- The forgotten Europeans. Art of the Romanies, Romanies in art. [Die vergessenen Europäer. Kunst der Roma, Roma in der Kunst.], and: Modernity from Tradition. Perspectives on Romani/Gypsy cultures. [Modern aus Tradition. Ansichten zu den Kulturen der Roma/Zigeuner.]
Two recent exhibitions in Cologne and Bautzen (both in Germany) and the catalogues that accompany them present different perspectives on the cultures and art of Roma/Gypsies. 1The catalogue representing the Cologne exhibition The forgotten Europeans: Art of the Romanies, Romanies in art 2displays a Gypsy woman on its cover, lighting up her pipe, a characteristic motif in the portrayal of Roma/Gypsy women. But the image of a canvas from 1875 is artificially eroded by photographic work and thus refers to the exhibition's alternative perspective of typical stereotypes. The same approach can be found on the cover of the catalogue representing the Bautzen exhibition Modernity from Tradition: Perspectives on Romani/Gypsy cultures. Here, the symbol of the Romani flag, the sixteen-spiked red wheel, is pictured against a purple background, provoking the viewer to look through on a black-and-white print from the 1960s showing a long train of caravans. With the colorful and contemporary design, the typical picture in the background is not traditionally implemented. Thus, the two covers do not rely solely on clichés but explore a deeper a perspective - a central principle of both exhibitions.
The exhibitions took place at almost the same time (Cologne 5 Dec. 2008-1 Mar. 2009; Bautzen 15 May 2009-6 Sept. 2009) and were both presented by museums with a regional focus. Both have international contributors and partners; the catalogues show a similar design and feature multilingual contributions. However, the contents and circumstances of the exhibitions and the catalogues differ in various aspects. The most important one is that Cologne presents an art exhibition inspired, among others, by the first Roma Pavilion at the Biennale di Venezia 2007 (Italy) whereas Bautzen focuses on the different [End Page 94]cultures of Roma/Gypsies, using an anthropological approach similar to the museums in Brno (Czech Republic) and Tarnów (Poland).
The catalogue of the Bautzen exhibition replicates the structure and design that can be found at the museum. Like the four rooms of the exhibition, the catalogue is divided into four chapters: (1) a view on the rural area: Service nomads; (2) a view from the outside: forms of exclusion; (3) a view from the inside: everyday life; and (4) a view on the urban area: being a guest of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians. A brief glance already gives a good idea of the many different perspectives and objects gathered and presented here. The main text and its illustrations are complemented by text modules with further explanations throughout the chapters, and world maps present the global distribution of the different Roma/Gypsy groups in words and pictures. The exhibition 'aims to present the diverse countenance of these people and offer insights into their way of life, insights which go beyond the images of the beautiful Gypsy and the eternal nomad.' (p. 60). Instead of stereotyped images, the exhibition emphasises mobility, flexibility, multilingualism and multicultural co-existence as key parts of the traditional and modern Romani/Gypsy ways of life. The authors show that the Gadje way of life is in many regards closer to this than ever before: 'Today, in particular, given that modern working life requires us to have mobility, flexibility and multilingualism, we might even have more in common with them than we think' (p. 58). This close look at the similarities leads to the thought-provoking statement that 'considered from this perspective, some traditional Romani/Gypsy cultures [. . .] could even enjoy a certain role model status. After...