Roma family in Seyðisfjörður, 1912. Photo by Björn Björnsson. Source: National Musum of Iceland
Roma in the Centre is an initiative uniting several Romani Studies related projects under the auspices of the Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute of Foreign Languages. It is a sign of our long-terms commitment to research, present and popularise — in Iceland, in Nordic countries, in Europe and globally — the literature and culture of the Roma/Gypsies. The centrality of the Romani agency is crucial for the initiative´s approach. Our belief is that Roma should be positioned not on the margins, as often done in mainstream culture and media discourse, but in the centre. The activities include:
Three workshops that provide a platform for discussion of Romani agency in various forms of literature, folklore and cultural production with the participation of Roma active in both academia and practice. The workshops bring a novel approach into the research agenda of Romani Studies in Nordic context, and will be organized as follows:
1. Roma in the Centre: Narratives by Roma in oral and written culture, June 14-15, 2019, University of Iceland. See more about the event here
2. Roma in the Centre: Archiving Roma Cultural Heritage, October 24–25, 2019, Finnish Literature Society, Helsinki.
3. Roma in Nordic societies, May 12–13, 2020, CBEES, Södertörn University, Stockholm.
Supported by the Joint Committee for Nordic research councils in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NOS-HS)
The University of Iceland is hosting the biggest annual scholarly event in the field of Romani Studies, the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Gypsy Lore Society and Conference on Romani Studies, August 15 to 17, 2019. The conference is organized by the Vigdís International Centre and is supported by the Rector of the University of Iceland. 126 participants from over 30 countries (Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Mexico, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, UK, USA) will present 114 papers.
Database of Romani publications´ bibliography
Postdoc research project implemented by Sofiya Zahova with the support of the Icelandic Centre for Research (RANNÍS). Its goal was to research and analyse the interrelated history of Romani identity policies and written culture practices on the example of Romani publications in Europe and worldwide. Romane lila (meaning Romani books/publications in Romani) contributes to the academic knowledge and societal understanding of the Romani literature by various means among which creation of a database of Romani written culture, lectures, papers and publications looking into Romani literature in Europe and globally as a common phenomenon.
The open access publication of the theoretical results and the Romani literature database are expected to be a solid resource for future scholarship from different disciplines. They are useful for practitioners as Romani teachers, experts on Roma issues, minority publishers, cultural rights activists, etc., and contribute to elevating the status of Romani written culture and language as part of the world’s linguistic heritage. In this way, in a moment of a rise of strong anti-Roma and anti-migrants feelings throughout Europe backed up by century-long negative stereotypes, the project contributed also to strengthening Romani communities’ self-esteem.
The project outputs are:
A developed Romani literature research infrastructure (including a comprehensive up-to-date bibliography of Romani publications pieces, small Romani publications library at the VFI, archival collection of 30 interviews with researchers and Romani authors and activists, as well as digitalization and recordings; a database of Romani literature titles with at over 2000 entries was created and awaits future publishing at a research repository.
Solid theoretical grid that became the methodological background of the postdoctoral research and for the publications produced.
Contribution to the theory of and scientific knowledge about Romani literature by publicity of the results among researchers;
Initiating a Nordic network of researchers and Roma activists working on literary, folklore and history narratives (including obtaining funding for future activities);
Starting up an informal global network for Romani literature research that is currently organizing annual panels at the biggest academic Romani Studies event;
A total of 21 papers and invited talks given at 6 (Icelandic) and 15 international academic forums on the topic of the research project;
8 published articles and monograph on Romani literature.
Nýdoktorsverkefni Sofiyu Zahova styrkt af Rannsóknamiðstöð Íslands (RANNÍS). Markmið verkefnisins var að rannsaka og greina innbyrðis tengda sögu sjálfsmyndastefna Rómafólks og menningarvenja þeirra, eins og þau koma fram í ritum Rómafólks í Evrópu og annars staðar í heiminum. Romane lila (sem þýðir bækur Rómafólks / rit skrifuð á Rómaní) er framlag til fræðilegrar þekkingar og samfélagslegs skilnings á bókmenntum Rómafólks á margan hátt; sem gagnagrunnur um menningu Rómafólks, fyrirlestra, ritgerða og útgáfu, þar sem litið er á bókmenntir Rómafólks í Evrópu og á heimsvísu sem samtengt fyrirbæri.
Vonir standa til að opinn aðgangur að gagnagrunni Róma-bókmennta og fræðilegs efnis þar að lútandi, gagnist rannsakendum úr mismunandi greinum í framtíðinni. Þessi gögn munu nýtast kennurum úr röðum Rómafólks, sérfræðingum í málefnum þeirra, útgefendur úr röðum Róma og annarra minnihlutahópa og baráttufólki fyrir menningarlegum réttindum, og stuðla að aukinni virðingu fyrir menningu og tungumáli Rómafólks, sem hluta af tungumálaarfleifð heimsins. Á tímum sem einkennast af neikvæðum staðalímyndum og auknum fordómum gegn Rómafólki og innflytjendum um alla Evrópu, stuðlar verkefnið síðast en ekki síst að því að styrkja sjálfstaust innan samfélaga Rómafólks.
