2017 July 12: Enraged by Amsterdam attack

8 July 2017, Amsterdam.
 I’m feeling so enraged by the incident captured on video and the wrong information that is circulating in various media platforms who have not even received feedback from the witnesses.


These are the facts:

On Saturday 8 July, four crew members – young South Africans in their twenties – were due to check out of the Airbnb booked on our behalf by Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, who were our host.

They are participants in my photography and joined me in Amsterdam to write and perform at the opening of my exhibition, which was unveiled at Stedelijk Museum on Friday, 7th July 2017.

They also work with me as I continue with the media activism of Inkanyiso internationally.

Although they requested a late check-out, the owner was banging on the door demanding that they leave immediately. As they packed their belongings, he persisted unreasonably – shouting and acting aggressively. He first threw the belongings of the guests down the stairs whilst still shouting, and then forcibly pushed Sibahle Nkumbi down a steep flight of stairs face first.

As the encounter unfolded, videos were captured before Sibahle was pushed. The video with Sibahle has been released first on Facebook and then on Instagram to general outrage from our wider community.

In the video, you could hear Sibahle calmly asking the Airbnb owner ‘Why are you emotional?’ The encounter/incident culminates with Sibahle Nkumbi being pushed forcefully and falling, landing on her face at the bottom of the steep staircase where she lay unconscious. She sustained internal injuries and visible bruises, and ended up in hospital. We are waiting for a full medical report.

The attack happened when we were meant to bid farewell to each other and the Netherlands after a great opening at Stedelijk Museum. Each of us had to depart from Amsterdam that afternoon with travel booked and confirmed.  Instead, it ended in tears, trauma and hospital admission for one of the youth.

The physical brutality and verbal abuse that my friends experienced at the hands of an older white male, much taller and stronger than the four youth who rebuked them in Dutch and bits of English, was aggressive and traumatising.

By watching the video, it is clear that the Airbnb owner wanted the guests out of the apartment with immediate effect even when they pleaded to gather their belongings. The force he projected leaves no doubt about his intention to remove them, by any means necessary including force.

Another member from the top of the staircase captured the incident.

We thank God she is out of the hospital and taken care of. It will take sometime for healing and further check-ups will be needed and we hope for a full recovery. Witnesses and the survivor will need counselling to deal with this traumatic experience.

The incident made me so angry, numb, frustrated and emotionally bruised. The booked accommodation was meant to be a space of safety, and yet a young person was nearly killed.
A person who couldn’t defend herself physically against an older white male who violated her.
The questions I am stuck with:

Would the Airbnb owner have reacted the same way if it was a white female of Dutch descent?

Was he going to do the same if he were dealing with another man?

For me it is clear that this was an act of gender-based racist violence – a tall white man aggressively pushing a black female he perceived as lesser than himself, no different perhaps than the bags he first threw down the stairs.

From what has been relayed to me by my crew members, the attacker shouted ‘This is not Africa’ and ‘You are not the great artist that you fucking think you are… you are not the queen.’
This leads me to question whether he was being motivated by racism, sexism and xenophobia.

Visual Activist/ Inkanyiso.org
South Africa




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