Artur Conka – His roots behind the lens

Artur Conka is a young photographer, who brought the attention in Europe on Lunik IX, Slovakia – one of the largest Roma settlements in Slovakia with his debut movie “Lunik IX”. Himself a Roma, he originally comes from Lunik IX, and was born in Kosice, but his family traveled around Europe when he was a small child. They went to Germany, to the Netherlands, France, Belgium and arrived to England in 1998 when he was eight-years-old.

Artur Conka

He is now a 21 years old promising photographer and filmmaker who just graduated with a BA diploma of Photography in England. He still wants to develop his skills through more education and his first movie sounds promising.

In an exclusive interview with Romedia, Artur shared his past, present and his hopes for the future. Because he is originally from Slovakia, Lunik IX, he was always interested in doing something that would improve the situation. This is how he started the idea of documenting the everyday life in one of the biggest settlements in Slovakia.

Interview with Artur Conka – 

Lunik IX is originally built for around 2500 inhabitants, but today there are around 10 000 Roma inhabitants living in the settlement, with 99% unemployment, poverty, illiteracy and exposure to diseases.  Most of the people live there without electricity, water. The heating is a luxury and the only way is to find wood that they are able to burn.

When Artur came back in 2009 with the idea of documenting their life, he realized how important it was to make a movie about this settlement. When asked why he decided to make his first project a movie, he answered: – “In my heart, I’m always a photographer. So I think visually and I see things visually. I found films to be a very easy transition because again, it’s looking through a very fine dot and composing the image. So I found it very easy.  And I just found it also easy to get my point cross as well so film-making is a natural step for me.”

The movie Lunik IX is a short documentary where the author is showing the daily life in the settlement for Roma families. The cruel reality of fighting every day for the daily bread on the one hand and the poverty on other hand is showing the hardships of the Roma population, as well as the ethnic based segregation and the illiteracy brings up questions: What is the government doing to actually help those people?When Artur was explaining the idea of the movie he specified: “I guess that in my movie you don’t really see the point of the other side. Because I just wanted to see the view point of the Roma there.”

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Artur Conka in Lunik IX

But the very reason why his first movie is about Lunik IX is – “Because I was born in Kosice in Lunik 9 I had my early years there. I always had a connection (with Lunik IX) beside this idea of what I wanted, what I thought it will be if I travel back and also wanted to see if there has been a change in terms of people, environment.”

 The truth is that a lot has been changed since he left. The joyful, warm place he left around 15 years ago now is one of the poorest settlements in Europe.  The pictures even frighten me and I saw 5 times bigger settlements. Between the mountains of garbage, demolished hallways of apartment buildings built officially for army, police and Roma (in the 70s) with the name “neighborhood of ABC type”, between the buildings without windows or good conditions we are able to see kids of all ages.

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Screen shoot from the movie “Lunik IX” – Artur Conka

There is a kindergarten and a primary school in the settlement. Knowing that the camp regroups around 10 000 inhabitants I wondered how they were able to fit their children in one kindergarten and one primary school. Then the reality “slapped me in the face” – most of the children are not able to pay the kindergarten fee and they don’t attend. Most of those kids not attending are exposed to drugs, hunger, diseases, illiteracy and most of the times these small facts are destroying their future.

Artur also did Lunik IX: A Photographic Life Story where you can see photos from the exhibition. Indeed Artur’s start is really strong and promising. He managed to bring into the light the story of Lunik IX’s life, showing a cruel reality we maybe try to avoid. Artur is planning to continue with filmmaking and we all are impatient to see his next project.

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Boy in Lunik IX – Artur Conka author

The conditions are more than unacceptable, but the reality is simple – in the nearest future, in the most optimistic situation, the camp will remain the same. In the realistic future, the camp is going to become worst every day. I know that maybe the overall picture should be unacceptable for me, but I can’t stop thinking about all those children, who are never going to have a chance in life just because they are born there. And Artur in this case became the “ambassador” of Lunik IX, and is helping them to share one sad reality.

by Galya Stoyanova