At 18, the subject exhibited made the move of her life, namely from Vienna to London, where she has lived for the past 7 years.
The poignant question in the context of the representation of Danubian migration to London is ultimately why? What can we infer from the differences regarding the wider identity of these regions? The subject’s mixed race heritage, a father from Ghana and mother from Austria often meant whilst in the countryside ‘it was always a mixture between an uncomfortable situation and visiting family’. An uncomfortable situation all too often meant people touching her hair, and still does.
In contrast, since living in London the subject realized that it was freeing not to be looked at all of the time and gained pride on who she was as a person and growing up. ‘People just assume you are from here which is nice’.
When asked about the current situation regarding London’s relationship with the EU, she opines it was super sad, ‘I cried the next day’ she says, ‘it makes everything very insecure, you don’t know whether you can stay or not or what kind of deal we’d get’. As a Danubian migrant to London, the subject expressed the missing of her native tongue and her enjoyment at being able to talk German. Austrian art, music and film is something that forms a large part of her identity through which the Austrian Cultural Forum is able to provide a cultural mechanism for the 8000 Austrian migrants in the UK to meet and allow the consumption of language and traditions. Such exposure means the subject’s Danubian identity can not only be maintained but further nurtured and developed.
We decided to include another portrait of our subject as shown above to contrast the reasons for choosing the two portraits, and ultimately why we chose the former. The second portrait was in fact the very first picture we took. Initially we liked the portrait, it demonstrated effective perspective, framing and was very colourful above all else. However the group was able to make some very important distinctions between the two. The first picture was able to capture the spontaneity of the subject matter. At that particular point the subject was being interviewed and was deep in thought about the anthropological and ethnographic tribulations that she faced relating to issues of race and citizenship. The first image was able to convey perhaps a greater emotional bond, it represented a heightened trust between both parties interacting. Moreover the second image was taken at the subjects natural working position rather than a deeply artificial one reflected in the latter.
Here is a full transcript of the interview:
A: I grew up in Austria. My Dad is from Ghana and my Mom is from Austria. I grew up there and lived there until I was 18, and then I moved to London. Then I studied here for a couple of years. I lived here for 7 years.
Q: Whereabouts in Austria did you come from?
A: From Vienna.
Q: What was it like living in Vienna?
A: I don’t have other experience growing up somewhere else, so I don’t know, but it depends where you are. If you are in the city, that doesn’t help that much. But going to the countryside, it was always a mixture between an uncomfortable situation and visiting family, because both of my family lived in the countryside.
Q: Have you seen perceptions change overtime?
A: Probably. I do remember people spitting at me; and strangely children, when I was young, would just come and touch my hair–I don’t know why. So I would say it was a mixture of being uncomfortable, but also, if you are in a circle where you feel accepted and they are open-minded people, it was nice.
Q: In London, how did that experience differ?
A: A lot actually. I was surprised, because in London I felt really comfortable. And also, because I lived in Vienna for 2 years after living in London for 7 years, and then came back (to London), I realized that it was freeing not to be looked at all the time, as like strange or unaccepted, and I get really tired of people touching my hair. And they still do that (touch her hair), which also surprise me. I feel like, having lived in London, I have gained a lot of pride in who I am or how I grew up. So I like having big hair, which growing up in Vienna, I didn’t really try to conform, because I didn’t want to; but also I noticed there is a huge shift in perception when I wear my hair big, or when I have it straight. People in Austria have the problem a lot where they speak to me in English because they don’t think I can understand them. So even if I speak to them in German, they will continue speaking to me in English. Which obviously doesn’t happen here, because people just assume you are from here, which is nice.
Q: Do you like being a part of a big, international city like London?
A: Yeah! It is literally one of the main reasons why I came here, to be fair. I had a boyfriend at the time who was from the countryside, and leaving the “London bubble”, it was pretty much exactly the same (as Vienna countryside?). He lived in a small village, so going there was also essentially similar. So I think it is a city thing, that it is more liberal. But obviously London has a background of having more cultures than Vienna.
Q: With the recent referendum in this country, how do you feel as an Austrian citizen living in London? Has that affected you? Did you feel different the next day?
A: I think it is scary. I actually cried(the next day); I was super sad, because it makes everything very insecure—you don’t know whether you can stay or not, you don’t know what happens, you don’t know what kind of deal we’d get. Growing up with the knowledge that you can go anywhere within the EU, which is an amazing thing. If I feel like I want to go to France and study in Paris, I could. So, I think it would be extremely sad to stop the possibility that you can move around.
Q: Do you think you understand why the people made that decision as someone from a country outside of the UK?
A: No. I feel like, the deal with being able to travel freely and work freely—especially work freely—I think it’s amazing. So why would you want to change that? I don’t know.
Q: What kind of sentiment do you think caused that?
A: I mean, I think in politics, you always have people you want to blame. So if something is not working in a specific way…Obviously you have guidelines that you have to adhere to, and some of them are good, some of them are harder to understand, then I understand obviously not everything works well all the time. But especially the way they led to campaign to leave was with a lot of unrealistic…but I think that it is not just England, that is just a general trend in politics.
Q: What kind of things do you do in your spare time? How big a part of your life is Austrian culture, especially living outside of Austria? What kind of things would you do that might be inclined to Austrian cultures?
A: I suppose when I moved here, I really do enjoy the language, so that’s something I miss. Now I speak German regularly (working at the cultural forum), but before I didn’t, so I really miss the language. I do Austrian film, art as well, there are a lot of big artists that came from Austria, and music, of course. What do I do in my spare time? I work a lot.
Q: do you live close by?
A: Not even close! At the moment I lived at Arsenal. One thing I like about Vienna is that it is tiny; in London, everything takes quite a long time to get there, and the spontaneity is lost. It is really expensive to go there, and also it takes an hour.