Who else lives in my neighbourhood?

The Utrecht-based photographer Shody Careman spent a whole month without venturing out of ‘her’ Lombok neighbourhood, home to dozens of nationalities. She took photos of her fellow-residents and opened her ears and heart to new stories and views. ‘I wanted to get out of the bubble I’d created in my own neighbourhood.’

Who else lives in my neighbourhood? This is the question Shody Careman wanted to answer with her latest photo project. Inspired by the Amsterdam filmmaker Marnix Haak, who spent a whole year without leaving his street, she spent a month immersed in the Utrecht Lombok neighbourhood. She hoped that by taking pictures of her Lombok neighbours, she would meet new people with new stories to tell.
So she confined herself to Lombok and stopped people in the street, something she wouldn’t have dared do without a camera. ‘I had a clear question: could I take their photo? And amazingly, a lot of people said “yes”. Despite the fact that I was a complete stranger, trying to entice them into my home!’

True Utrecht dialect

But the photos were only a small part of it. Shody often had long conversations with her models, sharing laughter and pain. Some had fled from war, moved for love, or were born and bred in Lombok – everyone told their own tale. Sometimes via a translation app, sometimes in a true Utrecht dialect.
‘I wanted to get out of the bubble I’d created in my own neighbourhood,’ she says. This broadened her understanding and opened her mind. In an increasingly polarised society, she wants to be open to diverse points of view, she explains. ‘Having talked to all kinds of different people, I now understand that in some cultures, our habit of yelling “Hi, how are you?” can be very intimidating. I also witnessed a lot of resilience. I met a refugee from Egypt who can’t and won’t think about the future. As a distraction and to learn Dutch, he cooks as a volunteer at various community centres.’

Local lockdown

Chili, Sierra Leone, Peru, Austria, Iran, Germany, Tanzania, Morocco – Shody met neighbours from dozens of different countries during her self-imposed local lockdown. She met two expats from Myanmar who couldn’t return home due to a coup in their native country, and a Dutch woman who’d lived in Lombok for over 50 years and had opened the first supermarket there. There was a Ukrainian woman who’d tried to flee to Norway but accidently said ‘The Netherlands’ when choosing her destination. ‘Luckily, she’s really happy in Utrecht,’ says Shody. ‘I noticed that people are generally very positive about Lombok, apart from the traffic on Kanaalstraat. Most of them like the mix of people here, and the relative peace in the community.’


Did she feel hemmed in not leaving the area for a month? On the contrary, she answers. ‘Simple and straightforward. I have ADHD and normally find it difficult to focus and finish things. This project was the exception. And,’ she continues, ‘Lombok has nearly everything you need. Moroccan lunchrooms, a supermarket, Turkish greengrocers, dry cleaners, a gym. And the schnitzels at De Windhoek restaurant on Laan van Nieuw-Guinea are huge and deliciously tender. The only thing I missed was Hema.’

Visit Cody Careman’s Who else lives in my neighbourhood? exhibition from 13 January in De Voorkamer, and from 23 January in The Anthony on Kanaalstraat


Lisa Polman (15)
School pupil. Born in the USA, grew up in Lombok
‘I never used to like it when people asked me: “Where are you from?” I always said: “America.” Then they’d ask: “Yes, but where do you really come from?” It used to make me angry, but I cope better these days.’



Si Thu (33)
Banker. Born in Myanmar, lived in the Netherlands for 5 years, in Lombok for 1
‘We can’t go back to Myanmar at the moment because of the coup. But we like this neighbourhood. We’d never heard of a WhatsApp group with the neighbours. People in the street helped us right away when we joined. And Kanaalstraat is great, with all those shops where you can buy spicy things like special green peppers.’

Shalaleh Hillebrand
Data scientist. Born in Iran, lived in the Netherlands for 14 years, in Lombok for 7
‘I considered Canada, but chose the Netherlands. Mainly because it’s closer to Iran. I had no idea what to expect, except windmills and tulips. I started my job straight away and took evening classes to learn Dutch. I fell in love with the trees in front of our house as soon as we moved to Lombok.’

Mohamed Elfawal
Works as a voluntary chef. Born in Egypt, lived in the Netherlands for 2 years, in Lombok for 1
‘I live in Lombok and have an asylum permit, but my family is still in the asylum-seekers’ centre. I’m on the waiting list for a bigger house, so now I’m doing my civic integration course. I was a nutritionist in Egypt, which is why I volunteer to cook at various institutions. It keeps me busy. I think too much when I’m home alone. I also cook for my Moroccan neighbour, who’s old and sick.’

Joshua Hamid Koroma
Trainee electrician. Born in Sierra Leone, lived in the Netherlands for 3 years and in
Lombok for 1
‘I came to the Netherlands a refugee. I felt at home in Lombok straight away, especially in the cultural meeting place, De Voorkamer. This is where I meet other people and learn Dutch. It seems strange to me that the municipality discusses its decisions with you. They ask me to say what I want on a form: a cross for yes, a cross for no. Things were very different in Sierra Leone.’

‘The singing rabbi.’ Born in Israel, lived in Lombok for 40 years
‘I’m well-known in this neighbourhood. Shop-keepers like Arie Stomp and the people in De Pers are always pleased to see me. I have Parkinson’s so I can only get out if I’ve got someone to push my wheelchair. I still feel strong ties with Israel, and miss my native country and family.’


Vladimir Banovic
Contractor. Born in Bosnia, lived in Utrecht for 35 years, in Lombok for 20
‘I came here for a month’s holiday and never went back. It’s because I met my now-wife Anke. She got pregnant and we found a house in Lombok. We didn’t have a fence between us and our neighbours for years; we just wandered in and out. Then we got a dog and they had cats so we had to build a fence. But we still visit each other.’

Aliye Konus-Alay
Does voluntary work. Born in Turkey, lived in Lombok for 45 years
‘I help with daytime activities at Wishing Well West on Kanaalstraat. Some of the women can’t get there by themselves because they can’t walk far. I pick them up on my mobility scooter. They sit behind me, while I perch on the seat behind the steering wheel. We have a laugh; I call out: “Allah, Allah, can you see us?”’

Wafae Ezzerhouni
Owner of Wafae House of Fashion. Born in the Netherlands, lived in Lombok for 15 years
‘I’ve always been adventurous and dreamt of running my own clothes shop. “Have you seen that vacant building on Kanaalstraat?” my mother asked. It’s thanks to her that I’m here. She’s got a shop too, on Damstraat. We compare our takings at the end of the day. Lombok is great and very diverse – a whole range of cultures come together. The only thing I hate about it is all those cars and motorbikes driving so fast.’

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