“I fell madly in love with a Dutch Man 20 years ago. I’m from Montenegro but I think I can consider myself a local Amsterdammer by now. Together with my husband we have this food truck and we sell fries here at Waterlooplein. It used to be my father-in-law’s business which he opened right after the second world war. He took a lot of pride in running his business so when he passed away we took over to keep his legacy a live. I like the work and I like to keep the business in the family. In my culture that is an honorable thing to do.”

3/3 “Following that incident, Americans were adopting children from the orphanage. Almost everyone got chosen but no one adopted me. In total, I got rejected twelve times. My best friend, number 26, and I had the same name. So when her adoptive mother got a phone call from the orphanage asking which Mabinty she wanted to adopt, she said that she would adopt both of us. My adoptive mother had previously adopted 3 sons, which she lost to HIV/AIDS. One of her sons who passed away, left her a note which stated; ‘’Please adopt a child from West Africa.’’ That is why she decided to adopt us. I was named Michaela DePrince and my friend, who is now my sister, became Mia DePrince. The very first thing I did when I met my mother, was to show her the magazine cover of the ballerina. We didn’t speak the same language but she immediately understood what I was trying to say. She said, “I promise you that when we get to America, you will dance.” America was completely different from Sierra Leone and I have never seen so much food in my life! I didn’t understand the concept of paying for food. So whenever we would go to the supermarket, I would just eat the grapes from the fruit section. We were living in New Jersey and life was really good. I was taking ballet classes but I was still very nervous about my vitiligo. As my mother promised, I started dancing ballet and I would practise every day. I had one goal and that was the become a prima ballerina. My vitiligo wasn’t a problem but I was discouraged to dance ballet because I am black. When I was 8 years old, one of my ballet teachers told me that they weren’t putting much effort into the black ballerinas because she said they end up getting fat anyways. I knew it would be really hard to reach my goal to become a ballerina but I was not planning on giving up on my dream. At seventeen, I started performing at the dance theatre of Harlem and at 18, I got hired at the National Ballet Company here in Amsterdam. A few years ago I got to dance in Beyonce’s music video ‘’Freedom’’. If it wasn’t for my adoptive mom and sister, I am not sure I would have survived. I have been angry for a long time but I have decided to leave the past behind. Of course, it makes me who I am today but also I want to look forward to a bright future. I am not afraid of obstacles because I know that I am strong enough to survive anything.“

2/3 In the orphanage I had no one who cared for me except for child number 26. Her name was also Mabinty and she was left handed and would wet her bed at night. From the moment we met we were best friends. At night whenever I was having nightmares she would sing to me and tell me that we would survive and that everything would be alright. One day I was playing outside and I found a magazine at the gate of the orphanage and there was a beautiful woman on the cover. She was wearing a pink tutu and point shoes. I was mesmerized by her beauty and elegance but most of all she looked happy and that is what I wanted to be; happy. There and then, I decided that one day, I would be just like her. I ripped off the cover and I hid it in my underwear, where the aunties wouldn’t be able to find it. One day, a new teacher came to the orphanage and unlike the aunties she cared for me. She realized that because of my skin condition, I needed extra education. So, she would spend extra hours educating me. She became a mother figure whom I trusted. I went up to my teacher and I showed her the cover of the magazine. She explained to me that the woman on the cover was a ballerina. One day I was playing outside with my favourite teacher and while I was twirling around and dancing, suddenly we heard the rebels. They noticed that my teacher was pregnant and they stopped her and they started betting whether she was pregnant with a boy or a girl. They decided to find out and they cut her stomach open with a machete. It was a baby girl. They cut her arms and legs off right in front of me. Somehow I thought, I could save her and I ran up to her. One of the rebels, who was also very young, took his machete out and cut my stomach open. I still have the scar on my belly.

1/3 My name used to be Mabinty Bangura and I was born in Sierra Leone during the Civil War. I was born with a skin condition called vitiligo, which made people believe I was cursed, and they would call me the Devil’s child. My parents realized that my future in Sierra Leone would be really hard. So from an early age on, they tried to educate me as much as possible. I was 3 years old when my father was killed by the rebels, while working in the mines. My mother and I had to go live with my uncle who believed I was cursed. Therefore, he would barely give us food. All the food that we got, my mother gave to me and she ended up dying of starvation. When she passed away, my uncle took me to an orphanage and I never saw him again. The orphanage was run by uneducated women, who were called “the aunties”. There were 27 children in this orphanage and we were ranked from number 1 to number 27. Child number 1 was their favourite and would get first choice of foods and clothes. Child number 27 would barely eat and wore rugs and because of my vitiligo, I was child number 27.

“I left Germany when I was 19 to travel the world. I never really had a plan but I’m 28 now and I’m still traveling. The best part about my life is that I do exactly what I feel like when I feel like it. Every now and then I return back home to Germany and it’s nice because I get to be a visitor in my country of birth. However I don’t plan to settle down any time soon. Settling down would be hard for me because I’m so used to living in the moment. While back home everything is planned out. If I want to have a talk and a coffee with a friend it is normal to plan these things one week in advance and that’s the thing, maybe in one week I might not be in the mood for coffee and a conversation.”