Welcome to another episode from our Brno Expats Have Talent series. Brno is full of talented people, and some of them are not from the CR – we’re introducing one talented expat at a time!
This month, meet Diana from Colombia who used her talent to develop a beautiful new programme for children combining books, art and language learning:
Diana Buritica from Colombia – a reader and educator
Why did you start a book club for children?
When my first child was born, I started to look for resources to bond with her and I discovered the amazing world of children’s literature. I kind of immersed in it and I realized how much I enjoyed reading good children’s books to her. To be honest, sometimes I read them even when she was not paying attention. Slowly, reading became a very helpful source of spending quality time with her and enriching her vocabulary in Spanish, so we kept it as a daily routine.
The whole idea of reading books to expat children occurred to me only after a couple of years living in Brno. I felt that expat families here needed a space to connect, to make friends, a space where we did not feel as strangers and we could all understand each other. So it felt just right to put together those two things, the need for socializing and my new passion and thus the A proč? book club for kids was born.
I always select a good children’s book with a captivating story from which children can learn something new and I read a few parts from it. The book is usually in English or Spanish, occasionally other langauges as well. The children then have the opportunity to ask questions or comment, we chat about the story to help them think about it further. And finally, we do some art activity which develops the message of the book further and the kids also have something to take home with them.
Is it your main source of income or a hobby?
The readings are my greatest hobby. I feel I am in a flow when reading or dramatising a book. It is really something that I enjoy and it is amazing that I have found a lot of support from people and different organizations to be able to carry them out.
How do you find living in Brno as an expat and artist?
I feel that in the last 6 years Brno has experienced a huge positive transformation for foreigners. As everywhere, there are things to work on, but locals are more open to diversity, languages and they recognize the importance of including expats. I am very pleased to see Czech families as well as the foreign ones at the readings.
Is it easy to practise your art here?
Sure it is! It is the perfect place for it. I have realized that there are many people and organizations ready to help and very open to any new and inclusive activity involving children. I am very happy that I have found a lot of support from organizations in Brno to carry on the readings. The Brno Expat Centre, YMCA in Brno, Moravská Galerie, La Casa Verde and Festival Iberica, have all given me the opportunity to reach more families.
Also, the size of the city makes it very enjoyable to do the readings. We have managed to create a very nice community around them. My kids and I have made a lot of good friends, both Czechs and from abroad thanks to the readings. This has been the best outcome of this project.
Where do you find inspiration? Did Brno bring any new inspiration to your art?
My life as a parent, my kids and the way their lives are evolving, make me look every day for new topics and explore new ways to approach my creative activity.
Since I started the readings at the Moravian Gallery, it has been a challenge to look for books where we can explore art and make it attractive to small children, not to mention, finding the right activity keeping the high standards of the gallery. To be honest, this is a new area that the Gallery made me explore and to my very nice surprise, the books have been the greatest inspiration.
Do you cooperate with other expats or local Czechs?
This is a project that started with the idea of involving everyone who believed they could do something for their specific community. We have organized readings for families from Poland and Russia, where a couple of mums managed to gather the public, they brought the book and I made sure we had all we needed for the art activity.
We have also cooperated with two amazing English teachers from the UK and USA. I want to keep involving more and more people in the creation of the readings, so, if you are reading this, and you would like to get involved, just contact me 🙂
How can you practise your art now, in the strange covid times?
Covid has brought many challenges for all of us, but also an opportunity to see our projects from a different perspective. Together with the gallery, we started on-line readings during the lockdown and families loved the idea. Later we also did a few readings in the park and that was very nice as well.
Is there any other area that you’d like to explore?
Children have got used to online interactions and families are willing to participate in them as long as they are well thought out. So last autumn, I decided to go a little bit further and offered Spanish readings on-line to families across Europe. It has been a completely different but exciting experience. These sessions require a different skill-set that I am still learning, but I am very happy to see that I can build rapport with children just with a good book.
Where can expats find you nowadays?
Together with some friends we just opened a cultural centre called Zona Iberoamericana, a place where we organize different kinds of events, interesting for Spanish and Portuguese speaking people or anyone interested in our culture or language. Here, we will start meeting every Tuesday for the storytelling in Spanish.
The readings in English take place usually the first and third Wednesday of the month at the Moravska Galerie, Husova 18.
Watch a few clips of Diana’s live stories done in Brno:
Photos courtesy by Diana Buritica and Moravská galerie