Albert Mambo – Kwami on the TV show Ja’mie

Albert Mambo stars as an African student ‘Kwami’ in the new Chris Lilley TV show Ja’mie.

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The show highlights some significant issues of racism within Australia, especially through the cringeworthy perspective of Ja’mie, who sees Kwami as her charity project. While the show is indeed a satire on Australian school kids, it hits painfully close to the bone on many issues, especially racism.

Kwami, acted amazingly by Albert, is portrayed as silent and unable to speak English, even though he comes from Uganda (where the official language is English). Depicted as poor and uneducated, the characters reflect a racist assumption held by many in the Australian community towards African migrants. References to slavery and apartheid are also thrown in by Ja’mie’s dad, who in South African fashion mentions he knows a number of blacks – they are good workers.

The scene of Ja’mie’s parents “rescuing” Kwami from a community housing project also play into the ‘saviour’ white person syndrome, and other scenes offer a critique of the rich white girl going to ‘Africa’ to save them from poverty. Again, this doesn’t fall to far from reality, which is the reason the show is at times hard to watch.

Ja’mie is so close to the truth it can be easily forgotten that Chris Lilley is essentially making a scathing social commentary of Australian society by holding a mirror up to the Australia public. Anyone who thinks that this doesn’t reflect Australia hasn’t been to high school for a long time.

In an interview a couple of months ago in Right Now, Albert Mambo talks about coming to Australia from Uganda and the issues of racism in Australia.

Right Now: Did you know anything about Australia when you came?

I knew the soccer teams and the rugby team. I knew it was the biggest island continent. And I knew about kangaroos.

What was your first expectation of Australia when you came?

I thought everyone would be nice, loving and caring but everything changed when I got here. Racism, discrimination and a lot of things changed my expectation of Australia.

Do you think racism is a big problem is Australia?

Yes, it’s the main problem.

Why did you come to Australia?

I came to Australia because it is a safe place to be. Uganda was not safe. Australia is a safe place apart from the racism.

What are you doing now in Australia?

When I came to Australia my plan was different. In high school I did science subjects and I wanted to be a doctor but since experiencing racism and discrimination here in Australia my plans changed and I want to be a youth worker to help other people who are experiencing racism, especially the African community.

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Can you tell me an example of racism that you have experienced?

One day, when I was new to Australia, I was waiting at the pedestrian crossing to cross the road. Other people waiting started to cross the road when it was red, so I joined them. The police stopped me and gave me a fine, but they didn’t give the others a fine. That was my first experience of racism in Australia. I was only new and studying English in Australia. The police saw that I was black and from Africa and refused to let me off.

Another time, I was waiting at the bus stop. There were other people waiting as well, but the police only came up to me. They asked me questions like what am I doing here and told me I shouldn’t be here. I told them I was waiting for the bus just like everyone else but they only questioned me because I am black.

What was your life like in Uganda?

My life in Uganda was nice. Being here with all the racism makes me want to go back to Uganda. Because everyone there is like a brother and sister but the racism here is bad. It made me feel like going back.

To tell you the truth I feel sorry for the African people here because when the white people go to Africa they are treated like kings and queens. There is nothing like racism there because everyone is welcoming.

Why do you think there is racism in Australia?

I don’t know. According to what I understand it is because some small number of African people are making mistakes and they think everyone is the same. You can’t judge a book by its cover. They think because some African people break the law all African people break the law. But they don’t even know all the African people.

Ja’mie is a 6 part ABC comedy that airs every Wednesday at 9.30pm. You can watch the full episodes via iview here.

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7 thoughts on “Albert Mambo – Kwami on the TV show Ja’mie

  1. In the states they try to play like it’s no racism over here. How the states have a Black president. Please , Racism just got smarter. They feel the same way about African, African American. It sicken me on how the world want to lie or turn their backs on this problem. It sickens me even more that Half the Black nation wont even admit to the constant battle of Racism.. It will never go away cause it’s being taught right now to a child. All I can write is The revolution will not be televised …,

    1. You clearly don’t live here that’s why you can form an incorrect opinion about America. Racism is alive and well here and it’s still a big issue. As a black woman I can tell you that I continue to experience it often and I live in NYC which is supposed to be more accepting than southern states. Also, yes we have a black president but that doesn’t mean that racism just disappeared.

      1. Yes I do live in the states stright from Texas. ( Born and Raised) in the states . Been called all types of negavite words. What I was saying is that the media tries to paint a picture that racism is over. You and I( Being Black)know that is far from the truth. If you ask a Caucasian they honestly believe that racism is over. Some will say “I see no color” which is a lie. What give that person a right to dismiss my color as if it nothing . I really recommend Doc. Hidden colors 1 and 2 also reading Frances cress Welsing book .

  2. I’m aware racism is alive but there is only a little in the state of California (SoCal near LA) in the USA where I live. black women date white men white women date Asian men Asian girls date Hispanics Indians date whites and so on. there’s so much diversity here were not exposed to racism everyday. as vapid as some people think Californians are, we focus on personality first and color of skin close to last, if ever.

  3. It’s true, racism is still happening allover the world.my mother is from the Philippines, and upon arriving to the states, some ignorant people told her to go back to where she came from. It sickens me that people judge others and stereotype. I am half caucasian and half filipino. I live in Alabama, and in the area I reside, people are racist towards hispanics. It really does bother me to witness how people treat each other. They claim to be good people and yet make jokes and are rude to others. I pray for a day when we can all live in peace.

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