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RomaRising

Chad Evans Wyatt | Romania

Ciprian Necula is currently an Associate Professor at the Romanian State University for the study of Politics and Administration in Bucharest. At the time this portrait was taken, Ciprian was State Secretary in charge of EU funds earmarked for Romanian Roma. “Our goals for the twenty-first century require selecting potential models to best represent the Roma as a transnational people as Nicolae Gheorghe envisioned. Above all the Roma must be included in all aspects of Romanian society.” Ciprian Necula is a trailblazer; a champion of an unwavering commitment to sustainable outcomes.

― Mary Evelyn Porter

Consider the “Gypsy” photograph as text. The prevailing ingredient is exoticism, an “otherness” separating this group from its majority context. Such style of photograph, in the words of Professor Miroslav Vojtěchovský, produces a theatre of grotesque characters, irreconcilably different, without redemption. Often, those pictured are presented in garish colour, furthering the isolation.

RomaRisingoffers quiet, respectful black and white images of dignity, counter argument to those who would discriminate.First, we consider human terms. Among these mostly anonymous souls, a few even have capacity to perform as ministers within governments, and as society-wide leaders. Indeed, Mr. Ciprian Necula did become State Secretary in the Ministry of European Union Funds, representing the Romanian Government.

The portraits feature biographical narratives by Mary Evelyn Porter. Now one can hear in each individual’s own words the life experiences that have givenRomaRisingparticipants their vibrancy.

Dr Margarete Matache, former Director, Romani Criss/Bucharest, now of Harvard FXB, for her extensive introductions in Romania

Dan Pavel Doghi, formerly of Roma Education Fund, now of OSCE Warsaw, for his project advice, and introductions in Romania

George Christian Gogan,  Project Assistant Romania

In the 1990s, while photographing a project on Czech Artists, I became aware of the stereotypical, prejudicial attitudes towards Sinti and Roma evident in the press, including articles translated into English. The dignity which I conferred on participants was absent from the perspective I saw everywhere in Czech media.I realized that here was an opportunity to document a current human rights issue, while referencing the Civil Rights Era in the United States, in which my own parents had participated in the 1940s.Through leaders in the Roma Civil Rights movement, I had learned that slavery in Romania had been endured for over five hundred years and that Sinti and Roma along with Jews and other minorities had been transported to concentration camps and deported to Transnistria in north eastern Romania.

The reference to “Rising”in the project title, “RomaRising”celebrates the resurrection of the Romani working and middle classes lost 50 years earlier to the depredations of the Holocaust.RomaRisingis now an international community, with 400 portraits in 12 countries.The project has become a document to the empowerment of Romani women.Education has been a mantra for the Roma, as it was to African-Americans; no one benefited more than Romani and Sinti women.

Some years into the project, I was introduced to Mary Evelyn Porter, a writer and researcher.She composes incisive oral histories, giving voice to those portrayed.Participants consistently attest to the role of family in giving them the strength to accomplish the arduous task of overcoming stereotypes and confronting blatant prejudice even among colleagues.Each participant in Romania has both a visual and textual portrait.

Chad Evans Wyatt

RomaRising

In 2013, Chad Evans Wyatt offered me the opportunity to create narratives based on the oral histories of Roma and Sinti participants in theRomaRisingproject.The voices heard in the narratives are those of medical professionals, entrepreneurs, craftspeople and artists, of concert musicians, educators, activists and students.The over two hundred narratives I have written so far constitute generational and transnational bridges of knowledge, the authentic voices of Roma and Sinti Communities across Europe.The excerpts selected for this exhibition, blend with the “quiet, respectful black and white photographs” of Chad Evans Wyatt to create portraits in image and text that illustrateRomaRising.

Mary Evelyn Porter

RomaRising

None.  Self-funded project.

RomaRising project:  wyattphoto@his.com

Chad Evans Wyatt:  wyattphoto@his.com

Mary Evelyn Porter:  mevporter@gmail.com

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