Imagine you’re a 17 year old middle class Dutch girl. You just cycled home from another boring day at school. Trapped in the conventional humdrum of the day, you are deprived of the stirring type of high school tales that you often watch. Back home, you switch on the TV and stumble upon a rerun of Spuiten en Slikken (“Shoot and Swallow”), a sex and drugs focused talk show that broadcasts sexual experiments every week. You don’t feel like it, though. You can always watch the episode online later. (This shouldn’t be too much of a problem with a national internet accessibility rate of nearly 90%.) You decide to call your friend and see what she has been up to. When you pick up your smart phone (a device that 80% of your peers have) her Whatsapp message just pops through, “My mum is dropping me off at my boyfriend’s place now, will call you tomorrow”. You can’t help feeling somewhat begrudged. Even though you are allowed to regularly sleep over at a boyfriend’s place, as is 2/3 of your peers, and your mum put you on birth control ever since you got your first period, you haven’t found your ideal sex partner yet. But God knows you’re ready for it. Thanks to the endless chat sessions with online sexual experts and youth forums, you know exactly what to expect, how to react and when to retract. Nevertheless, still unsure and unsatisfied with the wealth of information available at the click of a mouse, where on earth do you go? Dutch documentary maker Kim Brand has you covered: Zambia.
In her latest film, ‘Onder Vrouwen’ (“Among Women”, click to watch it), Brand travels to rural Zambia to find out what “liberated, spoiled, but also insecure” Western women can learn from their African counterparts. By participating in rituals, she hopes to answer those types of sex and relationship questions that have puzzled her for years. How to please a man without losing yourself? How to build a long-term relationship and simultaneously keep the sexcitement at an acceptably exhilarating echelon?
She admires the high degree of practicality in the love lessons that the young Zambian girls get from their ‘aunties’ as preparation for adulthood. It makes her realize that in the ‘Free West’ (her inverted commas) you basically have to find it out all by yourself. But in Zambia, “she is part of a world of rituals, intimacy and guidance of a woman’s group who support each other whenever they need to”. This kind of female trust circle, the life lessons and most importantly the love lessons are exactly what she so fervently misses in the Netherlands. She takes home several Zambian lessons, such as how to move her hips to optimally satisfy a man and how to clap her hands as a sign of gratitude after the deed.
The documentary is not the first manifestation of the centuries-old Dutch fascination with black sexuality (most recently, a casting agency put out a call for “white girls who are exclusively into black men” for a new reality show).
It doesn’t matter whether it’s existential confusion, employment fatigue, stress or sexual frustration. No matter how out-of-sync and contextually detached it gets, to Dutch twenty-somethings, there’s an African solution for every Dutch puzzle.