In an article in the Leeuwarder Courant, Rowan, a black, gay young man, explained that he wanted to showcase how beautiful the Frisian language can be, and “to show young people who look like me that being yourself is one thing, but that you also can be who you really are in the Netherlands: trans, bi, pan, it doesn’t matter. I want to bring that to Friesland, and to the entire Netherlands.
Veltman, 17, was born in South Africa and adopted as an infant, and grew up in Friesland. Garyp, a village with around 1,900 inhabitants, is located just north of de Alde Feanen national park in Friesland. Rowan was previously one of three winners of a Frisian-language song festival, Sjong, in 2021, where he also performed his translation of the Billie Eilish song.
Holland’s Got Talent, a talent show, began airing on Dutch television in 2008, and has had eleven winners so far – none of whom are from the northern Netherlands. Perhaps Rowan’s performances on the show will help him become the first northerner to claim the title.
The language spoken in Friesland is one of three branches of Frisian languages: West Frisian (spoken in the province of Friesland in the Netherlands), North Frisian (spoken in Nordfriesland in northern Germany) and East Frisian, which is only spoken in one municipality – Saterland – in Germany, close to the Groningen border.
There are around 450,000 native speakers of the language living in the province of Friesland, making it a minority language (with a status between a dialect and a state language).
Photo source: YouTube screenshot