Saturday, 9 June


C 18:15–18:30

Siobhan Wall, Where are the black translators in this multicultural city (Amsterdam)?


Doing research for the book Black Amsterdam, I became aware of the ways in which people of colour tend to be less visible than white professionals in certain occupations. I couldn't find a translator of sub-Saharan African origin to translate my native English into proficient, engaging Dutch, for example. It was important to find a black translator as the book celebrates the skills and achievements of black people in the city. So, using my experience of working in the Bijlmer, my presentation will explore the ways in which people of all ages can be encouraged to become professional translators, whatever their background.

I have interviewed many young people and asked their views on translating as a profession and in a short four-minute video you will get to hear some of their comments. I won’t come up with definitive answers, but will invite everyone to think about the important questions around access to training. I’ll reveal the institutional obstacles faced by children growing up in certain parts of the city and ask what changes are needed to redress imbalances in educational opportunity. My talk will include some interactive elements – a short questionnaire will be handed out in advance of my presentation in which I will ask about the role of the mentor.

Perhaps we should ask fundamental questions about why there seem to be so few black translators despite widespread awareness of diversity? Perhaps to reflect on ways in which Dutch society is changing? Does this involve thinking differently about the language we use – or do not use – in our texts?

From Black Achievement Month having been established in Amsterdam since 2016 to galleries and museums celebrating the words, visual images, and style of people from Africa, is it time to consider how to enable people of colour to play a more confident role in our thriving society?


About the presenter

Siobhan WallSiobhan Wall went to a progressive comprehensive school in Leicestershire and then studied English Literature at Cambridge University. After completing her PGCE, she studied towards a second degree in Fine Art and Critical Studies in London. For a decade she worked as a university lecturer at Sir John Cass School of Art/London Metropolitan University, teaching Documentary Video Production, Fine Art, Cultural Studies and Photography. After graduating with an MA in Visual Culture, she taught on the MA course in Museums and Contemporary Curating at the UCA. Since moving to the Netherlands, she has worked as an artist, writer and curator.