Ira and Ayra - KIP Republic
Ira Kip (42) and Ayra Kip (42) are the founders of KIP Republic, a creative agency which, amongst other initiatives, hands out free Heri Heri (a dish consisting of cassava, sweet potato, plantain and sailfish originally engineered by enslaved people during slavery) during Keti Koti - the commemoration for the abolition of slavery in Suriname and the Dutch Antilles on 1 July. The sisters were born and raised in Zuidoost, but in pursuit of education and career opportunities, lived in different parts of the world. Yet, they have always remained connected to Amsterdam.
'We are children of South East. It’s our foundation and where it all started.' Ayra Kip, writer and creative director, left the Netherlands three times - for Los Angeles, London and Stockholm - only to return to Amsterdam each time. KIP Republic is based in both Amsterdam and New York - the twin sisters' ‘second home’. Ira Kip, Theatre Director, spent 14 years in New York, where she is still connected to the National Black Theatre today. About six years ago, she returned to Amsterdam. 'It's an organic choice for us to anchor our work in different places,' she says. 'It's nice to work from Amsterdam; it's an inviting city that can compete with the biggest players in culture and fashion worldwide.'
Outside the bubble
Ira describes her relationship with Amsterdam as something she continues to rediscover. 'I was 24 when I left for the United States and returned when I was in my late 30s. In New York, I could proudly call myself an ‘Amsterdammer’, so to speak, but once in Amsterdam, I still feel a bit disconnected, even now. In New York, people live very community-based - a lot happens in the community. Maybe that's what I miss now, but this could be more because of me then.' Ayra: 'Amsterdam also offers us plenty of opportunities to look outside our own bubbles. We are constantly connected with like-minded people from all over the world and feel the autonomy in this city shapes our organisation within our own artistic freedom. We have very specific ideas about how we make culture and how we want to contribute to society. In Amsterdam, we move very freely and are able to have both national and international aspirations.’
Space for makers
Ira and Ayra hope Amsterdam will remain a warm bath for creatives. Ayra: 'And specifically, I hope that the value of Black creators and creatives from the Afrodiasporic community become more visible. We should get much more space to work in beautiful, healthy places in Amsterdam: the city we serve and want to work for.' Ira and Ayra themselves are guided mainly by the moment and current events. Ira: 'As long as we contribute to the society we are part of, share significant stories and develop ourselves as human beings, we believe we can be accomplished. We are very close as a family, and our home is not necessarily tied to a location. We are in our home base of Amsterdam now, but it could be anywhere else. If Ghana is where it’s at in four years, we might just go there. ‘Wherever we go home goes with us’.
The Kip sisters continue to bring a global outlook, sharing stories from the transatlantic diaspora and the Caribbean to raise awareness and create space for dialogue in a city of ever-evolving perspectives and histories.