SHINE: EXPLORING THE POWER AND INFLUENCE OF ROMANI VISUAL CULTURE
BY DANIEL BAKERFROM ROMANI ARTS COMMUNITY
Date: 21 June – 13 July 2013
Venue: The Riverfront, Bristol Packet Wharf, Newport NP20 1HG
Organisers – The Romani Cultural & Arts Company
The aim of the exhibition is to stimulate discussion and participation amongst the Gypsy, Roma, Traveller community, the wider community and the arts community, regarding the complex relationship between visual culture and our daily lives.
The project also aims to question hierarchies of artistic practice by examining the role of visual arts within Romani culture. The debate regarding the influence of visual culture across regional, national and international boundaries is both timely and relevant considering the recent portrayal of Romani and Traveller communities through TV programs such as ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’, whose particular depiction of aspects of Romani and Traveller visual culture has led to controversy and claims of misrepresentation.
A focused period of studio research and practice will result in the production of a new body of artworks that examine the aesthetic power and wider influence of Romani visuality across the boundaries of culture and language. The final outcome will take the form of an installation of new works that examine the central role of décor and its importance as an expression culture, home and family life within Romani communities.
The relationship between artistic practice and everyday life signalled by the Roma preoccupation with the ornamentation of functional objects highlights the interdependence between life and art within Romani culture.
Visitors to the exhibition will be encouraged to bring images of objects and décor from their own home environment to be exhibited in an area of the exhibition space.
In the absence of a literary tradition the Roma have acquired a keen facility for aesthetic communication which has resulted in the development of an acute visual and sensory vocabulary. The aesthetic power, contained in Romani artefacts, décor, textiles and other ephemera of Romani daily life, has developed during the Roma’s historic evolution as a collective of diverse yet distinctively connected nomadic groups and continues to play an important role the lives of Gypsy, Roma, Traveller communities and their interactions with the wider world.
The Roma’s focus on visual rather than literary communication has resulted in an innate integration of artistic practice into everyday life. This becomes clearer when we consider that all the objects and artefacts accompanying a historically nomadic community were, and are, required to serve multiple purposes. The need to combine cultural knowledge and artistic nourishment with practicality, portability and expediency has meant that form and function have become intimately and symbolically connected for Roma. This connection continues to inform the world view of both travelling and settled Roma communities today.
This notion of interdependence between Romani life and art is not new. The Roma are considered to be the original Bohemians—admired for personifying non-conformist ideals and values and a creative approach to living that greatly influenced the artists and thinkers of the nineteenth century avant-garde.
The Shine project calls for renewed recognition of the value of Roma’s contribution to wider cultural and social innovation—a reversal of the current status quo, to allow Romani culture to shine across contemporary social and cultural boundaries.
Shine: By Daniel Baker
This project is supported by Arts Council of Wales and is commissioned by the Romani Cultural and Arts Company with the assistance of the Riverfront.