By Vanessa Jev, Chiara Cozzatella, Eduard Korostelev,

Zuid Afrika Huis (South Africa House) located in Amsterdam is an information point on South Africa and has the largest library on South Africa in the Netherlands. We wanted to see if South Africa House represented a 'home away from home'. As a group, we decided to focus on three main senses as we tried to answer this question. The visual, communication, and sound. That is, what did we see when we were in the space, what did we hear and feel, and how was communication handled. With this, many questions were raised, questions such as, what is home? What does home feel like? Can a public space embody and encapsulate home in any capacity? To showcase our findings and attempt to answer these questions we used the form of two photo collages and a podcast.


Our first collage focuses on the journey to get to South Africa House and the immediate feelings felt as you enter into the space. We showcase the map and location of South Africa house and highlight how you are met with a closed door. You can not simply walk into the house, just as if you were visiting a friend, you have to ring the doorbell and be welcomed into the space. Once you are welcomed into the space you are offered a coffee and then you can sit down and have a chat with the librarian or with one another. We included some of the key decorations found in the space, such as a painting of the original buyer of house, antlers, and a collection of tickets that have been stored in a railway container.  We played with visibility and space with the first collage. Some images are more visible than others, and pictures that were taken together have been split apart or had the subject isolated. We felt, it was very important to showcase how much the house itself, apart from the library, felt very cold and empty. 


Our second collage, focuses on the major point of South Africa House- the library. The collage starts with an image of the hallway that represents the emptiness and coldness felt in the space, then an image of the map of Africa is overlayed on top. This unique map is created from books which represents a major part of the house. This was followed by an image of the outside of the house. This image comes at this point to tie together the idea of a typical Dutch house representing Africa in the Netherlands. This is followed by an overlay of one of the many bookshelves that you will find in the house. We layered on top of these, images showing interaction with the books and space. The last image added is a small picture of two plush toys that can be found in the children's section of the library, which highlights one of the target groups the house is trying to attract, which is children and families. 

The Podcast

In our podcast, we really tried to tackle and answer the question of does South Africa house represents a home away from home. During our first visit to the house, we were able to sit down with Librarian, Bianca Oortwijn and Library Assistant and Archivist, Simon Scholte ter Horst and discuss this topic.  To hear our findings and find out how we felt about South Africa House, we invite you to listen to our podcast!