From the Invisible to the Exotic //London

From the Invisible to the Exotic
the public perception of the Roma Gypsy ghetto

a Culture Power presentation
by Catalin Berescu, Alexander Valentino, and guests

Entry is free but booking is essential. Book now at bookings@romanianculturalcentre.org.uk.

Friday 26 June 2009
19.00-21.00, The Ratiu Foundation / Romanian Cultural Centre
Manchester Square, 18 Fitzhardinge Street, London W1H 6EQ; Tel. 020 7486 0295, ext. 108

Hosted by Dr Mike Phillips OBE, British novelist, historian and curator.Following their presence in the Roma Gypsy Survival Strategies series of events at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the London College of Fashion (see details below), architects Catalin Berescu and Alexander Valentino, and their guests bring images and stories from Romania, for an honest discussion on the subject of the Roma Gypsy ghetto.

The Roma Gypsy are probably one of the most widely known but misunderstood communities around. From the fiery rhythms of their music to their perceived way of living and spirit of independence, the Roma have always exerted a fascination on the city dwellers in the West – from artists, writers and musicians to New Age travellers, bringing the proliferation of Gypsy-style or Gypsy-inspired music, the so-called bohemian fashion or boho-chic, and the enduring myth of boundless freedom.

Yet the people who provided the inspiration for these fashions remain most of the times an exotic enigma, and it seems almost nobody wants to exchange exoticism for harsh reality. The vision of the Roma Gypsy ‘nomadic way of life’ is too attractive, so many fail to notice the poverty in which the vast majority of the Roma live. They occupy a real ‘Archipelago of Poverty’, as one Romanian architect put it – collections of shacks and dilapidated buildings in urban and rural areas. In striking opposition to the shaggy, crumbling outdoors, the interiors are usually unexpectedly colourful and neat. The houses are under continuous construction or reconstruction, swiftly and pragmatically adapted to the scarce resources available.

Bearing testimony to the tenacity and inventiveness of the Roma Gypsy ghetto, this discussion hopes to offer answers to how the invisible and the exotic can be translated in terms of real policies addressing real problems.

* * * * * * *
The guests from Romania in the Roma Gypsy Survival Strategies event are writer and Delia Grigore (writer, philologist, academic and Roma rights activist), anthropologist Vasile Ionescu, sociologist Florin Botonogu, and architect Catalin Berescu. Special guest is architect Alexander Valentino. They will make a series of presentations in a seminar taking place at the London College of Fashion, on Tuesday 23 June 2009. Details on www.fashion.arts.ac.uk/events/52693.htm
On Thursday 25 June, all the guests will be present at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) for the closing event of the exhibition EU-Roma Dwelling. Details here.

// // // // // // // //

Culture Power is a programme initiated by the Ratiu Foundation, consisting of a number of presentations and constructive dialogue with an invited audience.
Organised by the Ratiu Foundation / Romanian Cultural Centre in London
www.ratiufamilyfoundation.com; www.romanianculturalcentre.org.uk

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