June is Gypsy, Roma, & Traveller History Month!

I should have made this post ages ago since it’s halfway through the month, but, hooray! I’ve been adventuring a lot, first in Ireland, then Mexico, then the Florida Keys. But now I’m back, and this is month is dedicated to celebrating Romani and Traveller culture and remembering history. It feels like the best way to honor the month is to post a small pastiche of articles that touch on the subject from around the web. I’ll keep the posts coming, this is just a starter, and I have a few articles coming out on the topic soon too. The hashtag I’ve been using on Twitter is #RomaTravellerHistoryMonth and my handle is @JSReidy, if you want to follow. There’s also https://www.facebook.com/endromaniexploitation to consider.

History:

1. Settela Steinbach’s image was used as the haunting symbol of the Jewish Holocaust for a long time before it was discovered that Settela was a Sinti Romani girl. Read about her life, journey, and remember her in Romedia’s post, SETTELA STEINBACH, A NEARLY-FORGOTTEN SINTI-ROMA STORY FROM WWII

 

Still from the “Westerbork film” showing Settela peeking outside through the crack. Courtesy of the WWII Image Bank-   National Institute for War Documentation.

Still from the “Westerbork film” showing Settela peeking outside through the crack. Courtesy of the WWII Image Bank- National Institute for War Documentation.

2. http://www.imninalu.net/ has an interesting list of past and present “Famous Gypsies”

3. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) published, “Teaching of the Roma and Sinti genocide is crucial to addressing discrimination, say participants at OSCE meeting,”

Resources:

The Romani Library Project aims to promote and make available across Europe modern literature of the Roma culture. Its origins lie in a collaboration between expert academic institutions, European publishers with an intercultural perspective, Roma cultural organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations with experience in Romani publishing.

Arts and Culture:

1. Opre Roma – Roma, Stand up! A feature documentary film about Roma rappers and an emerging underground Roma hip hop scene in the Balkans.

2. Flamenco is a Gitano dance, and this performance charts its Indian roots to its Spanish birth.

3. Gypsy Fever, the London-based Balkan Romani music and Manouche Jazz fusion group tears it up with a swing-rock beat.

Gypsy Fever. Image Source: http://quecumbar.co.uk/

Gypsy Fever. Image Source: http://quecumbar.co.uk/

4. Gypsy artist Lita Cabellut “The Starcatchers” opening night at Opera Gallery Seoul with fashion designer Lie Sang Bong

Recent News:

Tania Leontieff just became Israel’s first Romani police officer.

Articles on ethnicity and culture:

Filip Borev, author of the blog Pipopotamus, writes in “What is in a word? ‘Gypsy’: pride or prejudice” about why he identifies as Gypsy, not a Rom, and why that’s ok. In another post, “International Romani Day: and why this year will be my last,” he explains the problems with a “Roma nation” and the trouble with the Romani Rights movement being led by people outside of the culture.

Satire:

Are you familiar with those travel blogs that tell you “how to spot a Gypsy” and continue on with a bunch of racist nonsense under the guise of “educating” tourists? If not, lucky you. I wrote a satirical guide in that vein for Bathshebas called “American Gypsies Travelling in Europe: how to recognize white people.” Hold onto your babies!

proudtoberoma

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Blog 8: Ekphrastic Poetry– poems inspired by visual art by Romani people

Romani art is an overlooked treasure. Of course a culture so rich with symbolism, song, lore, and history would produce incredible art! So few people understand that “Gypsies” are a real ethnic group with cultures and sub-cultures, tribes/groups, spirituality, cuisine, music, dance, folk stories, dress, and on and on, so naturally we don’t hear a lot about the contemporary Romani arts scene. And as Roma are an underrepresented oppressed minority, the opportunities for Romani artists are few and many assimilated Roma are not safe to disclose their ethnicity. The Romani human rights crisis has been called “Europe’s shame” by Amnesty International and the UN. But it’s not just Europe.

“With a population of 10 to 12 million, the Roma are one of the largest and most disadvantaged minorities in Europe. Six million live in the EU.

