Purani jaska strazo phabjol
Old firewood catches alight quickly.
A friend upon reunion with his friend
Will smile greatly.
While an enemy, upon reunion with his enemy, will scoul
and snarl as though he had just been wronged.
Friend shall stick by friend
through all ages and times
Brother will love brother, sister will love sister
as family are known and expected to do.
Time and age ripens all feelings
of both love and hate, compassion and loathing.
And should two be apart
the reunion will be met
with those feelings first
and others later.
Old sparks turn into flames once again.
old rivalries rekindle the same.
old loves run just as deep
as the day they were first made.
Old firewood catches alight quickly
So out of the works of art provided, I chose David Zaafra’s Carmen Amaya in her last dance in Bagur, http://www.romaniworld.com/gal15.htm. According to the little sentence or two given with the work, Carmen Amaya died a month after being painted. In the painting, Carmen Amaya is in the middle of a dance, likely a Flamenco considering the rest of the gallery is Flamenco related. What really stands out to me in this painting, however, is the alternating views of her expression. In one respect, she appears to be concentrating, entranced in her routine. The arch of her eyebrows and closed eyes that trace out a pre-determined routine lead her through each step, and Zaafra managed to capture the entire process in just one instance. However, unlike other paintings of dancers and Flamenco poses, this one has an air of sadness, of things coming shortly to a close. the pursing of the mouth and same arching of the eyebrows that express concentration also hold a feeling of wear, the dance is much closer to its finish than it’s beginning. Maybe Zaafra managed to capture a metaphor of life and old age in one painting of a dancer, or maybe he just painted a woman dancing. That’s the beauty of art however, isn’t it? The complete openness to any sort of interpretation the viewer wants. A man may look at the Mona Lisa and see a woman sitting there smiling, while another may see a whole world conatined only in her smile. I choose to see Carmen Amaya as a representation, intentional or coincidental, of something greater. Perhaps another viewer see’s her as a result of hard work, an expert at what she does, deftly execute each motion as gracefully as the last, each motion, every twitch of her fingers made by design. Either way, it’s an awesome portrait.
1. Where does the Gypsy image come from?
The Gypsy image has been around for a very long time. Ever since they began appearing in western culture, the gypsies have had this negative image that persists even today. Although not everyone thinks of them in a negative fashion, typically speaking they are written off as tricksters, pickpocketers. This could come from what is known as the “Great Trick”, which professer Wim Willems explains as the Gypsy using a false home country that never truly politically existed “little Egypt” to gain church blessings and therefore political access into european countries.
2. Why is it so persistent, even though information on the population is readily available?
Since the Gypsy race is so underrepresented, much of the negative stereotypes are taken for granted, and not questioned. No one would look up why England speaks English, another ingrained “fact”, so why question the stereotypes of a people most of the population will never interact with or have to think about in their lifetime? Also, people naturally associate poverty with crime, and with a culture that is so oppressed as the Roma, it is very hard to find employment, and even if they do it is with blue collar jobs. Many Gypsy camps and neighborhoods are extremely poor, and written off by the rest of the social culture.
3. Do Romanies themselves help sustain an inaccurate ‘gypsy image’?
Many of them DO help sustain the image through inaction. It is true that it is extremely hard to defeat prejudices that have been ingrained in society for centuries, but many dont seem to bother trying. Several of the Roma seem equally content to just ignore the non-Roma altogether, to stay as far away from them as possible. This jaded view, while understandable, doesnt help at all, only reinforces the negative image by not offering any alternatives.
In this link, the costume in question is titled the “Gypsy maid” costume. It of course includes a very short skirt and tight-fitting corset. Naturally this is one of the Romani stereotypes, that all the women are sirens or seductresses. However this costume proceeds to take the profiling another step further by adding the maid aspect to the costume. While maids serve a very hard working profession, it is a blue collar/ lower class job. Combining a lower class job with a gypsy aspect implies that all gypsy women are going to serve their lives as maids or equal level positions in society. And of course, none of the reviews point out that this costume is a reinforcement of negative stereotypes to a largely ignorant audience. Instead, they either praise the sensual appeal of the costume or compare it against similar costumes, equally ignorant and offensive. Naturally this costume is not aimed at Romani people or anyone informed on the Roma culture to any level, but instead to the unintentionally ignorant consumer in America that has no exposure to the Roma people, or simply has total apathy for their representation. The Romani are not the only type of people that are negatively represented by companies such as these, There are the obvious other costumes such as the “Sexy Nurse”, which portrays nurses as sex objects rather than highly trained educated people who have worked extremely hard to get where they are in society. These costume companies will sexualize any sort of job or culture they can to make an appeal to the consumer that wants to dress up as ‘sexy’ on halloween, while still being able to make an argument that they chose the costume for the culture, not the height of the skirt. Yet while everyone in America typically knows that Nurses are educated people, hardly anyone knows the first thing about the Romani, and as such only have their exposure to it in things such as costumes and halloween parties.
Everybody loves Halloween, for one reason or another. Children for the candy, and adults because they get to dress up in costumes and get drunk. both the children and adults costumes can be a variety of things, pirates, devils…. and Gypsies. Now this is where the problem lies, because while most other costumes have variety (“slutty” nurse to “scrubs” nurse), if one were to head over to “costumecraze.com”, all gypsy costumes are either “sexy”, “seductive”, or “mysterious”, reinforcing an ages old stereotype of both the mysterious palm reader/fortune teller, and the seductress that leaves all men in her path speechless.
Now, while it all may well sound harmless, “oh its just a costume, no one means anything by it, its just like the slutty nurse costumes”, in reality everyone knows real nurses go to college, are clearly talented enough to get into their field, and in all likelihood don’t sleep with their disease-ridden patients. However, most people dont seem to know quite as much about the Romani people as they do about people who practice medicine, which means the only interaction they have with the Romani culture is either Hollywood stereotypes or the slutty costumes. even though consciously someone may know it is just a costume their friend is wearing that has no basis in reality (and likely neither does the friends consciousness anymore), when it is the only stimulation and exposure, it can become a very persuasive stereotype. couple that with age old stereotypes grounded in medieval times, and there’s a very compelling reason to believe all Romani women are babes that will get you to do things by sleeping with you.
The Gypsy stereotype is a long-lasting one that is heavily ingrained in people, Europeans especially. they’re seen as irresponsible, and careless, known for their preying on the superstitious and inattentive. a culture developed from such rich heritages, and made even deeper by the cultures they’ve come in contact with and lived with for so long. The Romani culture is an underrated culture that is heaped with prejudice and unfounded mistrust.