Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Online petition to save Prague's World Romani Festival KHAMORO gaining signatures quickly


PHOTO : Jaipur Maharaja Brass Band from India performing at Khamoro's gala concert last year. Archive Romea.cz

An online petition in support of preserving the World Romani Festival KHAMORO gained almost 400 signatures immediately and is continuing to garner support. This year's festival, the 14th annual, is scheduled to take place next month but is now at risk of collapse because of a radical reduction of the subsidy provided by the Czech Culture Ministry. The subsidy commission recommended (and the Czech Culture Minister approved) a subsidy of only CZK 600 000 (less than EUR 25 000). This is less than half of the amount the ministry provided the festival last year.

Organizers of the festival say that if the subsidy is reduced by that much, they will come up roughly one million crowns (EUR 40 000) short. The festival is scheduled to begin next month and the organizers have already signed contracts with the musicians and performers, purchased their flights, and booked their accommodation. Activists supporting the festival have posted an online petition which was reported on by news server Romea.cz demanding that the Czech Prime Minister and Czech Culture Minister increase government financing for the festival (see http://www.petice24.com/petice_za_zachovani_svtoveho_romskeho_festivalu_khamoro).

The Culture Ministry has issued an official response to the petition which does give some reason for hope. Should the available funding not be allocated in its entirety, "ORNK [Editors' note: Odbor regionální a národnostní kultury Ministerstva kultury - the Culture Ministry's Department of Regional and National Culture] is counting on disbursing the remaining pecuniary consideration at the start of the second half of 2012. It can therefore be presumed that a certain amount would be provided to increase the contribution to the project of the World Romani Festival KHAMORO 2012, just as we did in 2011," Markéta Ševčíková, press spokesperson for the Czech Culture Ministry, told news server Romea.cz. The ministry's full statement is available here (Czech only): http://www.romea.cz/cz/zpravy/mk-cr-je-mozne-ze-dotaci-na-festival-khamoro-navysime .

"The worst possible outcome would be that the Culture Ministry reduces its subsidy," said Michaela Szkála of the Slovo 21 association, which runs the festival. This year the association received only CZK 600 000 compared to CZK 1.3 million last year. Prague City Hall has also reduced its contribution from CZK 1.8 million to CZK 1.7 million. "We have one million crowns less than last year to work with," Szkála said, adding that while she understands the economic situation is not an easy one, the Culture Ministry's subsidy is a matter of life and death for the festival. Moreover, the amount of money contributed by the state has been steadily falling for several years now. Last year the festival's budget exceeded CZK 6 million (EUR 244 000).

Organizers have already had to start reducing this year's program because of lack of financing. For example, a demonstration of traditional Romani christening customs has already been cut from the program. However, binding contracts with dancers and musicians from all over the world have already been signed which cannot be broken. "We are doing our best to find sponsors wherever we can," said Tomáš Bystrý, a member of the festival's organizing team who said sponsors have shown little interest in supporting this kind of event.

Ethnographer Eva Davidová put together a petition calling on the Czech Culture Minister Alena Hanáková (TOP 09) and Czech PM Petr Nečas (ODS) to re-evaluate the subsidy proceedings. "In order to save the festival it is essential that the subsidy be increased by an amount proportional to the fact that the Romani minority is the largest minority on the territory of the Czech Republic," the petition reads. Davidová's petition also reminds the public that the festival is not only artistically beneficial, but socially beneficial. The petition was reported on by news server Romea.cz and received 100 signatures in just a few hours.

The KHAMORO festival (the word means "sun" in Romanes) has been held in Prague since 1999. It will be held this year from 27 May - 2 June. This event is one of the largest Romani arts festivals in the world, presenting not only Romani dance and music, but also exhibitions by Romani artists and conferences on Romani history and eliminating segregation.

voj, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
While one can read the petition in English, the signing part is in Czech.
It's possible to figure it out. I was able to sign.

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