Maxim Meyer-Horn

Unjudged: Amsterdam-Based Singer Neema Nekesa Finds a Safe Space in Music

Our new ‘Undjudged’ series—by photographer Ines Vansteenkiste-Muylle and her friend Miguel van Doorn—shines a light on a diverse group of Amsterdam-based individuals active in the creative industry. They are known—or may have yet to be discovered—for not following the standard guidelines for life. Ambitious as they are, they do not hesitate to shape the world with their colors by practicing one or more art-related disciplines. Their creative work speaks for itself, but they are also not afraid to share their identity and what keeps them up at night. These creatives took us to their sacred place where they can be themselves in all their glory. In the things they say, the things they make, how they dress, who they are seen with, and how they move. This place is Unjudged.

The singer Neema Nekesa is the first artist to be featured in Unjudged. The Amsterdam-based but Addis Ababa-born artist is part of the new generation R&B forces hailing from the famous Dutch city. Her songs have an unmatched calmness and are taken to a higher level by her astonishing voice, which is the star of every single one of her songs. Neema Nekesa feels unjudged in OBA, Amsterdam’s public library.

Self-discovery

“My story is one of a smile and a tear,” she tells us because 26 years ago Neema Nekesa was abandoned by her biological parents. She speaks of fortune when she refers to being adopted in 1995. Such things come with unlimited gratitude, right? On the contrary, it can be painful not knowing her real name or actual date of birth. Music is her safe space where she leaves the pain. Where she speaks about feeling like a stranger. And where she feels the strongest.

Shirt and pants by Reconstruct Collective

“When I was younger, I could get lost in other people’s stories. Those were the moments I would not think about my own whereabouts. Simply floating away.” Libraries allowed her to escape herself, but at the same time, they might give her the space to learn a lot about herself.

Recently, Neema lets herself go in smooth but profound R&B tracks. “At first, I didn’t dare to release my music, but after overthrowing the idea of living up to other people’s expectations, I pushed myself away from marginalization. I didn’t really care if it is ‘right’; I started to make art.”

Outfit by Reconstruct Collective

Talent: Neema Nekesa
Creative concept by Ines Vansteenkiste-Muylle and Miguel van Doorn
Production and interviews by Miguel van Doorn
Photography and grading by Ines Vansteenkiste-Muylle
Dust removal by Nel Berens
Styling by Eveline Briand
Make-up by Jazz Ben Khalifa

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