This Kenyan lady has been creating waves all over Switzerland and the rest of continental Europe is catching up.
Film maker, radio presenter, actress, dancer, fashion designer and yodeller, these are just some of the many titles that describe this young lady.
Yvonne Rosetta Apiyo Akoth Nyarogoma Brändle Amolo, as many names as titles to describe a multi-talented Kenyan jewel based in Switzerland.
Born 34 years along the shores of Lake Victoria, or as she describes it “on the shores of Lake Victoria, where the hippos are friendly and the sugar cane grows plenty”.
Yvonne got a job at a hotel in Mombasa that was often frequented by Swiss Air personnel. She was later to meet her husband, during her time working for the hotel. After several visits to him in Switzerland, they eventually got married. After 9 years of marriage, she acquired Swiss nationality. She was living her dream.
In 2009, after 12 years of living in Switzerland, her fairy tale came to an end. Her husband filed for divorce and no sooner had she recovered from the shock than the migration officials came knocking to take away her Swiss citizenship. According to the migration officials, she could not retain Swiss citizenship because she had acquired her citizenship based on her marriage to a Swiss man and now that the marriage was over, she couldn’t continue to enjoy the privilege. Apparently, only foreigners married for more than 10 years are allowed to retain Swiss citizenship they got from marriage to a Swiss national.
With the support of some friends and a lawyer, she went to court to fight for her right to keep the citizenship and continue living in Switzerland.
During this testing time in her life, she saw an advert for a film festival. Encouraged, she decided to create a short film on racism, using her experience as the storyline.
“After twelve years living in Switzerland i was suddenly facing the possibility of being stateless/sans papiers.The Swiss immigration authorities wanted to revoke my citizenship, something I didn’t know was possible. Filming my story helped me deal with the racism surrounding me and gave me the strengthen to put up a legal fight against the authorities,” Yvonne shared about her film.
The success of her 3 minute film titled, «Not Swiss Made» was overwhelming. It was screened in 29 countries and she was flown in to speak at 5 of those events in Hamburg, Amsterdam Brüssel, San Diego und Venedig. The film won the film festival in Switzerland and the «Art Laguna» award in Venice that had a cash price of € 7000. It was also nominated in festivals in Hamburg and San Diego.
The film shows the contradictions of life: her husband divorced her for being too Swiss, while the migration officials wanted to take away her Swiss citizenship for not being Swiss enough.
“My short film won the film festival and was screened in most short film or art festivals. Today the film against racism has been shown in four continents, twenty nine countries and has won two major awards plus twp nominations. I also won the legal battle against the authorities. I have since dedicated my energy to fight racism through the radio station I work for and every available media,” she added.
After the release of her film, she held a race to raise funds for her fight against racism. 256 people took part and they raised 75,000SFR (€62,414). She’s currently working on producing the film in a 90 minute format.
She is also involved in politics, trying to use the film to drive the discussion around racism in Switzerland. Oprah’s incident during a visit to Zurich, coincidentally helped market Yvonne’s film.
“Help does not always come in the form you expect it so accept every form of it. There is always someone willing to lend a helping hand but you need to reach out to find them”, Yvonne adds in conclusion.