VIDA’s list of Twenty ‘Gypsy’ Women You Should Be Reading

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Portrait of Papusza, the mother of Romani poetry

I’m so delighted to share my Twenty Gypsy Women You Should be Reading with everyone In honor of Roma and Traveller History Month,. Gypsy culture is vastly misunderstood and underrepresented, and literature is a beautiful way to discover it. You may not have heard of many of these writers before but they will astound you with their talent. Happy reading!

“And while I spend a lot of time on my soap box bellowing that Roma and Travellers are just human, as a storyteller and a poet, I will say that some of the most beautiful, dark, and hauntingly fantastic stories I’ve ever heard or read have been from Gypsies. It’s a MathildeVonThieleworld-view that outsiders would never be able to reach on their own, and I feel this poignantly as a not-quite-white looking girl who grew up knowing that, way back, her Gypsy ancestors sailed up and down the Danube from Germany to Hungary, working as dancers and fortune tellers in the riparian towns before the war tore everything to shreds. Their lives were not idyllic, but the stories my grandmother told were beautiful. I would hold them close to my chest when I was stoned at school, or given detention for “witchcraft and the evil eye” in a town where there were no Gypsies, where my mother and grandmother routinely referred to the Gypsy community (some abstract thing I imagined) as “they” instead of “we.” I worried about my “percentage of Gypsy” and whether or not it was enough to claim. The few practices my grandmother kept and passed down to me didn’t make sense until I began to research my own people when I was a teenager and realized that alienation is also inheritance. I found Papusza, the Mother of Romani poetry and an omen of exile and connection. I stepped into the river-mouth of my blood.”

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My great-great grandmother Mathilde as a young dancer

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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!

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