Son of a Red Devil
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: African Books Collective
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This memoir is about me. I was adopted by a former football player and captain, August Hellemans - also called Gustaf - of the national Belgian team, The Red Devils. My brother and I were adopted after we were abandoned in a nursery home where we were mistreated. I grew up in a Flemish village where people had never before seen a black person. In general, Flemings are still surprised when they hear blacks speaking their language fluently. This can lead to boring...
1. What’s behind me, is my arse
Great Flemish poet and politician Bart De Wever
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I was sitting in the car with these three women: my adoptive mother, a friend of hers called Lucienne and her daughter Kathleen. While I was lying with my head on Kathleen’s lap, I could barely stand the smell coming from her crotch area. We were all heading to a town the exact name of which I will never bring myself to reveal. Should this town ever gain some recognition through my writing, I can only say that that was not my intention. It...
2. Mixing with “normal people”
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Things at home changed in a way that could not have been more extreme: I started to mingle with people from here, from that town. Not with outcasts anymore, but with ‘normal people.’ They were the people I had once fantasized about having as friends one day when I observed them passing in front of the window of my home. It was so exciting! I had always imagined what exciting lives they must be leading, being amongst friends and all that...
3. “Ne Me Quitte Pas” (song from Jacques Brel)
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It was a beautiful day to bury my mother. I cannot describe how
elated I felt, this sense of relief walking behind her hearse. I
laughed and could barely believe my luck. I thought:
“This whore is finally dead! God Save the Queen! I would have buried her with my own hands if I had to, just to make sure she lay in there.
I hated this woman! The truth is that if I could have killed her and gotten away with it, by lacing her drink or food, I would probably have done so. I certainly would not have regretted it for one...
4. Sister my sister
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At the turn of the century, I finally moved to Brussels where at first I stayed at the house of an aunt. Actually, she was a cousin of my biological mother. She was not really the first person I met when I came in contact with other siblings. This arrangement had come about via the Congolese embassy, which is the only thing I remember. I must have been about fifteen years old. Bruno and I had to wait in another room and, on my mother’s signal...
5. Oh La La La
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I never managed to adjust to life in Belgium, or find work I could be passionate about. I always dreamed of working in the tourist industry. Not because I thought it would be such a dream job, as so many people like to describe it, but because I need more sun than anyone else. The first time I had a go at it was in 1996, before the explosion of Internet. I responded to an ad in a Flemish newspaper by Neckerman, a Swiss travel company. They were looking for...
6. Belgium has an appalling record among the countries of the EU for recruiting foreigners.
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Trying to find work as a black guy in Belgium must be one of
the most traumatic and debilitating experiences I ever have
gone through. During a cultural program on a Dutch channel,
Tom Lanoye, a Flemish writer from Antwerp was asked by the host:
“How black is Belgium actually?”
He did not seem to understand the question. In fact, this host should have pushed him a bit and asked him: “Except footballers or...
7. Allah is great!
He ain’t for me
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Being discriminated against can sometimes be a godsend. If during a certain period of my life I had found work for even a short time, I would never have been entitled to a social flat when a fire broke out on my floor. How this how this came about does not really matter. Shit happens everywhere. I was entitled to social benefits and as such was what in Belgium is called a social case pure sang. Instead of pursuing these vain goals trying to make...
8. London Calling
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Just after the turn of the century, I went to London to stay for the first time at my younger brother Max’s apartment. He lived nearby the King’s Cross station in a council block on the ‘Caledonian road.’ I had already travelled everywhere but I had never been to London, which was an irony that was not lost on some of the punters I talked to in a pub. It was beautiful weather and I suggested organising a day’s trip to Brighton. Max was all excited at the...
9. Tintin in Congo
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I went to the Congo for the first time in 2009. This mad country of televangelists, crazed warlords, greedy politicians and black magic. A country where a singer like Werrason or some pastors can hold as much sway as the President, which was a factor he could not neglect because of the votes it could bring him during election time. Time will tell whether President Joseph Kabila seems to be part of this dying breed called ‘President for life.’ With so few credible...
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Page Count: 162
Publication Year: 2012