Sabrina's World of Wonders

Stefano Carini

2010 - 2015

Sabrina’s world of wonders is the intimate portrait of a 10-years old Roma girl who lives with her grand parents in a wooden hut, inside a Roma encampment on the outskirts of Turin, Italy; furthermore, it is the experience of a collaboration between her and the photographer with the aim of exploring the many layers of her complex reality. It is an attempt to let her speak for herself so that she could pull us into her world and let us see it from her perspective.

Sabrina was abandoned by her mother when she was one year old. She was left on a mattress in the wooden hut where they lived.

Her grandmother, Sabina, who had come to Italy from Romania in search of a better life, had no choice but taking care of her. The relationship that developed became extremely strong and profoundly humbling.

I met Sabrina four years ago, when I first entered a Roma encampment on the outskirts of Torino, my hometown. At the time I was driven by an aesthetic ideal, as well as by sheer and plain curiosity. I wanted to find out how life looked like within a gypsy camp.

Sabrina’s family was the first to show interest in my presence and open their world to me. We slowly built up our trust and I became part of their life. They care for me, I care for them and I became naturally committed to tell their story. Furthermore I became fascinated by the search for collaboration with the subjects of my pictures, since I believed that this would have brought us closer. I had a very simple question in mind at all times: how was I to express Sabrina’s reality only through my photography?

I needed Sabrina to be involved. She could draw, paint over my photos, create collage from other images and take pictures. I needed her voice, so that she could reach out to the world and share her story with them. Together we are creating a world of wonders, a space for expression and encounter, where we can shorten the distance between our colliding realities and be at once Italian, Romanian, Roma, human.

Sabrina represents a minority not yet recognised and an entire generation at risk of isolation and exclusion. She is growing up into a society that has condemned the gypsies to be the least welcomed people in Italy.

Sabrina’s world of wonders is a unique visual dialogue that aims to break down the wall of prejudice that exist around Roma lifestyle, offering the chance to observe a particular reality - a difficult life permeated by a deep strive for normality - not only through the lens of a photographer’s camera but through the eyes and the imagination of a child. It is also an opportunity for a child to freely express her feelings through photography and visual art, while growing up into a society that has condemned her people (the Roma people) as the “least welcomed minority on the Italian territory”.

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  • 05/05/12, Torino, Italy -- In the camp there is no running water. The water to drink, wash and cook must be collected at the fountains , a few km away, and kept into plastic containers. Sabrina awaits for the water to be heated before washing.

  • 10/2013, Torino, Italy -- A view of the camp where Sabrina lives. Sabrina does not like black and white pictures, she feels they are too sad and prefers to enhance them with colored paint. "This is more the camp I would like" she said.

    The original photo:
    02/05/12, Torino, Italy -- The illegal Roma encampment of Corso Tazzoli, on the southern outskirts of Turin, Italy. About 200 Romanian Roma families live on this piece of waste land, with no running water, electricity nor sewage system. Even though illegal, the presence of the camp is tolerated by regional and municipal authorities, which use it as a way to better control the Roma community.

  • 03/2013, Torino, Italy -- A collage with different images. In the background is Sabina, the grandmother, photographed in the encampment where she lives with her husband and Sabrina, her grand daughter. The old images are from Romania, from the late 70's at the time of Sabina and Joani's wedding, and with their first born son (Sabrina's father). The text was was written behind one of the images by Joani to his wife during his military service and reads" yesterday when I was sleeping I dreamed of you, resting on my chest: please do not forget me"

  • 27/04/12, Torino, Italy -- When there is money enough to buy some fuel, there is electricity, thanks to a series of generators organized in the camp. Sabrina with her grandparents (Joani and Sabina) watching Romanian TV in their living room.

  • 02/2013, Torino, Italy -- A collage of different black and white images enhanced by Sabrina with paint and colors.
    In the images (that were originally taken in January 2011) is Sabina, the grandmother, begging for money at the traffic light, and riding on the bus after the whole day on the streets.

  • 08/2013, Torino, Italy -- A selfie taken by Sabrina inside her wooden shack with a point and shoot camera. The picture is mounted on a painting by Sabrina.

  • 25/04/12, Torino, Italy -- Sabrina in her home, in the Roma encampment of Tazzoli, south of Turin, Italy. Sabrina was born in Italy to Romanian mother and Roma father. Her mother run away when the girl was one year old. It was 2004. Sabrina has been living in a Roma encampment all of her life, and she does not know another reality.

  • 25/04/2012, Torino, Italy -- Sabrina playing with another boy in front of her house, in the Roma encampment of Tazzoli on the outskirt of Torino.

  • 01/05/2012, Torino, Italy -- Sabrina with her grandparents laughing during an ad on TV during their favorite Indian soap opera. Sabina (the grandmother), who speaks the Romani language, can understand some Indu, which is the root of all Romani gypsy languages.

  • 23/03/13, Torino, Italy -- For a brief period of time Sabina (the grand mother) was hired by an Italian man to sell flowers at Turin's "Cemetery South", the biggest graveyard of the city, not far from the encampment. Sabrina did not like spending time alone back at the camp and she often spent her afternoons helping her grandmother with her job. The job lasted only for a few months, paying up to 30-40 euro a day on the good days. When her employer did not need her anymore, Sabina went back to beg for money at the traffic lights, sometimes coming home with only a few euros, after being insulted and spat at.

  • 02/13, Torino, Italy -- A black and white print, modified with ink and stickers. In the original photo Sabrina is playing with tape in front of her home.

    The text reads "I would like to have a laptop".

  • 09/05/2012, Torino, Italy -- Sabina wakes Sabrina up early in the morning before getting ready for school.

  • 31/03/13, Torino, Italy -- Sabrina on the day of her cousin Francesca's 5th birthday. Celebrations such as birthdays and weddings are occasions for the young girls to dress up and pretend to be women. Girls inside the Roma community grow up fast, often finding themselves in difficult situations with the older boys who don't always see them as children anymore.

  • 07/2013, Torino, Italy -- A picture taken by Sabina (the grandmother) depicting her granddaughters and grandsons. From Right to Left is Jasmine, Sabrina grabbing her Sister's arm, Damian (Sabrina's brother) with the blue shirt, and Alixandra (sitting on the left).

    The caption written by Sabrina reads "These are my sister and my brother when they came to visit me. I have not seen them for about 9 years. they live in Caransebesh, Romania"

  • 11/05/12, Torino Italy -- When Joani (her grand father) drinks beer Sabrina gets extremely upset and stops talking to him. She is afraid that he will become loud and that he will argue with the grand mother.

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