At the end of November, as part of our project, we organized a happening in a coffee shop at Piata Romana in collaboration with the employees of the establishment.
We wanted to test the reaction of the public part of the ethnic majority that is usually present in these places when confronted with the racist exclusion from a public space of a Roma woman dressed in traditional clothes. Generally, Roma women and especially Roma women that dress traditionally face exclusion from different public spaces, street harassment and violence from the part of the ethnic majority. Thus, we wanted to see how the clients present in the coffee shop would react to such a situation. If they stand in solidarity or not with the Roma woman and what is their general attitude.
A Roma woman has been insulted, has been touched without her consent and has been excluded on racist grounds from a public space. Faced with such a situation, the clients that witnessed it not only did not question or challenge the employee’s decision and actions, but they clearly refused to talk to or to support the Roma woman. The prevailing attitude in the coffee shop was one of ignoring the incident with people laughing and keeping their eyes glued to the screen of their mobile phones.
These kind of reactions constitute a complicity often encountered in the racist and misogynistic society that we live in.
On the 18th of November 2015, as part of the project Povești Nespuse – Untold Stories, we organized an artistic happening entitled Contemporary Art and Activism Regarding Roma Slavery. This event was part of a series of actions developed in the course of our project. During the happening Roma artists have discussed with the students and the professors present about the challenges of one’s involvement in artistic activism concerning Roma slavery. The speakers at this event were Alina Şerban, Roma actress, author and producer of theater plays and George Mihai Vasilescu, painter and artist.
The artistic happening meant the discussion of some materials resulted from the field research conducted in the project in order to gather Roma fairy tales as well as watching a series of monologues from Alinei Şerban’s theater plays. In addition, George Mihai Vasilescu has presented several of his paintings from the exhibition Robii lui Dumnezeu open at this time at the Bucharest Metropolitan Library.
The aim of the discussions was to present the activities of the project and the different means through which art and artistic productions contribute to the visibility of untold or ignores stories, to social change and to the re-evaluation of history. Moreover, taking into account the academic nature of the hosting establishment, the participants have talked about equal access to education and the importance of creating an inclusive and multicultural educational framework.
After the short session of questions&answers organized at the end of the event, we also discussed different future possible actions and ways to support Roma artistic activism.
The launching conference of the project Povești Nespuse – Untold Stories took place on the 18th of November 2015 at Café Boheme in Bucharest. Alina Şerban, the person who initiated the project was the one to present the project’s objectives, main activities as well as the reasons that motivated its development. The discussion revolved around the various ways in which, through the envisioned artistic activities and through research, the project can contribute to the visibility of untold stories regarding Roma slavery, how it can highlight the absence of the period of Roma slavery from the history textbooks and how it can ignite much needed conversations concerning the implications of this history in understanding the present-day social inequalities.
Alina Şerban presented the manner in which Roma stories and stories from Roma history remain untold, from traditional fairy tales to information regarding the cultural contributions of Roma individuals throughout history and the stories of historical Roma experiences. Moreover, she brought to attention the fact that the absence of information regarding Roma slavery in the history textbooks contributes to rendering invisible the Roma experiences and she mentioned the different ways in which artistic productions and research can remedy this situation, for example by producing audio-video educational materials on Roma slavery in particular and on the history of oppression and marginalization of Roma people in general. Alina Şerban also emphasized the link between the act of rendering this history invisible and the exclusions and marginalization experienced by Roma people in the present.
Several Roma and non-Roma activists, members of mass-media, members of Embassies and academics have participated at the launching conference of the project Povești Nespuse – Untold Stories. We thank them for their presence and their show of support.
As part of the project Povești Nespuse – Untold Stories, this week we have organized an artistic happening entitled Piața Roma-nă. The general theme of the happening was the challenge of the ingrained idea that it is acceptable for the period of Roma slavery to be excluded from the official history presented in the textbooks. The absence of a minimum amount of information regarding the 500 years of Roma slavery in the Romanian Principalities leads to the continuation of the status quo in which this period of history is ignored, distorted and rendered invisible.
The location of the happening was Piața Romană in Bucharest. Piața Romană was chosen for various reasons. Firstly, this is a very circulated and popular place in Bucharest, fit for highlighting the need to bring true history in the public space. Secondly, we wished for Piața Romană to become for several minutes Piața Roma-nă, a space in which we could articulate a way to create together an inclusive and adequate history that comprises the experiences and history of Roma people in Romania.
At the beginning of our artistic manifestation, the participants to the happening transmitted the main message of this activity: History is being told by whom? Later on the passer-byes were invited and took part in short discussions on the absence of mentions regarding Roma slavery in the history textbooks, on the importance of listening to Roma voices and on the necessity of these subjects’ presence in the public space. We were happy to have beside us Roma and non-Roma activists as well as Roma artists and actresses like Mihaela Drăgan and Zita Moldovan.
Thank you for your participation and your involvement!