FACCIAMO DUNQUE L'ELOGIO DEI ROM (GLI
LET US NOW PRAISE THE ROM (GYPSIES)
FOTO DI KAREN GRAFFEO
La mostra presenta
una documentazione fotografica che illustra cinque anni di
vita nei campi
islamici rom in italia ed il Festival a Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in Francia.
Giovedì 19 giugno 2003 alle ore 18.30 una festa, con danze e musica, inaugurerà la mostra.
fotografica dal 19 giugno al 3 agosto 2003
Les Broches L'Ancienne
21 Rue Saint-Nicolas 75012
M Ledru-Rollin ou Bastille
1-30 marzo 2007 / March 1-30,
Studio Art Centers International
Palazzo dei Cartelloni
Via Sant'Antonino, 11
Dal 12 aprile 2007
Biblioteca e Bottega Fioretta Mazzei
Cimitero detto "degli Inglesi"
Piazzale Donatello, 38, I-50132 FIRENZE, ITALIA
Ho trovato una preziosa umanità in questa cultura.
Ho imparato dai Rom molte cose sulla tenerezza, la devozione
e la soppravvivenza. Le mie fotografie saranno disponibili
al pubblico e una percentuale dei proventi sarà donata ai
miei amici Rom che lottano duramente per proteggere le loro
famiglie, preservare la loro cultura, e per avere una dimora
in questo mondo.
I have learned a precious
humnaity in this culture. I learned from the rom much about
tenderness, devotion and survival. My photographs are available
to the public, a percentage of what I recieve going to my Rom
friends who work hard to protect that families, their culture
and to have a dwelling in this world.
The Rom flag is blue for the
sky, green for the earth, with the red wagon wheel. They came
from India to Europe in the Middle Ages, and their flag is taken
from that for India. They have no state, no frontiers, no army.
LET US NOW PRAISE THE ROM
Since 1999 I have been visiting with various groups of Roma (Rom, Gypsies), and documenting their culture inside refugee encampments, caravans, slums and public housing projects in Italy. I want the work to portray the warm humanity and courage of the Roma peoples, Europe's largest minority. I am aware of many problems and challenges they face, The first time I heard the traditional Roma music I heard the canto hondo (the deep song). I had a longing to go to the source of the powerful music and to know something of its people. I was born in South Mississippi and I realized a shock of recognition between the canto hondo and the blue and fa-so-la shaped note gospel singing from my childhood church. In 1999, I borrowed money and time to travel to learn more about the music and culture of the Roma. I admit, I did not know what I was doing or how to begin. Miraculously, I was invited into a Roma refugee campo (encampment) near Bologna, Italy. I have been educated in life now and transformed in ways I never could have anticipated. These photographs are a testament to the generosity and tolerance of the Roma who welcomed me.
I admire the tender, raw honesty of Walker
Evans' and James Agee's documentary Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Their work, which
focuses on sharecropper families in the Deep South during the
great depression, set a standard of intimacy that I wished for my
stay with the Roma families. Similar to Evans and Agee, I did not
go into Roma culture as a journalist or privileged tourist, and I
had no idea if I would be accepted. Since I was unskilled at
languages, my camera was my empty begging bowl and these many
families have been most generous in teaching me over the years
about their culture. I was first so honored with an invitation
into Campo de Santa Caterina, an encampment of Khorakhane (the way of the
Koran) Roma in Bologna, Italy in 1999. My visits there
taught me much about their lives and about survival. At that time
there was an effort to smuggle in Roma refugees from Kossovo and
Bosnia and during my visits refugees would arrive weekly and begin
(huts). And it was tense for them, because without proper
passports and documents, they were so vulnerable and had to hide
their status and location.
Roma are survivors and brilliant cultural mediators. They maintain
ancient traditions, their language which is similar to Hindi or
Sanskrit, their stories, music, while resettling into cultures and
countries with very different beliefs and practices. There is
often a clash as they enter a new culture. The Roma has never had
a nation, yet they maintain their identity as an ethnic group with
a distinct culture.
depict daily life inside various campi (encampments). The first, Campo di Santa
Caterina, was small, with approximately 40 families. Anna Lukaci
and her husband Suald, let me visit in their baracca inside this
encampment. On April 3, 2000 a fire destroyed their baracca and killed both of
their children, a toddler named Amanda and a baby named Alex. I
have returned many times since this tragedy and it is Anna's
spirit and will to survive that motivates me to continue this
documentary. I have seen the power of her courage to embrace all
aspects of life. I see other Roma refugee women who must carry
terrific responsabilities. I hope that this work will create
awareness and proceeds to help with the preservation of this
After the tragic fire, I became reunited
with Anna's family inside Poderaccio, a 200 family Khorakhane campo, outside
Florence, Italy. Poderaccio figures prominently in my
work, primarily because most of the families are Roma refugees.