Hundreds of thousands of Roma have been forced to live in informal settlements and camps, often without heating, water or sanitation; tens of thousands are forcibly evicted from their homes every year.

Thousands of Romani children are placed in segregated schools and receive a substandard education.

Roma are often denied access to jobs and quality health care. They are victims of racially motivated violence and are often left unprotected by the police and without access to justice.

This is not a coincidence. It is the result of widespread discrimination and racism…” http://www.amnesty.org/en/roma

But thank goodness that the Roma persevere and that Roma and Romani allies speak out against injustice. Art gives voice to the voiceless, to cultures and generations, to nations and people united through symbols, stories, history, union, and discord.

Ekphrastic poerty is poetry written about/inspired by a work of art, so as you can imagine, this week’s poem is to be written about a piece of visual art created by a Romani person. Your poem can respond to any aspect of the artwork– maybe you want to recreate the color scheme and mood of the painting, or maybe you want to create an extended metaphor using the artwork’s symbols. Consider how culture, rituals, politics, and beliefs play in the piece too.

In your blog post, due Thursday, I’d like you to analyze the artwork you’ve selected using the elements and principles of art and specific examples. Read the artwork like you would a poem. You can also use this your analysis to discuss what you want to write your poem about and why. Make sure to include an image of the artwork you’ve chosen, the title and the artist’s name, and a link to the work. The artwork that you choose to analyze in your blog response is the same artwork that you’ll use to write your ekphrastic poem. Likewise, the artist’s name and the work’s title should appear in your poem’s title or subtitle so the reader understands the context and references.To get you started on analysis, consider this: what are the patterns? How does the artist use artistic elements and principles? What are their effects? What does the paining depict? What are the symbols used? 300 words or more.

For example, the poem we read today, “The Gypsy from India” by the Romani poet Nicolas Jimenez Gonzalez in Roads of the Roma, referenced dogs. When analyzing the poem, it’s important to know that dogs are considered marimé (ritually unclean) by most Romani groups.

“Marimé taboos extend to animals as well, from the edibility of certain types of meat to pet ownership. Romaniya prohibits cruelty to animals and they may only be killed for food. The German Sinti consider eating horse flesh a serious offense, as do other tribes. The exclusion of horse meat has more to do with respect than to marime, the horse has been so important to the Roma’s mobility and survival in the past.

Dogs and cats are considered polluted because of their unclean living habits. Roma consider cats particularly unclean because they lick their paws after burying their feces. The critical concern, as with dogs licking themselves, is that the uncleanliness of the external world may defile the purity of the inner self if it is permitted to enter the body through the mouth. Cats are also a sign of impending death to many tribes. If a cat sets foot in a house, trailer, or automobile, a purification ceremony may be required. Dogs are also unclean, but to a lesser extent. Dogs are tolerated outside the house because of their value as watchdogs.” http://www.reocities.com/~patrin/beliefs.htm#Taboos

So whether you’re analyzing a poem, story, or painting, make sure that you take the initiative to look up what elements of the artwork might mean to Romani people, while bearing in mind that Romani culture is in no way homogeneous. On Wednesday we’re having class at the Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts on 530 W Call St (so go straight there for class) and learning more about visual analysis, so you’ll have a chance to practice before the blog is due.

Again, this week’s blog is due Thursday instead of the usual Friday because on Friday I’m going to make a blog art show slideshow out of all the pieces the class selects.

Some links to Romani artists:

Here is a list of links to Romani artists’ names, works, and/or websites, as well as some other helpful resources:

http://www.romaniworld.com/artill.htm links to artworks by Romani artists

http://balval.pagesperso-orange.fr/ Marcel Hognon, Manouche sculptor

http://balval.pagesperso-orange.fr/ Mona, Manouche painter

http://www.romacult.org/en/catalog/2071/ a list of names of Romani artists that you can Google for images and information

http://www.rommuz.cz/en Museum of Roma Culture, Brno, Czech Republic

http://thegypsychronicles.net/romaartists-aspx/ Click on the artist that you want to learn more about

http://lolodiklo.blogspot.com/2011/02/art-by-romani-women-in-hungary.html Art by Romani women

http://lowegallery.com/artists/index-scrollbar.php?artist=lita-cabellut Lita Cabellut, Romani painter from Barcelona

http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/educators/how-to/from-theory-to-practice/formal-visual-analysis.aspx Elements and Principles of art

Feel free to branch out and do more research to find a piece of art not listed here. The most important thing is that you find a work by a Romani artist that inspires you.

