Bijav

Weddings in different cultures have always intrigued me in the traditions they use to tie two (or more at times) people together. I think the  symbolisms of the actions taken by the bride and groom in different religions and their meanings say so much about that group of people and their social environment. A bijav in Romani culture is not a required thing but it’s something the Romani people do in order for society to recognize their marriage. “The consecration of a couple’s living together is a mangavipen. Abijav is a social affair… Couples had an official ceremony more or less because of social and economic pressure of the official authorities.” (ROMBASE) At the bijav there is a lot of music and dancing and it’s seen as a huge celebration. While managavipen were the true joining of the couple (kind of like a proposal), with the inner circles of the family, bijavs could have invitations going out to over a hundred guests. A chibalo is chosen by relatives of the couple to perform the ceremony. This shows the tying of intimacy into the ceremony even though there are a lot of guests. It also demonstrates the importance of family and trust, while other religions look for someone who seems to be high in the church or close to God. The rituals performed in the ceremonies vary based on the geographical location of the Romani and what influences non-Romani have had on their culture. In my poem, I am going to use the ritual when the bride and grooms’ wrists are tied together with a red scarf and then brandy is poured into each of their hands for the other to drink. I think I am going to show this ritual from a young girls perspective in my poem.

 

Milena, Hübschmannová. “Bijav.” ROMBASE – Didactically Edited Information on Roma. N.p., Mar. 2002. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.

International Roma Day!!

 

 

 

While the official date was yesterday, April 8th, it’s never too late to spread awareness for the Romani rights movement! We’re all people, lets act like it!

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Romani Proverbs

“A fly won’t fly into a mouth that’s shut” -Romani Proverb

(Keep your mouth shut and you won’t get into trouble)

from We are the Romani people by Dr. Ian Hancock

 

Proverbs definitely work to reflect the Romani people’s view on certain things in the world. In many of them, references to luck and fate can be seen. However, it is often contradicted by the idea of perseverance and initiative. I think this has to do with the Roma struggles in the past. In some situations like World War II they were lucky to survive the mass executions, and therefore could see themselves as chosen or that it was fate they were able to make it out alive. But after harsh times like those had passed the Roma were left broken and hurt by the loss of their loved ones and therefore worked to persevere for their people in hopes to ensure things like this never happened again. I believe their purpose is to inspire and unite the Romani people during whichever situation or struggle they may be facing. The proverb I chose, “A fly won’t fly into a mouth that’s shut”, I think can be very well understood even in English. I think a more common, similar one would be “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. I was really surprised to find a Romani proverb that so closely related to an English one I grew up hearing. Like I said earlier, I believe the proverb I chose does relate to Romani struggles and history and acts as a sort of warning to the people in relation to the government and those who could do them harm. Whether it be about keeping their culture a secret or just laying low in a society that may react harshly to their presence I think this proverb is very interesting and displays some of the Romani history.

 

Hancock, Ian. We Are the Romani People. Great Britain: University of Hertfordshire Press, 2002. Print.

Maternity by David Zaafra

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Maternity – David Zaafra

 

Maternity by David Zaafra shows the image of a Romani woman with her son and displays a labor of love. To describe this work I would use the word “pain”. I think this work connects to the word in the boy’s eyes, as he looks hungry and unclothed, and the mother’s face shying away from the viewer. The mother not showing her face causes some emotions for the viewer, as she looks like she could be crying. This could be seen as a moment of clarity in the struggles of the Roma. This woman now has a child who she loves and wants to give everything she can to, but society disables this dream and leaves her hoping she can at least feed and clothe him. I think this piece emphasizes black and white to make the message clear that it is a grim one and should not be masked with false hope of color. I think the way Zaafra blurs the edges is also very intriguing as it forces the eyes straight onto the face of the little boy. I think this works to communicate the message that Romani struggles cannot be ignored anymore and make you look straight into the eyes of those who are suffering the most. As far as my opinions on this piece, I enjoy it. I think it is a perfect balance of color and lighting. I also think the message behind it is extremely important and it is portrayed very well. There’s no dramatization of color or anything to force the viewer into thinking something, but it truly touches the heart and encourages the onlooker to want to understand what’s occurring. I also think making the mother’s head be turned away from the viewers sight works to display a helpless mother who could even seem to be crying. 

 

“Only Ashes Remain” -Haliti

“They come from far-flung places – 
men, women, children,
hungry, dry, unshod –
They are the Roma,
dressed in rags,
walking through mud.
 
They are drawn by
promises of a land
they can call their own,
houses, fields, firesides:
false Ustashi words.
 
They are a people of sorrow.
 
Only a chamber of gas
awaits them.
Their infants are screaming,
all sleep forsaken.
Their land is a mound
of charred limbs.
 
Where once there were
dreams,
white horses,
distant plains,
only ashes remain.
The innocent child’s smile
has evaporated into sky.”
 
