Black in Vilnius: Talking Race with Hubert-Highleef

‘Is there racism in Lithuania? Of course. It is everywhere. But it is less hard in here than in France. Because of your history. Because you didn’t come to get us.’

Hubert Lagin Quiros was born in Caribbean and grew up in France but for the last ten years he has been living in Vilnius. ‘I didn’t choose Lithuania. Lithuania chose me’ he says when we meet after an urban dance class that he teaches.

Hubert is also producing electronic and hiphop music under the name of Highleef. He’s one of the only black people in Lithuanian hip hop community. We talked why the question of race is important in understanding hip hop culture and what is the difference between appropriating the culture and passing it to the others.

‘The responsibility I have is to keep the culture as authentic as it should be. Everyone is like ‘I’m hiphop, I’m wearing a cap.’ No. bro. It’s like me saying ‘I’m Lithuanian, I’m eating cepelinai.’

A moment of rest. We met Hubert after he finished his final dance class of the day. ©Karolis Pilypas Liutkevičius

Soundcheck before the interview: Karolis and Kata. ©Karolis Pilypas Liutkevičius

A wall of awards at the dance studio Hubert teaches. ©Karolis Pilypas Liutkevičius
"It’s dance. You can be freaking purple. If you’re good, you’re good", says Hubert. ©Karolis Pilypas Liutkevičius

Further reading:

'A Case of hidden Afrophobia in Lithuania' by Danguole Kleinaityte, Human Rights Consortium

'White Rappers, Clear of a Black Planet' by Jon Caramanica, The New York Times

'Racist abuse, fat chants and how two years in Lithuania made Adebayo Akinfenwa into ‘The Beast’ he is today', by Simon Collings, The Independent

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Original music by Hubert-Highleef. Find more of his music on Soundcloud.

This episode is presented by Lithuanian human rights center.

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