Interview with Sabina Badžová: "Jump, your wings will unfold on the way"
When Sabina Badžová was supposed to go to primary school, her mother stood up to those who told her that she didn't have what it takes. Instead of attending a "practical school" in the Czech Republic, she enrolled in a regular primary school, completed her studies at a business academy, and now has just completed her second year at the College of Information Services.
She loves art, dance, and helping others. We got to know each other when we spent several months visiting a "practical school" near Prague where we tutored socially disadvantaged children.
On the hot June afternoon when we met for this interview I decided to ask her if she has a favorite motto about life. "I do. Jump, your wings will unfold on the way," the 23-year-old said.
Q: You are studying an interesting and rather unusual field, Gallery and Museum Services. Why did you choose museums?
A: I originally applied to the Police Academy, but they didn't accept me. At the College of Information Services there was a second round of entrance examinations in August, and a friend of mine applied. When I found out that they have a Department of Gallery and Museum Services, I was terribly glad the Police Academy hadn't accepted me. I love art and history, and I am very glad to be at this school, I really enjoy it.
Q: In February you will be going to Malaga, Spain for a four-month stay abroad.
A: Yes, that will be a working internship at a gallery or museum. I don't yet know which one it will be, but probably it might by the Museum of the Sea. I will try out working in a museum, and I also have the opportunity to extend my stay there by one month, but I probably won't do that, because in June we have our graduation exams and I want to get them over with as soon as possible.
Q: Did your family lead you to study, or did you decide to do this yourself?
A: I guess it was my Mom. She put my sister and I into primary school even though they tried to convince her to send us to a "practical" one, they said we didn't have what it takes to attend a regular school. She stood behind our enrolling into a mainstream school. We were attending a preschool that was a part of the "practical school" at the time. Mom teaches there now.
Q: Before we met thanks to this tutoring work, you already had a lot of experience with it - you have been tutoring children for seven years now at a "practical school" - what has that been like as an experience?
A: Different from the one I had. I was surprised by the teachers' approach toward the children. I had no idea that a school could be run that way and I think this school is not unique. I was shocked by how the teachers shouted at the children there, sometimes even using vulgarities. I thought about it for a long time. Children are just children. The adult is the one who should be able to cope.
Q: Was there anything good about it? Anything you enjoy remembering?
A: I liked the fact that the children had an appetite for getting involved, and when they all got involved, you could see their joy in learning something. Sometimes they didn't make it obvious, but they were glad, for example, to learn how to sign their names properly. That completely surprised me. These were not stupid children who were unable to learn the many things they didn't know. Anyone who works with them sees that they get it.
Q: What can we do about this? What should be done to change it?
A: We must familiarize the public with Romani culture. This might require more Romani teachers in the schools. They have a greater awareness of how Romani children live. Also, parents should not be afraid to enroll their Romani child into a primary school where most of the children are Czechs. In my opinion, that is a great error - they need to start attending these schools and integrating into them. Their non-Romani fellow pupils might then understand Romani culture. That's what it was like at my primary school. There were not a lot of us Romani children, but we got to know some of the other children, we understood each other. Probably what is also needed is a change in the approach taken by some teachers. I only ever met a couple who were not prejudiced.
Q: Have you experienced people not wanting to even look at you because you are Romani?
A: I experienced that both at primary and secondary school. At primary school it was from my fellow pupils, but ultimately we talked it out, got to know each other, and became good friends. At secondary school it wasn't from my fellow pupils, they were fine - it was from my teachers. I felt it somehow, in a covert way. For example, we had an economics teacher who spoke during class about how Romani people just exploit the system and welfare. Up until that point I had really liked her.
Q: What is your view of the atmosphere in society? The intolerance of Romani people, the prejudice?
A: I believe that people here are not at all open to different cultures or to other nations. We have fallen even further behind the rest of the world in this regard. I felt really good, for example, in France - there were so many people of different ethnicities there, it was just different. Here, when I am working at the museum, for example, I see that Czechs often turn up their noses at foreigners. I don't know... they judge people just because they're from another country... it's just total nonsense.
Q: The work at the museum is interesting all the same. You like art even outside the exhibition hall, you take photographs yourself, for example. What is it about photography that speaks to you?