Haliti uses his work, Only Ashes Remain, to describe the Roma’s horrid treatment during the second World War. Haliti, a Croatian Roma, describes his people as they travel over lands far and wide in an attempt to find safety. In the first stanza, his words work to paint a picture of what a hard life the Roma have faced over the centuries in a form of poverty. Unable to find a homeland, the Roma have been left with little to no protection from any government or country. The second stanza, further elaborates on the Roma’s yearning for a homeland. Haliti says, “They are drawn by promises”. This line is significant in explaining the Roma’s distrust with the rest of society. They are constantly told to leave with “promises” and hope that somewhere out there there is a place for them out there to live in peace; However usually when the Roma arrive in a new location they are greeted with harsh resistance. Line 11 references Utashi which is an important historical reference. The Ustashi took control of Croatia, the poet’s location, and started persecuting Romanies along with other minorities (National Archives). The next few lines display the immense sorrow and helplessness that the Roma feel in society. In stanza 3 the poet uses gruesome imagery to show the inhuman treatment of the Romani people. The first line, “Only a chamber of gas awaits them” and the last line “Their land is a mound of charred limbs” metaphorically connect in saying the limbs of their land lay burning, much like the bodies of the Romani people in these gas chambers. The last stanza symbolizes the death of the Romani dream of a homeland and of the Romani soul. The last two lines, “The innocent child’s smile/has evaporated into the sky” this line works to symbolize the gas chambers smoke but also creates an image of a child going to heaven. 
 
Haliti, Bairam. Only Ashes Remain. 20 March 2014.
 
National Archives: http://www.archives.gov/research/holocaust/finding-aid/civilian/rg-84-yugoslavia.html

“Big Fat Gypsy Gangster”

The film Big Fat Gypsy Gangster came out in 2011 and follows the “gypsy gangter”, Bulla, as he is released from jail after a 16 year stay. He is known as the “most dangerous man in Britian” and upon his release becomes determined to climb back to the top of his criminal empire. One of the first lines in the ad for the movie features this “Gypsy gangster” saying, “I’ve never been in to a bank without robbing it”. The next words that flash across the screen are “Villian”, “animal”, “convict”, “hero?”. The only word that has a question mark after it is hero. Signifying that all the other statements are true but could he also be a hero while already being all these horrible characteristics. Clips of him fighting in the streets are also seen with women holding up signs and cheering him on. This character is definitely necessarily Gypsy as it is in the title and he seems to have a sense of being a type of other breed from the rest of society.

The stereotypes of gypsy criminals, as well as the pressures on men to be violent are reinforced to the viewers in this movie. Hancock discusses the stereotypical ora that’s been placed around the word “gypsy” in “Gypsy Mafia, Romani Saints: The Racial Profiling of Romani Americans”. He elaborates on how society depicts Gypsies and Romanis as two different groups with negative condentations on the gypsies. Simply if you are a gypsy are suspected of being a gypsy you are usually more subjected against which can lead to issues with the law. Katz’s also describes the commonly reinforced stereotype of men to be strong, unemotional, heroes in Tough Guise: Violence, Media, and the Crisis in Masculinity. This film definitely serves as one of the media outlets Katz is referring to. It takes a male and turns him in to this macho human being, which damages the self esteem of men and in some cases forces them to become more aggressive and violent to fill this stereotype.

 

Big Fat Gypsy Gangster. Dir. Ricky Grover. Black and Blue Films, 2011. Film.

Hancock, Ian. Danger! Educated Gypsy! An Anthology of Essays by Ian Hancock: “Gypsy Mafia, Romani Saints: The Racial Profiling of Romani Americans.” Nottingham: Five Leaves Publication, 2007.

Katz, Jackson, dir. “Tough Guise.” Violence, Media, and the Crisis in Masculinity. N.d. Television.

 

“The Male Gaze”

Women have fascinated men with their unique bodies and crystal eyes way before film was available. However, now that such a medium is here, the boys have wasted no time living out their fantasies on a real stage– cinema. While this excites men and surely gets them to the theatre on time, women are left as victims in this patriarchal society. Women get generalized in being seductive and almost needy with no direction with out a man in their lives. It’s obvious that these stereotypes of women have come from a “mans world” and fulfill a male fantasy led by their ego. An example of this suppression can be seen in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The very famous scene involving Esmeralda dancing at the Festival of Fools, is the epitome of what a male thinks a woman should be. She has a very nice body and displays it through dance. The men are in awe of such a magnificent spectacle, however anything less the would not accept. She shows how flexible she is by dropping in to a split and winking to entice the audience. Personally I think Esmeralda is in perfect control of what she is doing and is using her strength and the easily captivated mind of some men to her advantage. The “male gaze” is seen however in the way she is filmed and the camera angles. At the time when she drops down in to the split the camera goes lower to capture the angle from the audiences perspective. The audience happens to be all men, making it very apparent that it is literally the male gaze. She then looks down seductively and winks at the men, creating the fantasy. Mulvey speaks of this fantasy in her essay, “A Political Use of Psychoanalysis”. He also introduced this concept of the “male gaze”.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Disney, 1996.

Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Film Theory and Criticism : Introductory Readings. Eds. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. New York:Oxford UP, 1999: 833-44. 13 February 2014.

 

Gender Bias in Hollywood

Industry inequality and gender bias are shown through awards shows by using the Bechtel test. I was unaware of this unique test until I watched the detailed video, The Oscars and The Bechdel Test. The Bechdel Test is used to measure whether women are justly represented in the entertainment industry today. Many movies center around a male character with some women on the side filling in typical stereotypes. The Bechdel Test includes three things: 1. There must be at least two or more women in it 2. Who have names 3. and talk to each other about something besides a man (feminist frequency). When used in relation to the Oscar nominations it’s shocking to see how many do not pass the test. The few that do are usually centered around women characters anyways. This is really interesting to see especially because men and women take over about half of the population each, so the numbers are generally equal, however in movies/TV shows the dynamic drastically changes. (feminist frequency). I think in relation to Romani people this is a huge factor to why many gypsy characters are women and have that specific purpose. Gypsy women as characters in a movie are not meant to make one think, but to fill a stereotype that is already known to the viewer. However this is when, on the rare occasion, Romani people are represented. The market is over flowing with straight, white men and that’s what viewers are used to seeing. Therefore, when a character comes in out of the ordinary like a woman or a person of another ethnicity they are always there for a reason whether it be humor or drama. Although this is wrong, Hollywood today is still dominated by these practices even though the characters and interactions do not represent the audience well. 

 

Romani Discrimination

After reading the assigned articles on Romani treatment in Europe it is obvious that discrimination and mistreatment is happening. However, acts on an ethnicity in this day and age do not usually come about with no reasoning. I’m not insisting what is happening is right or actions like this should ever be taken on a group, but I also haven’t learned the laws and acts that are being said to limit this ethnicity or the lawmakers outlooks on the subject. Maybe in the past groups were mistreated for fun and other reasons, but not today unless it’s an unusual situation. Politics, economics, and social problems lead to actions like this. I also understand that the articles and videos being shown are very biased and show one side of the story. It would be nice to read something by an totally objective third party instead of someone who has personal opinions about the matter. I do not have an issue with accepting that Romani people are being discriminated against if the sources are reliable.

However based on the sources, the Romani people have been discriminated through out Europe because of their ethnicity. The perpetuating rumors of Gypsies being scary, bad people began a long time ago when they first started being nomadic and settling in foreign areas. Many had to steal and break the law in order to provide for their families. The first legal act taken against Romani people was in 1416 (Hancock). Hancock also discusses the possibility of institutionalized racism starting with these first acts and extending in to the present. Their physical appearance as well as their secluded way of life causes many “outsiders” to question their culture and values. Gypsies create false, even magical identities about themselves to keep others away from their culture, and while this succeeds in doing this it also makes them subject to discrimination.

Hancock, Ian. “We Are the Romani People”. University of Hertforshire, 2012. Print.

“Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier.”

Uninvolved in the Romani culture, I’ve been subjected to gaining information from illegitimate, second-hand sources when forming my personal opinions. Like the matters discussed in Chimamanda Adichies TED talk on “The Danger of a Single Story”, throughout my life I have only heard one side of the story. All of this began when I was very young and totally unaware of the situation, I thus had no way of protecting or shielding myself from the bias that was formed. I grew up in a very open and accepting environment, so no judgements or suggestions of racial superiority were put in to my head by my parents, it all came from the outer world. Like every child, I enjoyed watching TV shows, having books read to me, and most importantly looking at the pictures. To a child, images have immense meaning when written words do not yet have substance. Many authors spend hours revising, alternating, and adding words in order to have an effect on the reader, however images are not thought out to this extent. Just as Adichies spoke about her writing stories about all white people in snow even though she lived in Africa and had never seen snow and the majority of her friends we not white. This demonstrates how fragile a childs’ mind is to subtle and unintended racial bias. 

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http://www.theguardian.com/media/2012/oct/03/big-fat-gypsy-weddings-stereotypes

A group that became known to me through books and movies as a child were the gypsies. The first solid encounter I can name would be the classic childrens’ movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Which portrayed gypsies as sexual, mysterious, and magical. However, there are also other stereotypes going on about gypsies. This advertisement by Channel 4 to promote the show “Big Fat Gypsy Wedding” was flagged as racially inappropriate, and for good reason (Sweney). This poster portrays the word “gypsy” in a way that many people, uneducated on gypsy culture would understand. To the average person the word gypsy stands for a type of life style, not a type of person. The ad is basically saying come watch our show because you’ve heard the rumors and stereotypes about how crazy gypsies are and we can confirm them. This is a huge issue especially when advertisers feel it is okay to include this image and saying nationally. 

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