Special Online Project: The Roma People
Copyright Joakim Eskildsen. The Roma Journeys by Joakim Eskildsen published by Steidl. (www.steidlville.com)
In “The Misunderstood” (Sept.-Oct. Utne Reader), I wrote about photographer Joakim Eskildsen’s Roma Journeys project, in which he documented daily life in Roma or “gypsy” communities throughout Europe. The book arrived in the Utne Reader’s offices as we were noticing a flurry of Roma issues and events bubbling up in the news from overseas and considering how we might cover such a broad and rich topic. The more we looked, the more we found, and the following links to articles, interviews, organizations, and other Roma resources will help you deepen your understanding of the Roma’s “never-ending story,” as Eskildsen calls it. —Keith Goetzman
If you liked the photographs from the book The Roma Journeys featured in Utne Reader, read more about the book and see sample photographs on the website of the publisher, Steidl. Steidl puts out many beautiful art books, but this one deserves special kudos for its standout design and presentation.
Joakim Eskildsen’s website also contains some interviews that shed further light on The Roma Journeys. Eskildsen speaks with Joerg Colberg about the photography and editing behind the undertaking, while his partner on the project, writer Cia Rinne, speaks with Krysztof Slabon more generally about The Roma Journeys.
Several organizations are dedicated to spreading news and information about the Roma people. The best way to catch up with news in the Roma world is through RomNews, an information service in English.
For a more scholarly and analytical take on Roma history and culture, visit Rombase, with its “didactically edited information on Roma.”
The University of Texas at Austin is the leading U.S. facility for Roma studies. Check out its Romani Archives and Documentation Center, which houses more than 10,000 books, monographs, articles, papers and letters, prints, transparencies, photographs, audio and video material, and more.
For a personal viewpoint, read Patrin, a web journal that collects many links and information in a highly readable format, though it is no longer updated.
The European Roma Rights Center is an international public interest law group that combats anti-Romani racism and human rights abuses of Roma. The ERRC also covers these issues in its Roma Rights Quarterly.
Roma culture often is boiled down to a few convenient references, most involving music and many involving legendary Gitano jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, perhaps the most famous Roma of all. I count myself among those who became interested in Roma culture via its music, immersing myself in his recordings and reading the biography Django: The Life and Times of a Gypsy Legend. Django’s sound and story have inspired a host of “hot club” bands around the world and events like the Seattle area's DjangoFest.
But it would be a mistake to let Django’s genius overshadow the vast world of gypsy culture or even to define its music, much of which sounds little like the jazz club fare that Django pioneered. For an overview of gypsy music, read Michael Shapiro’s article “They Call Themselves Roma” on Rootsworld. And for a fresh report on gypsy music at the Edinburgh Arts Festival, including its appropriation by Brahms and Liszt, see “Roby Lakatos Puts the Roma in Romantic” by Sarah Urwin Jones in the Times of London.
Roma culture got a big boost in fall 2007 with “Paradise Lost,” the Roma Pavilion at the Vienna Biennale, which drew more than 20,000 visitors. An article by the exhibit’s curator, Timea Junhaus, contains sharp insights into the current state of the Roma psyche. “As a new generation of Roma intellectuals emerges, we are witnessing the birth of Roma consciousness,” he writes.
The 2008 Milano Film Festival in Milan, Italy, screened a special selection of Roma films “that tell of a little-known world,” according to festival promoters. These “inadequately distributed, or not even distributed yet” films included entries from Serbia, Bulgaria, Israel, and Spain.
In the Virginia Quarterly Review, Bulgarian-born journalist Dimiter Kenarov goes inside a Roma community in his home country, and in Eurozine, Nikoleta Popkostadinova covers their dire situation in both Bulgaria and Romania.
Find a riveting in-depth account of the Roma living in Athens, Greece, on the blog This Is Not My Country.