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 the urban dance class that he teaches. Hubert is also producing electronic and hiphop music as Highleef. He’s one of the only black people in Lithuanian hiphop community. We talked how his race affects his life in Lithuania, why race is important in understanding urban culture and why there is a 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

‘I was in taxis that play hiphop music now. When I came here, they played Russian music’

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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Photography by Karolis Pilypas Liutkevičius.

Podcast episode hosted and edited by Karolis Vyšniauskas, recorded by Kata Bitowt.

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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