Roma Seminar with a Finnish Flavor


The two countries are known to share some similarities in the roots of their language, but it was for another reason that the Hungarians and Finns came together on the 27 March in Budapest.

Hosted at the Kesztyugyar Community Center by FINN-AGORA, the subject of the seminar was “The Role of the Media in Creating Equal Opportunities and the Representation of Roma in Finland and Hungary.”

The organizers were founded in 2004 and since then they have been engaged in a wide range of activities including exchanges, education and contemporary arts benefiting from Finnish, Hungarian and international expertise.

Their director Leena Pasanen was not present for the opening speeches which did include Judit Szira, director of the Roma Education Fund.

A long day of debate and discussion included topics such as media education in higher education, hate speech and how it is presented in the media and the results of research conducted by experts in the field.

Finnish Ambassador to Hungary, Jari Vilen also spoke before a photo exhibition was unveiled by Irmeli Huhtala which showcased photographs of Roma used in various commercial advertising campaigns in Finland.

Huhtala has been producing intriguing photographic exhibitions since 1998 when her ‘Diode’ CD-ROM artwork was commissioned by the Finnish Electronics Association. Her work was formally acknowledged in the Media and Message Competition the following year.

However it was in 2007 when Huhtala first exhibited her work portraying Roma in “Koti etsii ihmista” – Roma images in advertising 2007.”

In her website Huhtala wrote ”Visual culture is close against each other and makes the invisible, marginal. I made a pastiche of well-known companies’ advertisements, and tested what it looks like to have ads using Roma.”

The exhibition was later displayed in the Finnish Museum of Photography.

One of the depicted in that exhibition was Maria Friman who took part in a panel discussion. She drew parallels between the Roma in Europe today and African-Americans in the United States many decades ago.

Friman claimed it would take only one Roma to change attitudes, and become a pioneer for the minority.

‘You can do it” insisted Friman, the Finnish Romani journalist and producer. Friman was once the face of many products in Finland as her stunningly beautiful appearance gave her a career breakthrough in advertising.

Today, her aim is to convey the right picture of the Roma in Finland. Rather than exotic, if not romantic, view many have of the Roma in her homeland, she wants to make this more complex. According to Friman, people need to see that the Roma, just like any other group, are a lot more than mere stereotypes or fairytale images.

Most recently this has included the release of rap song entitled “GG Caravan.”

“GG Caravan” is a new super-popular music composition that combines rap and Romani influences from different corners of the world. The first official GG Caravan music video was filmed in December 2011.

Their first album will be released in early spring, and this summer they expect to be featuring in many festivals.