JOHANNA ROTH, who recently joined the Goa Centre of Alliance Française as its director, speaks to THE NAVHIND TIMES, in an interview with RAMNATH N PAI RAIKAR. Here she discusses various issues ranging from French language education to French food festival among other things
Q: How’s it feeling to come down from Cusco, Peru where you were previously posted to Panaji, Goa, from one Latin surroundings to another?
Frankly speaking, I went to France from Peru for about six months to stay with my parents and meet relatives, before getting an opportunity to come to Goa. This is my first time in India, and so I am quite excited about being here. I was also told that Goa was different from the rest of the country, and therefore, I am privileged to be in this unique place.
Q: Alliance Française was initially seen as a language organisation rather than a cultural one, which would provide knowledge in French language to the locals. How far this has changed today?
Here in Goa, Alliance Française might have been considered as a provider of (education in) French language, but from the very beginning of its conception, it is supposed to be a language and cultural organisation. Our Goa centre has also been working in both the areas. The organisation in fact, is a part of the global network made up of more than 800 centres in 137 countries.
Q: What are your priorities that you would like to immediately implement here through Alliance Française?
As a cultural and academic institute, my immediate priority would be to work on the academic side by strengthening the related quality. We are (working) worldwide, as a reference for quality in French language instruction, and the classes that we offer here are based on the common framework of reference for languages. So these classes have the highest standard in language education, and we have to meet these standards here in Goa too. This is the part of our identity and quality. We give an official recognition to our students through official diploma, which is called the DELF (Diplôme d’Etudes en Langue Française), diploma of French language, awarded by the French ministry of education. This diploma is very important as it is a gateway to the world. It allows the holder to go to France for further studies, if the holder is a student. If not, then it allows him to work in a French company may be in India or also international companies in this country, as also work in France. This is a requisite condition to travel to work in relation with Francophone countries, now that French is an official language in 32 countries. This gives ample opportunities worldwide to the holders of our language diploma. We hope to strengthen co-operation between Alliance Française and Goa University, as also with schools and academic as well as cultural institutions in the state. I would like to discuss possible (educational) opportunities for collaboration, with the Vice Chancellor of the Goa University.
Q: Do you feel that in a digital age as today, the need for cultural organisations is becoming less significant?
Now-a-days, we have digital/ virtual artworks, but it is still important to maintain your relationship with the pictures for example, in the exhibition world. When I go to an exhibition, I have a relationship with the artwork on the wall, in front of me. And then something emerges between me and the artwork; the virtual technology is failing to provide me with this emotion, as far as I am concerned. Therefore, I feel the cultural organisations still have their relevance.
Q: Films and food make up two of the areas of interest between any two countries. Would there be a possibility of French film festival or French food festival organised by Alliance Française, in the future?
In previous years, the other directors of the Goa Centre of Alliance Française held these kinds of events with food and films.
I think that Goans like eating good food as we also love doing in France. Definitely this is an area of common interest that we have! Now we are working on our cultural itinerary for next year, and we might include food in our programme. However, I won’t reveal anything else as yet, because it will be a surprise. We also offered French movies at Alliance Française, in the past. However, the previous director of our Goa centre left six months ago and there was no one to run these things. But now I am here and I will work towards having those movie screenings, on regular basis, here at the Alliance (Française).
Q: In Peru, you had organised an exhibition titled, ‘The Colors of the Charter’, with the campaign ‘Poverty Never Again: Acting all for Dignity’. Is the one you are holding here in Goa now – ‘Imagine France by the Sea’ – follows any campaign?
‘Imagine France by the Sea’, the photography exhibition is about the French coast. Actually the artist, Maia Flore is a French photographer, who graduated from a photography school. She is now quite famous and gaining international recognition. The idea of this exhibition currently running at the Alliance Française is to enhance the diversity of the French coast. We always have clichés about how is the coast seen in France and her idea is to show something different (about it). She wants to show the way of living of the French people through the pictures. This artist is very interesting because she gets involved physically in her work.
Q: Being a representative of a country, do you have interest in politics?
I do. In fact, I studied political science. I am still getting acquainted with the political landscape here (in India). I try to follow the Indian politics (laughs). It’s quite different from what I am accustomed to because here it is a federal state. India is a huge country and its organisation has federal basis, so there are some differences (in its political structure). Still, it’s interesting for me to know that my neighbour (pointing to the Chief Minister’s bungalow) is a top political figure. Unfortunately, I was told that I would not be able to meet him now. However, I would be very pleased to meet him and other politicians of Goa (in the future).