Awareness week and still keep our format: this week we will provide some addition to the program created by DEI and the ARA network. Our articles will act as background information to women that are part of their program.
Today’s article will focus on a space of entertainment that most of us enjoy: the film industry. With this article an article on Romana Vrede, we highlight a voice that stands for diversity in the Dutch theatre and film industry.
Vrede is someone who is involved in many ways. With her own work she addresses issues such as race, disabilities and opening up space for an intersectional approach. For her it is important to recognize that one is more than just one label, and that most of us face more than one struggle. Her work incorporates that, highlights it and by doing so, creates the awareness and visibility for topics that often are unseen.
Enjoy reading more about her, and her important work, in our article down below. Make sure to check out some of her work online!
Romana Vrede | *24-08-1974 | Suriname (Country of Origin)/ The Netherlands (Place of Residence) | Actor, Theatre Maker
“We all deviate from the norm. Some people can hide that and other people cannot.”
Romana Vrede was born in Suriname and moved to Rotterdam with her mother, brother and sister at the age of four. After two years of studying history and sociology, Vrede ended up at the Arnhem drama school, which she successfully completed. Today she works as an actor and theatre maker and has been associated with the National Theatre since 2016. In 2017, she even won the Theo d’Or award for “best female lead”, making her the first black woman to receive this award.
Vrede is a jack-of-all-trades : in addition to her career on the stage, she is also politically active and is committed to a more diverse society. Themes such as race, ethnicity and gender often play a role in her works. In 2017, she was also an ambassador for Black Achievement Month (BAM), an organization dedicated to raising awareness for the achievements of talents from the black and coloured community. In doing so, she thought visibility was the most important. For example, she said in an interview with BAM: “If you grow up like me in the Netherlands, it is not so much about role models, but about ‘representatives’. People in whom you recognize yourself. If you don’t, then you will feel lonely and think you don’t belong here. […] That is why I often say that I am a lesbian, that I have a child with autism – and you see that I am black and come from Suriname. Visibility is important. Even if you never go to the theatre, then at least you know that there is an option. ”But diversity is about more than just gender or skin colour, Vrede said in an interview with ‘Theatermaker’: “There are so many more labels than just black and white, I am a single immigrant actor myself, mother of a disabled child and also a lesbian. We all deviate from the norm, but some people can hide that and other people cannot.”
Her experiences as the mother of her autistic and feeble minded son Charlie, who needs very intensive care, were especially important in this respect. In the hope of creating more attention and understanding for living with autism, she made several works in which her son Charlie was central. For example, in 2016 she staged the solo performance ‘Who’s Afraid of Charlie Stevens’ and in 2019 she made the documentary ‘This is the Life (Dit is de leven)’, about the daily reality of the life of and with Charlie. At ‘De Wereld Draait Door’, Vrede said the following about her performance: “With this performance I also hope to reach people who may not be interested in theatre, but who do have autism. Fathers, mothers, social workers, teachers. That the play stimulates to look at autism in a different way. Provides comfort and recognition. ”
Like so many others, Vrede is no longer working on stage because of the corona crisis, but is forced to sit at home. Just before the start of the pandemic, she also released her debut novel ‘The Noble Autist (De nobele autist)’, in which she tries to prepare Charlie for his own death, which will take place when Vrede herself has already passed away. But even now she does not sit still, because she can be found in the recent elections as a candidate of political party BIJ1. We will have to wait and see whether that will also mean a new career as a politician, but we will undoubtedly hear more about Vrede in the future.
Author: Iris Houben
Translation: Sanne Akkermans
Image: De Wereld Draait Door