Ildiko Nova, 50, from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada is a returning ASLI visual artist who for Issue 4 of ASLI Magazine has chosen to explore discrimination in her art work. We couldn’t be happier to have Ildiko return for this issue, as her work is so important and very much part of creating change in a world struggling to be more inclusive and less divisive.
Have you experienced any form of discrimination; and if so what was it based on and how did you deal with this?
The first form of discrimination is coming from my childhood. I was darker skinned than the rest of the class. (I am a Hungarian born Roma, adopted by white, Christian parents) I actually did not see myself different until I was excluded from all activities. I went home and applied a thick layer of white Nivea cream on my face and hoped that if I was not as brown maybe I can have friends too. I never really had close good friends. I was a bright kid and have good marks with a relatively easy effort, so it became the source of my satisfaction.
What are your opinions on what causes discrimination?
There are many sources of discrimination. One is – especially in homogeneous countries, (one language, one major religion etc.) – the cultural ignorance. Different history, culture is unheard so it is strange or “not normal”. The second is xenophobia, the fear of strangers that they are amongst us and presumably will hurt us. The third is horizontal oppression. The more people believe in their political leader the less they realise that we are in the same difficulties, struggles. It is always easier to blame everybody else for our hardship than fight the power all the way up.
What do you do to actively stand against discrimination and have you ever had to intervene as a witness to it?
It is hard to fight discrimination, I personally choose my friends wisely and they are open minded, fair people of all walks of lives, I enjoy learning from them and broadening my knowledge and horizon. I personally got involved in a few campaigns against using the word “gypsy”. It is a derogatory term for Roma, even though it is not widely known. I’ve signed a petition to the Vogue Magazine and contacted Ardene because of their cultural appropriation in the fashion industry. I’ve also participated in the Dangerous Women Project.
What are your opinions on labels and stereotypes?
Labelling and stereotypes are the result of poor communication. It originates from lack of knowledge. It is always easier – especially in the nasty culture of internet comments – to spread something hostile or ignorant than have the courage and ask questions.
What are your opinions on national identity and in your opinion does nationalism create or deter discrimination?
National identity can be easily manipulated and “nurtured” to nationalism, especially in homogenous countries (for example Eurocentrism). In a multicultural country, like Canada politicians can truly benefit from the fact that every group has a different agenda and needs therefore the national unity is divided.
What social privileges do you have? For example: are you white, able bodied/minded, a man, rich, heterosexual, thin… etc.
My own privilege is my Canadian citizenship which provides me comfortable travel (so far…) and that I live on Treaty One territory where I have the honour to learn as much from the Indigenous community as possible.
What social privileges of others around you have you experienced and how did this privilege of others affect you?
The social privilege around me is social status based. As I don’t belong to certain groups (workplace, social casts), so I am not included in certain opportunities, such as jobs, projects or prospects to participate, or the true value of compensation of work.
How does social privilege affect our world in your opinion?
The most social privilege belongs to the mainstream. The more privilege this group has the less they think about it, it comes with attitudes where arrogance and exclusion is normalized. Lives of certain (non-privilege) groups do not matter, and is not considered as “their problem”. This includes victim blaming. The less privilege group has two ways 1. To resist and fight back 2. To assimilate. It is up to the person.
Have you ever denied your own privilege due to feelings of guilt or misunderstanding?
I found myself in an uncomfortable position; I’ve worked with newcomer Hungarian Roma refugees in Toronto. In spite of the best efforts, they were often so close to get deported. I felt conflicted to feel that I could have been one of them, yet I have the safety to stay in Canada. I talked about my personal status as little as possible. Luckily it also fit to being “professional” as working as a counsellor.
Do you feel social privilege should be taught at school and if so why and how young?
Children are naturally curious and open minded towards everybody. However, children should be reminded of their privileges so that they don’t grow up to become arrogant and entitled. These values should be taught from the first interaction with the community.
Have you ever experienced social stigmatisation and if so what was it based on and how did you deal with this?
I find that “newcomer” is a newcomer for life. People perplexed about my identity based on my non-English accent, which is irritating after living 25 years in Canada. Some frustrated Aboriginals do not find desirable to live with foreigners (aka settlers) either. Also, the social status stigma as I mentioned above.
Have you ever contributed to the stigmatisation of any individual or group, and if so were you aware you did this and how did you deal with this aftermath?
As a caretaker, I meet random people who can be future renters. There are certain experiences of all kind of groups and behaviours; however I am glad that I do not have to say the final word who can rent here.
What are your opinions on political powers and world leaders using stigmatisation against certain groups to further their own agendas, such as with Muslims, Black people, LGBTQ individuals, mentally ill and disabled people?
Absolutely! The political agenda is highly manipulated; politicians easily turn any group against each other, creating the “us versus them” scenario, based on social status, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation. This takes away people’s attention from other more important issues, such as policy making and budgeting.
Do you support or take part in any anti-stigma organisations or charities and if so which ones and why?
I volunteered a lot in several underprivileged groups to make community art. It is truly mutually rewarding to those people who always feel “less” and excluded. I actively follow the news of Roma cultural and political groups to stay well informed.
In your own words please tell us how you feel the arts and creativity can further help to empower, communicate and educate people with regards to discrimination, privilege and stigmatisation?
Artists are naturally sensitive and responsive to our surroundings. Frustration is an excellent fuel to create art. In my opinion it also speaks easier to people. I am surprised how much studies are written about all related topics but the true “thirst of knowledge” does not exist. I imagined that the internet is going to bring entire libraries in our homes; instead it is full of angry, hostile non-factual based bullying. A well-made art piece just captures attention and can change our mood (often to better).
Here are the other articles in which Artist Ildiko Nova has been featured in for ASLI Magazine:
Romani Artist: Ildiko Nova uses visual art to discuss under-represented communities
ASLI Artist Ildiko Nova speaks to us about her thoughts on mental illness and art, saying “My art is my sanctuary where I don’t have to fulfill any social norms or expectations from society.”
ASLI Artist Ildiko Nova creates a piece of visual art to bring awareness of senseless industrialization and the impact it has on our planet
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