From Berlin to Budapest, young Romani artists get a chance to shine

Young Romani artists from Hungary and Germany are getting the opportunity to display their talent thanks to an ambitious expanded project linking media organisations in Budapest and Berlin.

ROMArtsaims to encourage Roma between the ages of 15 to 21 to develop their creative sides. By bringing together young Romani art enthusiasts with professional Romani artists in a series of workshops, it will attempt to build the youngsters’ work into a communal statement. As a long-term goal, the project is designed to establish young Romani artists’ distinctive cultural identity across a range of media.

Young Romani at work on the ROMArts project in Berlin.
Photo: Krisztina Turna copyright CultureDemocracy

Under the guidance of the CultureDemocracy Association, the inaugural version of ROMArts has already been successfully completed with a week-long art exhibit at Pankow, in Berlin. Seven young Roma spent four days in a workshop environment working both individually and with each other to put together the basis of the exhibit in the form of separate artistic statements using film, video and visual arts to assemble a joint expression of their cultural ideas and identities.

There was widespread interest among the Berlin arts community about the ROMArts exhibit. Photo: Krisztina Turna copyright CultureDemocracy

At its core, ROMArts focuses on artistic creation and dialogue to try to reach and engage people. Participants bring with them ideas for creative projects using visual media and sound as well as biographical information to exchange with peers. It aims to steer young Roma away from traditional cultural stereotypes and into a mindset where their ethnicity actually provides the impetus for diverse artistic concept and action. 

One major aim of ROMArts is to offer young, disadvantaged Roma wider access to art and creative work and thought by networking with professional Roma artists. It’s hoped this will allow them to form strong and commited mutual identities, a lever that CultureDemocracy views as an emphatically democratizing element of the ROMArts project.

ROMArts provides young Roma with a chance to explore their artistic creativity and avoid cultural stereotypes.
Photo: Krisztina Turna copyright CultureDemocracy

For CultureDemocracy’s David Szauder, ROMArts will help Roma youth artists to become more confident and assertive about their abilities, allowing them to think outside of their traditional cultural boundaries. “At first they were a little bit shy, they didn’t really want to talk about being Roma,” explained Mr. Szauder, the organisation’s Art Director. “But once the project got underway they discovered that everybody had their own experience, their own roots and that helped them to make their artistic statement.

David Szauder is the project’s Art Director.
Photo: Krisztina Turna copyright CultureDemocracy

“They are filled with energy and really open-minded. I didn’t expect that they would be so open-minded. They don’t want to just sit around and hope for a miracle, they really want to get out there and learn how to use a camera, or do an interview, technical things as well as learning the creative process and how to make an artistic statement.” You can watch one of the project videos by clicking on this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSllUS39F2k&feature=plcp

Much of the impetus for the initial ROMArts was derived from the experiences of young Berlin Romani towards Roma Holocaust Memorial Day. “It was like a mirror for them,” said Mr. Szauder. “This was their cultural history and it made them think about what they had been and what they could become.”

So it appears that out of the unimaginable tragedy of the Roma Holocaust, with its half-million dead at Nazi hands,is springing enthusiasm, talent, and hope for the future. Hungarian and German Roma are united in forging the creative path to a better understanding of the world around them and their place in it.

ROMArts members found inspiration for their exhibit by talking about the Holocaust.
Photo: Krisztina Turna copyright CultureDemocracy