It’s Time for Roma People to Speak for Themselves

During my studies in art history at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, I immersed myself in the history of European art. I must have analyzed literally hundreds of pieces, yet I cannot recall a single time when artwork created by my people, the Roma, was discussed in my classes or included in my readings.

I realized that if I wanted to learn more about the contributions the Roma people have made to European culture, I would have to push beyond the classical curricula and do the research for myself. And while much about Europe has changed in the years since I was student, when it comes to the recognition of Roma artists, this regrettable situation has not.

Out of the more than 10,000 works by Roma artists currently kept by European state collections and cultural institutions, for example, only two are permanently featured in state-run exhibits. This reality not only deprives people of every stripe the opportunity to enjoy these important works of art, but also contributes to the marginalization and degradation of Roma people.

In those few cases where the Roma are visible in the media, unfortunately, they are overwhelmingly depicted through harmful, racist stereotypes. Instead of being shown as the thinkers, writers, performers, and artists that they are, Roma are presented as folkloric musicians, beggars, and thieves. This image of the Roma is simply false—and it must change.

That is why, starting on June 8 in Berlin, we are launching the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture. Finally, Roma people will have their own permanent space to celebrate their history, engage with others, and create art. The institute will be a space where Roma can avoid the mainstream’s prejudices, and explain for themselves who they are and what they believe.

The European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture is the result of over four decades of consistent and passionate activism for the recognition of Roma culture. The institute was a common vision of many Roma organizations, intellectuals, artists, and supporters of Roma arts and culture. With its establishment, Europe celebrates a transformative, resilient, and creative Roma identity—a real shift from a paternalistic approach to Roma culture to one characterized by Roma self-representation and self-determination.

During a time when chauvinism and anti-Roma prejudice is on the rise—and when state funding is increasingly denied to projects that don’t toe the nationalist line—it is crucial that minority arts and culture have a place of their own. And it is entirely fitting for the institute to be hosted in Berlin, one of the most culturally vibrant cities in all of Europe.

Ultimately, however, the institute’s reach will extend far beyond Berlin. Because the goal is to build a place of communion and cultural recognition for all European Roma, so future generations and regular citizens no longer have to conduct their own searches to find the Roma people’s artistic and cultural legacy, which continues to shape Europe to this day. 

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I stand with all the gypsies in the world for their rights and in order to send their voice .. They truly understand the campaign of civilization and culture

❤️Peace Love Hope. I realize some people don't approve of the word Gypsy. I grew up with this word and always believe that no matter what else happened and no matter who were mean and cruel in this life there were always the gypsies who would willing to accept the children and outcasts nobody else wanted. It may seem a silly belief but it is my belief. Peace, Love and Hope.

Thank you for contributing to the world; making it a better place by exposing this injustice and by ENABLING THIS BEAUTIFUL CULTURE to share their art forms with the world community. I lived in Central Europe for several years (a few decades ago) and was very disheartened by the racism toward the Roma people in the area where I lived. When traveling, I went to a few concerts in Hungary and just loved the soulful music. But when wanting to know more about the culture, it is definitely not easy to uncover. I am very excited to see how modern Roma both embrace their traditional arts and to witness the adaptions and transformations to this current time period. I am also excited to think that the history of Roma arts will be documented so that the world can finally have this needed exposure. As an artist, I applaud Roma intellectuals voicing this social injustice.

Congratulations for this initiative.
jim penning

Good show of art/culture.

hey i am nomadic tribe activist lawyer from india. can you please share some contact details. at the moment i m in berlin and would like to know more about you all.

hoping to meet and interact asap.

A wonderful idea

creativity , initiative and inovation. Your style deserves praise

Čestitam. To je resnična zamisel. To je lepo in prav. Tudi jaz bi bil rad vaš član oz. bi potreboval vašo pomoč kot Romski pesnik, pisatelj, prevajalec, svobodni umetnik. Veliko svojih del je v javnosti že bilo predstavljeno. Doma pa hranim že končana številna pomembna in dragocena dela na področju romske kulture a žal ni več človeka oz. tiskarne, bi mi pomagali, da bi dali te moje projekte v tisk? Sam pa nisem zmožen tega storiti ker je največji problem denar...Rad bi pomagal vsem otroškim vrtcem, Osnovnim šolam, predšolskim in šoloobveznim romskim otrokom, staršem, učiteljem, pomočnikom, ter Sloveniji in EU. Srečen bom in vesel, če bo tokrat drugače in če se bo našel neki prijazen in pošteni človek oz. Založba, tiskarna, urednik...kot najstarejši Rom v Sloveniji in najboljši Romski kulturni ustvarjalec v Sloveniji so me že pozabili, spregledali me ne marajo več so mi nevoščljivi in ne poznam več človeka v Sloveniji, da bi mi pomagal? Nihče več ne pride k meni domov, da bi se soočil oz. videl moja dela, umetnost, kulturo...Vaš prijatelj, Rajko Šajnovič iz Kočevja.

My paternal grandmother was full Romany Gypsy. As a child I witnessed the prejudice levelled against my grandmother and her family. However, such adversity made them very resilient, full of humour and determined. I am heartened to see such an initiative, supporting Roma culture in all its facets. Thank you so much

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