11/07/2017 19:04 SAST | Updated 14/07/2017 07:08 SAST

Zanele Muholi: Sibahle Nkumbi Was Pushed Down Those Stairs And Almost Died Because Of Me

"It was racist."

Monica Schipper/Getty Images
Zanele Muholi

World-renowned South African photographer, Zanele Muholi said she has been left feeling angry and traumatised by the Amsterdam AirBnB incident.

Speaking to HuffPost SA, Muholi said the man who pushed her friend and crew member, Sibahle Nkumbi, down a flight of stairs at his AirBnB was racist.

"The team had no reason to stay up till late at the property because we all had places to be across the world. I needed to be in London where my show was opening and Siba needed to fly back to Bern, Switzerland where she is currently studying. Some of the team members had to head back home to South Africa. So we had plans to get out of there by 12pm anyway. There was no need for him to do what he did," Muholi told HuffPost SA.

She said the man is a coward.

"How does he justify pushing a defenceless woman the way he did? In the footage, they kept asking him why he was so emotional, but he did not want to hear any of it. I am angry because it's not as if they were refusing to leave and because I know he would not have done that had Siba been a white woman," said Muholi.

In an interview that was posted on Youtube, Nkumbi said the man kept shouting that she was neither the queen nor the great artist she claims to be, adding to suspicions that he had mistaken her for Muholi.

Muholi told HuffPost SA that she is even angrier thinking that Nkumbi could have died because of her.

"He must have looked at her and concluded that it was me since we both have dreadlocks. It pisses me off to think this man was ready to kill my friend for no apparent reason, barely 24-hours since the opening of the exhibition. It makes me so mad," she said.

Muholi said this was the first time she experienced what she termed a racist and gender-based violence incident outside South Africa.

She added: "The worst is that these people were here with me. Siba was here to work. Her job was to write a feature about the exhibition once it had opened. The AirBnB where the incident happened was booked by our host Stedelijk Museum. I then had to book an extra one to accommodate my additional guests."

This man put a bitter end to what started out as a great weekend. He could have killed Siba and I don't think he has even realised it yet."

Asked whether the man, who is in police custody facing a charge of attempted murder, had since apologised, Muholi said: "No apology could ever make right what he did. Nothing about that incident says sorry."

She said Nkumbi would be flying back to South Africa from Zurich on Tuesday night.

AirBnB's director of diversity and belonging, David King said: "Appalling and unconscionable behaviour against members of our community runs counter to everything Airbnb stands for. Our CEO Brian Chesky and I are reaching out to the affected guests. We will take the strongest actions we can against such abhorrent conduct, including banning people for life from our platform and assisting law enforcement with their investigation and potential prosecution. Nobody should ever be treated like this and it will not be tolerated."

NOTE: This article previously stated that Zanele Muholi had booked the AirBnB where the incident happened. The error has since been rectified to state that Stedelijk Museum had booked the AirBnB for Muholi and her crew.