Verkefnið hefur gefið af sér:
Ítarlegan rannsóknagrunn um bókmenntir Rómafólks (þar með talin víðtæka og nýuppfærða heimildaskrá yfir ritverk skrifuð á Rómaní, lítið safn bóka á Rómaní í Stofnun Vigdísar Finnbogdóttur, safn 30 viðtala við vísindamenn, rithöfunda úr röðum Rómafólks og aðgerðasinna í málefnum þeirra, ásamt stafrænum útgáfum á textum og upptökum. Gerður var gagnagrunnur með yfir 2000 titlum sem bíða framtíðarútgáfu í varðveislusöfnum rannsókna.
Traustan fræðilegan ramma sem varð aðferðafræðilegur bakgrunnur nýdoktorsrannsóknarinnar og útgefins efnis.
Framlag til kenninga og vísindalegrar þekkingar á bókmenntum Rómafólks með kynningu niðurstaðna meðal vísindamanna;
Frumkvæði að norrænu neti vísindamanna og Róma-aðgerðarsinna sem vinna að bókmennta-, þjóðsagna- og sagnaritum (og fjáröflun til framtíðarstarfsemi);
Upphaf óformlegs alþjóðanets fyrir rannsóknir á Róma-bókmenntum, sem nú leggur drög að árlegum umræðum á stærsta fræðilega viðburði innan Rómafræðanna;
Alls 21 grein og boðsfyrirlestra flutt á 6 (íslenskum) og 15 alþjóðlegum viðburðum um efni rannsóknarverkefnisins;
8 birtar greinar og ritgerðir um bókmenntir Rómafólks.
Books from the Romani library created within Romane lila project, and the Icelandic language collection of short stories, „Sunnudagsmatur og fleiri sögur Rómafólks“
Despite its fame of a reading nation and leading position in various per capita publishing ratings (number of titles and print runs produced annually, number of published authors, etc.), Iceland was, until 2020, the only European country in which literature works by Romani authors had not been published.
To address this gap and popularise the diverse Romani literature scene, VFI published in 2020 Sunnudagsmatur og fleiri sögur Rómafólks, as part of its short stories series. This is the first-ever Icelandic language collection of short stories written by some of the most acclaimed Romani authors publishing in this genre and one author of Scottish Traveller background, and includes stories by Georgijy Tsvetkov, Ilona Ferková, Jess Smith, Jorge Emilio Nedich, Jovan Nikolić and Mateo Maximoff.
Sunnudagsmatur og fleiri sögur Rómafólks was supported by Icelandic Literature Centre (Miðstöð íslenskra bókmennta).
Taikon (Sweden, 2015) Merry is the Gypsy Life (Bulgaria, 2017)
Organizing Romani movies season showing award-winning feature movies and documentaries about Roma that have been screen played, directed or consulted by Roma. Forthcoming in 2020.
For more information about Roma in the Centre initiative, contact Sofiya Zahova, researcher at VFI, email@example.com
Art is a reflection of every society. It is a reflection (GENDAL’IPEN in Roma language) of the world as we see it or we wish to see it. It has the power to define, preserve and communicate individual ideas and collective cultural codes. Cultural (including artistic) representation plays an important role in building ethnic (or other) identity, identity and self-esteem of the individual. Throughout history, artists have exercised their creative power to define themselves through art and create self-determination that reveals them and their respective society in the best possible light. For centuries, stereotypes and prejudices have had a negative impact on the position of the Roma and their culture and art. Roma art has been excluded from the mainstream for many centuries, misunderstood, simplified, and its artists have often been pushed to the background.
The aim of this project is to support Roma artists in their creation and presentation of professional Roma contemporary art through various activities and thus to show that Roma contemporary art and its artists wish to be seen and heard and that they have their full place in (not only Czech) culture and society.
As a part of the project activities, we are going to organize Roma cultural days „GENDAL’IPEN“ in Reykjavík in cooperation with partners from the Czech Republic. This 2day event will take place before 8th April 2022 as a part of the Roma Days in Iceland to mark the International Romani Day in Iceland. The program will consist of an exhibition, literary event (public reading of a Czech Roma writer) and musical performance of a Czech Roma band arriving especially for this event. Event will be accompanied by discussion with the public/audience. The exhibition will be open for public for 3 weeks.
Overal project information:
Project period: May 2021 – April 2023
Place: Czech Republic, Norway – Oslo, Iceland – Reykjavík
Slovo 21, z. s., Czech Republic
Romsk kultur og ressurssenter – Romano kher / Kirkens bymisjon, Norway
Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute of Foreign Languages, Iceland
Financial mechanism: EEA Financial Mechanism 2014-2021
Programme: Programme „Culture“
Download the Gendal’ipen project poster here