Image

Lita Cabellut, “Billie Holiday,” 2013. Mixed Media on canvas.

Keep an eye out for Lita Cabellut’s artwork in the next issue of The Southeast Review

 

Blog 9: Ekphrastic Poetry inspired by the work of Romani Artists

Image

Katarzyna Pollok, Sara in a Snailhouse (2002). Acrylic on canvas, 60 × 80 cm, appeared in Signs Journal

“Artist Statement
Sara is the name of a saint worshipped by Roma in the south of France. She is supposed to have come with the Three Marys as their maid from Israel after the death of Jesus Christ. I took the story to show that we Roma have forever been regarded as coming from somewhere else, that we have always needed shelter, that we have always lived our vibrant culture, that we are still in hiding, and that we have always had our roots: India.

In my artistic expression I travel across boundaries. This also means that I do not adhere to any fixed style or genre of art but “nomadize” through all the forms, traditions, icons, and images I come across in my life. My art is also both the means and the outcome of my personal struggle for Roma identity. We Romani painters still have to generate something unique and undetachable from our Romani identity, just as we have developed in our music. My goal has always been to achieve something in a new, cosmopolitan, universal scheme, but it remains a long road. The Indian roots, the Holocaust, and our trauma, the hiding, the longing for justice and protection are some ever-returning topics in my work.”

Ekphrastic poetry is poetry inspired by/written in response to an artwork. Traditionally, ekphrastic poetry is written about visual art, like a painting, sculpture, photograph, drawing, or collage, etc. This is the kind of ekphrastic poem we’ll be writing for class. Over the years, ekphrastic art has expanded to include theatre, cinema, dance, and music, as well as other art forms, and you can experiment with them outside of class if you like.

Here is a list of links to Romani artists’ names, works, and/or websites, as well as some other helpful resources:

http://www.romaniworld.com/artill.htm links to artworks by Romani artists

http://balval.pagesperso-orange.fr/ Marcel Hognon, Manouche sculptor

http://balval.pagesperso-orange.fr/ Mona, Manouche painter

http://www.romacult.org/en/catalog/2071/ a list of names of Romani artists that you can Google for images and information

http://www.rommuz.cz/en Museum of Roma Culture, Brno, Czech Republic

http://thegypsychronicles.net/romaartists-aspx/ Click on the artist that you want to learn more about

http://lolodiklo.blogspot.com/2011/02/art-by-romani-women-in-hungary.html Art by Romani women

http://lowegallery.com/artists/index-scrollbar.php?artist=lita-cabellut Lita Cabellut, Romani painter from Barcelona

http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/educators/how-to/from-theory-to-practice/formal-visual-analysis.aspx Elements and Principles of art

Feel free to branch out and do more research to find a piece of art not listed here. The most important thing is that you find a work by a Romani artist that inspires you. Link to the work of art that you’ve selected in your response post so we can all see it. That artwork that you use to write your blog response should also be the artwork you use to write your ekphrastic poem. Likewise, the artist’s name and the work’s title should appear in your poem’s title or subtitle so the reader understands the context and references. Your poem can respond to any aspect of the artwork– maybe you want to recreate the color scheme and mod of the painting, or maybe you want to create an extended metaphor using the artwork’s symbols. Consider how culture, rituals, politics, and beliefs play in the piece too. In your blog response, analyse the artwork that you’ve chosen in 300 words or more. Use the elements and principles of art to help you analyse with specific examples. Read the artwork like you would a poem. You can also use this as an opportunity to discuss what you want to write your poem about and why.

Image

Lita Cabellut, COCO 42 – MIXED MEDIA ON LINEN – 110 X 79 INCHES – 2011

Bill Lowe Gallery