Consider the visual grammar of the "Gypsy" photograph. Exoticism, and "otherness" separating these people from their majority context. In the words of Czech Professor Miroslav Vojtĕchovský, these images are a theatre of grotesque characters, irreconcilably different, without redemption. Garish colour can further isolation.
RomaRising offers respectful black and white images of dignity, countering stereotype. Many among these souls are highly educated, and have capacity to function as government ministers and lead within society. Indeed, Mr. Ciprian Necula became State Secretary in the Ministry of European Union Funds, representing the Romanian Government. He is not unique.
Mary Evelyn Porter, educator, researcher, and writer produced oral narratives starting in Bulgaria, some 200 in all. Finally the last piece fell in place: hearing each individual's formational story. These narratives obviate "the tendency to define people of colour, rather than allowing them to speak for themselves." (Alina Şerban, Actor, Romania)
Alas, some of the most prepared Roma we encountered are sequestered to the "Gypsy Bubble" of Romani Affairs. Others, unable to deploy hard-earned degrees, seek locales where they are appreciated, allowing a normal life. Witness the obvious sense of freedom on the visages of those within the Canada folio.
RomaRising became a record of feminine empowerment. Time and again we encounter women of strength and achievement stepping onto the stage, and with impact.
RomaRising also has become an international community: participants from 14 countries met one another at the RomArchive rollout in Berlin, some for the first time.
A RomaRising/EU was possible. Enthusiastic endorsement within the Roma and Sinti community was lost on European underwriting institutions. With notable exception, RomaRising is self-funded, at considerable sacrifice.
Our hope is that majority societies will come to recognise the vast talent in these individuals of RomaRising. They are found treasure within their societies. Regardless of their chosen paths, one discovers them to be superlative embodiments of our common humanity.
A note about the narratives: they are transcribed, as told to us by each participant. They are not journalism. As with the portraits, they occurred at a point in time.
We would like to mention Asen Mitkov, of Bulgaria. When introduced to us by Viktoria Petrova, we knew immediately here was the capable colleague we had always sought: a knowledgeable collaborator, who effortlessly facilitated multiple situations, be it by his spoken Romanes, his equilibrium, his empathy. Asen is at the heart of the project's final decade.
Chad Evans Wyatt and Mary Evelyn Porter