Sunday, 15 December 2013

My Big Fat Gypsy Prejudice

Who can resist the entertaining tackiness that is a pineapple dress? The UK Channel 4 show My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding - and its even more garish US equivalent "My Big Fat American Gyspy Wedding" - have catapulted travellers into to the mainstream. Or should one say, turned prejudices into a joke? 

"Gypsy Soul", Bruce Weber for US Vogue April 1992, feat. Rossy de Palma

In Poland, where no such TV show exists but where violence against the Roma is ripe, an art show explores for the first time the notion of Gypsiness. How do people see the Roma, how do the Roma see themselves? The exhibition is a revelation, and you can read my review for this is tomorrow magazine here.

British Roma artist Delaine Le Bas' installation at the Zachęta Gallery in Warsaw

But more crucially, the exhibition may mark the beginning of a serious questioning about the place of Roma culture within the national landscape. "Papusza", a feature film about the life of Polish-Roma poet Bronisława Wajs has just been released. It touches upon the silent chapters of gypsy existence, including the half-forgotten Roma Holocaust, social exclusion and the conundrum of permanent settlement. It is also very beautiful. 

Papusza (2013)

Following all this immersion, I attended a workshop at the Zachęta gallery with Roma artist Gosia Mirga. How do you see us? she asked, and gave us more than one could need to make a collage. This is what I came up with. Hardly as spectacular as a pineapple dress. But then I never thought I'd make it onto Channel 4.

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