A: I like the fact that I can capture a specific moment in time. Every photo is basically unique, that moment will never be directly repeated. I enjoy coming up with various themes, arranging to photograph people. I also mostly prefer taking photographs of people. Right now I am mainly attempting to do this with analogue equipment, that's sort of a challenge for me. I got a Russian camera, a Lomograph Fish Eye, for Christmas. I really enjoy lomography [creative, experimental film photography].
Q: I really like your photographs. Have you ever thought about becoming a professional photographer?
A: I would love to, but I think today it is difficult to apply oneself as a photographer. Every other person takes photos, and the professional technology involved is expensive. Maybe in the future. I would like to continue studying creative photography at Opava, but who knows. Right now I'm taking photographs just for fun, we'll see.
Q: You also enjoy fashion, it plays a role in your photos.
A: I love contrasts, and the way people are dressed in photos can highlight contrasts. For example, I photographed a friend in an abandoned, half-destroyed building wearing a suit - he looked suave, the effect was nice. Most of the time, though, I leave it up to the people being photographed what they will wear - but yes, fashion amuses me, I like it. Mainly the fashion of the 1950s and 1960s.
Q: What profession do you dream of? What work would you like to do when you are done with school?
A: I would like to work with art in a gallery or museum. If it were to come to pass, I would like to be a curator, or an assistant curator. I would like to directly organize exhibitions or acquire items for a collection.
Q: What about your own artistic career? Wouldn't you like to exhibit your own work?
A: It occurred to me that I might open a café with an art gallery someday, where I could exhibit my own photographs, and there would also be a dance studio there where I would teach dance.
Q: That's your other big hobby - dance. How long have you been dancing?
A: Since I was a little girl. I began dancing at about age 12 when I first went for salsa lessons with a Mexican instructor and I was the only child there. I danced there for about a year, then I broke my ankle and couldn't dance for about half a year. At around the age of 14 I began to go to street dance classes and at 18 I went to lady styling salsa, and then at 20 I decided to learn Cuban couple's salsa. I have been dancing that ever since and I enjoy it the most.
Q: Do you compete or do you dance just for fun?
A: More for fun. Salsa cubana isn't danced competitively, but sometimes people invite dancers to perform it. I danced serveral times with the band Caribe, for example. They also asked me to teach a workshop for those interested.
Q: Besides dance and photography you also enjoy being in contact with people at work as well - you've worked in a café, in a cinema, in a tea house, now you are working in a creperie and a museum. What about the hobby of traveling? Does contact with others play a role there too?
A: I haven't seen much of the world, but I have a whole lot of plans. The furthest I have ever traveled was to France, to Paris. I definitely want to visit Asia, I am attracted to countries like Bali, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand... Europe not so much. I would like to try to work there once I finish school. I am attracted by other cultures, other mentalities, other worlds. I enjoy getting to know them.
Q: What about Romani culture... do you maintain any Romani customs and traditions at home?
A: Yes, thanks to my grandma. At Christmas and Easter we maintain various customs. Grandma takes Easter much more seriously than Christmas, she is a believer. I can understand the Romanes language, but I have problems speaking it. Our parents did not speak Romanes to us when we were little. There are five of us, I have a brother and three sisters. My mother didn't want us to have an accent in Czech so we wouldn't have problems at school. However, I have just found a textbook for Romanes and I'm getting ready to study it.
Q: You are the kind of person who loves helping others. In your view, should Romani people who have managed to accomplish something help other Romani people? Or do you believe people don't have an obligation to help others just because they are Romani... what is your belief in this regard?
A: I think it's up to every individual to decide whether to help or not. I definitely would not resent someone who doesn't help. I myself would like to help - I would like to teach children to dance and motivate them through dance to study, etc.
Q: Do you believe in destiny?
A: I do. I have it tattooed on my neck.
Q: Who or what is the one thing you need to get by in the world?
A: First and foremost my family. Second, my friends. Third, dance.
Q: What do you have no use for?
A: I could get by wihtout certain human characteristics, such as envy or stupidity. I could get by without the existence of diseases and smartphones. I have an old telephone, just for calling and texting. I do my best not to spend too much time on the Internet.
Q: We have agreed that we like the same quotation from Paulo Coelho about one's calling. If you had to say what your calling is, what would that be?
A: Probably to be here for others and live life to the full. I would tell people not to lose faith in themselves, to dream, to live their own life story.
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