Artists, actors and playwrights are flocking to the city to show work that celebrates Roma identity and tackles negative stereotypesby Morgan Meaker / April 6, 2018 / Leave a comment
In an old warehouse in eastern Berlin, Mihails Kokarevics sits at the head of a large brown table, reading aloud from his notes. The 31-year-old artist reads his poetry to the room through a theatrical moustache, slightly curled at each end. His writing speaks about racism faced by his community. “It doesn’t matter how much you want to make us dirty,” he says. “We are pure, clean souls inside.”
His audience—the 20-or-so people who share his table—are from Romania, Hungary, Germany and the UK. At first glance, there is nothing to unite them. They don’t look alike; they speak with different accents; they are both men and women. But like Kokarevics, they are all artists and activists from Europe’s Roma community—a minority of 11 million people whose ancestors migrated from India to Europe over 1,000 years ago. Today, they make up just over 1 per cent of Europe’s population.
The group have gathered in Berlin to rehearse for the first ever Roma Biennale: a series of parades, art exhibitions and theatre performances that will mark International Roma Day on the 8th April.
Delaine Le Bas, one of the Biennale’s organisers, says she chose Berlin as the event’s location because the city offered unique opportunities to collaborate with both Roma organisations and mainstream venues.
Over the past seven years, Berlin has emerged as a new capital for Romani arts. Artists, actors and playwrights have flocked to the city to show work that celebrates Roma identity and tackles negative stereotypes.
These artists embrace politics and Europe is regularly criticized in their work. They draw threads through history, highlighting hundreds of years of anti-Roma stigma and violence on the continent.