Resources for Education about the Roma and other Traveller Cultures of Europe
Travellers, who - linguistic evidence suggests - came to Europe from Rajasthan, India, over a thousand years ago, have long been persecuted. It was to escape this persecution that they likely originally left Asia, and began a movement West, first through Eastern Europe, on through France, Italy, and Spain.
Through this time, the words used to describe them often mischaracterised their origins as being Egyptian - hence the word "Gypsy" and "Gitan", the latter used to describe Travellers who arrived in Spain. There are many different communities, who go by different names, that come from a shared culture and migration - some of whose names are also considered now to be slurs.
A celebration of the diverse cultures comprised of the Rom, Ashkali, Gitan, Tsigane, and other Traveller communities is important to acknowledging the intelligence, creativity, and artistry of these groups. However, any examination of, for example Romani dance and music, needs to be viewed within the context of the past and present persecution that they face.
To supplement this week's podcast, we have compiled a list of 3 documentaries about the Roma which offer an overview on their history, and some examples of contemporary plights in which they find themselves. From genocide in the 1940s, to being forced to endure lead poisoning in the 1990s, Europe's largest ethnic minority is a rich and varied culture that is horrifically mistreated and shunned.
We strongly encourage you to learn more about the history of the Roma in supplement to hearing about their incredible music, design, art, writing, engineering and food which are on display in the film Gadjo Dilo in which our guest on the podcast this week stars.
We also encourage you to check out the Roma Oral History Project, which launched in May 2020, and Project PAL which "was created to fight discrimination and anti-Gypsyism in education and employment inside the EU" and offers positive real-life stories and representation of Roma in their own words.
Gypsy Blood: The Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian IDPs of Mitrovica, Kosovo
This short, 15 minute film documents the Roma who live in Kosovo, who are exposed to toxic levels of lead from a nearby waste dump, but are unable to leave and settle elsewhere due to restrictions placed on their movement. In the words of local Roma medical practitioners and family members, the stories of the lives of children that have been disrupted or ended early are told, against the backdrop of their homes and communities.
A People Uncounted
The film tells the story of the Roma, commonly referred to as Gypsies—a people who have been both romanticized and vilified in popular culture. The Roma have endured centuries of intolerance and persecution in Europe, most notably the Holocaust genocide where an estimated 500,000 were murdered. A People Uncounted documents their culturally rich yet often difficult lives, and demonstrates how their present state has been deeply shaped by the tragedies of the past.
The film trailer can be viewed here, while the full film is available for purchase and download at a number of online locations, or for free with a US public library card or university login at Kanopy.
The feature length film tells the true story of one community of Roma people living in Bulgaria. After being evicted from their homes, over 200 of them are forced to live in shantytowns without proper sanitation. Despite years of promises from the government for housing, their living conditions only get worse while members of the community struggle to survive with what little they have. Documenting their fight for new homes and featuring interviews with leading Roma Rights experts, “Welcome Nowhere” paints a detailed picture of one of Europe’s most controversial issues.
Watch in full, for free, here.