Letters to Omer

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by Selma Selman
©Irfan Brkovic ©selmaselman, 2022

I was taught on the streets in Ruzica, Bihac, and the greatest professor I ever had was my mother. 

Just in a few years, I went from being a dirty Gypsy to being a very well respected artist. 

Just a few years ago I was no one. I was supposed to be married because I had to follow the patriarchal rules in my village.  

Just a few years ago I lived in extreme poverty.  

Just a few years ago, I could not even speak or write well in English. 

Just a few years ago my friends would make fun of both my Bosnian and English pronunciation and none of them could understand that my first language is Romani. 

Just a few years later, I am one of the most respected artists of my generation worldwide. 

Some of us genuinely use art as a tool, not only to question but to answer. As much as this reality is mine, it is my mother’s as well.

Dear Omer,

Yes, I have been here for almost two years. I was lost, but found myself. I found the reasons not the answers) why I was born and why people are selfish. Why, in the middle of millions of souls, you will find yourself alone. Why people like to use people, why a man hurts a woman, why a woman is silenced, why I will never have respect in the city where I was born, why people love me, why I love them, why I do not have loyal friends, why I am happy to have been born, why we love money, why we live in the collapse, why we will be ok, why we will survive, why we live in a disaster, why there is hope. My dear Omer, this is what I think, maybe I am wrong.

Dear Omer, 

I am scared of myself.

I walk down the street with my mother. We saw some Roma people walking by our side as well. We decided to change direction because we were scared that we would get robbed by Roma people. My mother and I were scared of Roma assuming that they will rob us because this is what we learned about us on the news, in school, in the street.

Selma Selman(1991) grew up in the Roma community village of Ružica in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She earned her BFA from Banja Luka University’s Department of Painting as the first female Roma student in 2014. She graduated from Syracuse University with an MFA in Visual and Performing Arts in 2018. Selma Selman is the founder of the organization ”Get The Heck To School,” which aims to empower Roma girls all around the world who face ostracization from society and poverty.