Not all Roma are refugees, but in Poderaccio many have fled
countries where there is violence or genocide. It is no longer
possible for Roma to be nomadic as it is difficult to cross
borders and to obtain political asylum. It is even more difficult
for them to obtain documents to allow them to seek work. I am
seeing now cooperation between the Roma and brave activists in
Italy who negotiate for the safety and rights of the Roma.
In Poderaccio there is a spiritual leader,
an Imam; he is Sufi, a mystic Muslim. In the traditional practice
of the religion, it is not permitted to make a photograph
containing a human representation. I am careful to honor and to be
prepared when I am given his permission to use my camera. I am
invited to read and write with his family and children and, given
my status as a western woman, I was especially honored when he
invited me to enter the mosque, in a baracca in the center of the
encampment. The photographs I make inside this community are more
formal than those made in Campo di Santa Caterina because I must
seek permission and it is more complicated and risky to make a
photograph. Many families now want to be photographed; it has
taken years to build this relationship and trust. An outsider
could easily be a journalist or undercover agent so feared by
undocumented refugees. At each camp there is even a check point
carefully guarded by Roma, it is impossible to enter without their
invitation and trust. I am not allowed to tell the names of the
location of some images I have made.
In August 2004, Poderaccio was destroyed
by bulldozers and the families were scattered. When a camp becomes
too large there is often desperation and problems beyond the
control and influence of the Imam of the camp or the Italian
government. The Italian government tries to offer some relocation
for these families, but it is overwhelming and there are many
problems and difficult issues. The Commune in Firenze built
wonderful wooden houses for some of the families that were so long
in Poderaccio. I also see now many families from this camp who
live in public housing and some that are totally homeless like the
many Roma refugees arriving from Romania. These are Romanian
Orthodox rather than Muslim. I hope to do more to document the
unique lifestyle and issues facing the Roma from Eastern Europe
that are arriving in Italy.
This work has changed in technique over
the years. I began this project with quite limited equipment and
funding. I had only one 35mm camera. So I photographed with that
camera using black and white film that was sensitive in low light.
I did not want to be mistaken as a journalist, an expert, or an
immigration agent, so my unpretentious equipment was perfect for
the intimate moments that I was living and documenting. Many of
the images made in 1999 and 2000 are hand colored silver prints. I
wanted to make the grainy images made with 3200 film more detailed
and to portray the wonderful colors in the dress and homes in the
camps. To be quite honest, I was proud of my printing skills and
thought that the black and white images were good for that type of
film. But, upon returning to the camps with photographs as gifts
for the families, I learned that they thought the black and white
images were somber and resembled the images commonly found on
Italian tombs. This highly motivated my hand coloring of the black
and white images.
So this documentary is truly a collaboration
. I hope my work is an opportunity for the Roma to present their
own lives without the restraints of the mythologies and
projections from society. In late 2000 I purchased a medium format
camera which has allowed me to make higher resolution images and
to print the photographs at a larger scale. As the families are
now used to me, the larger camera is neither intimidating nor
suspicious, and I am now able to present the Roma more life-size.
There are so many myths about the Roma and so many fantasies about
what it is to be "Gypsy". I hope the work continues to show the
truth, tenderness, fierceness and splendid contradictions of this
culture of brilliant survivors.
|PER FAVORE SONO
POVERA CON 4 BAMBINI
AIUTARMI PICCOLA OFFERTA
[. . .] UNA CASA
ABBANDONATA DIO CRISTO
|PLEASE, I AM
POOR WITH FOUR CHILDREN
HELP ME WITH A SMALL DONATION
[. . .] AN ABANDONED
HOUSE. GOD. CHRIST.
And then my Rom friends from Romania, two sisters and a
sister-in-law, came to see this exhibition in the library where
I have taught parents how to sign their names so their babies
can be returned to them rather than be put up for adoption if
born in Italian hospitals. (This is a form of genocide.)
RAI 1. Il Silenzio di Dio, Isabella Schiavone, Easter Day, 2008, where these photographs in our library were shown on Italian national television.
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