RomArchive is devised as an international digital archive for the arts of Roma – a constantly growing collection of art of all types, complemented by historical documents and scholarly texts.
While “hegemonic” archives have almost exclusively portrayed Roma in stereotypical ways, RomArchive focuses on their self-representation: New narratives will emerge, reflecting the heterogeneity of diverse national and cultural identities of Roma. The wealth of Romani artistic and cultural production – tightly interwoven with that of Europe as a whole, centuries old, lively and varied to this very day – will become visible and publicly accessible. This way, the project seeks to counter persistent stereotypes and deep-seated prejudices. RomArchive is thus addressed not only to Europe’s largest minority, but also to Europe’s social majorities.
Roma shape the archive in all positions of responsibility – as curators, artists, scholars, and members of the project’s advisory board. The curators determine the contents of the archive and select and gather works of art for the archive sections on dance, film, literature, music, theatre and drama, visual arts, and Flamenco, material on the politics of photography, first-person testimonies related to the persecution of the Roma under the Nazi regime, and scholarly material on the civil rights movement. The participants in the project—within the various working groups there are around 150 actors from 15 countries across Europe and beyond—form a worldwide network of artists, scientists and activists, most of whom come from a Roma community.
Intelligent contextualisation will provide background information, help understanding of complex interrelations, and thus ensure nuanced readings of the works on display. The archive’s aesthetically appealing magazine-style web interface, with images and stories providing vivid introductions, will inspire users to delve deeper into the topics presented.
RomArchive will go online in January 2019. Until then, the curators’ work and the overall development of the project can be followed on a blog, on Facebook, Twitter, or (in the analogue world) at supporting cultural events in various European cities.
The main channel of communication before the launch of RomArchive will be the blog, featuring in-depth multimedia reports, interviews, debates, essays, and documentaries.
The idea for RomArchive is based on extensive research and numerous interviews that the project initiators, Franziska Sauerbrey and Isabel Raabe, conducted with Romani artists, curators, activists, and scholars all over Europe.
All clearly identified the need for an internationally accessible space that would make the cultures and histories of Roma visible and respond to recurrent stereotypes by a counter-history told by Roma themselves.
RomArchive reflects critically upon archival practice as well as the limits and power relations inherent in canon formation. It makes no claims to completeness, but sees itself as a continuously growing platform that shows representative collections.
With its curated contents, modern storytelling, and intelligent contextualisation, RomArchive will differ from static databases in both aesthetics and methodology.
Archive Sections | Team of Curators
An international team of curators is responsible for the design and contents of RomArchive’s sections:
An additional curatorial team – made up of scholars Thomas Acton, Angéla Kóczé, Anna Mirga-Kruszelnicka, and Jan Selling – will select scholarly articles for the section on the Romani civil rights movement in Europe.
A section on the Holocaust will present early first-person testimonies of Roma persecuted under the National Socialist regime, gathered by historian Karola Fings in the context of her project “Voices of the Victims”.
An international advisory board will support and advise the curators and determine strategic project guidelines. Its members are artists, scholars, and activists:
Pedro Aguilera Cortés, political scientist, Spain
Gerhard Baumgartner, historian, Austria
Nicoleta Bitu (chair), Democratic Federation of Roma from Romania, Romania
Klaus-Michael Bogdal (deputy chair), literary theorist, Germany
Ethel Brooks, sociologist, USA
Ágnes Daróczi, activist, Hungary
Merfin Demir (deputy chair), Terno Drom e. V. – self-organised intercultural youth group of Roma and non-Roma in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Jana Horváthová, Museum of Romani Culture, Czech Republic
Zeljko Jovanovic, Roma Initiatives Office, Hungary
Moritz Pankok, Gallery Kai Dikhas, Germany
Oswald Marschall, Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma, Germany
Romani Rose, Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, Germany
Riccardo M Sahiti, conductor, Serbia/Germany
Anna Szász, European Roma Cultural Foundation, Hungary
Herbert Heuss (Central Council of German Sinti and Roma) is permanent guests of the advisory board.
Funding and Long-Term Perspectives
The German Federal Cultural Foundation is RomArchive’s main sponsor and supports RomArchive with 3.75 million euros. This is a clear statement: one of Europe’s largest public foundations attends to Europe’s largest minority, acknowledges the wealth of their centuries-old culture, and makes it better known. The fact that a German federal institution embraces such a project is of further significance in view of Nazi Germany’s genocide of the Roma, which claimed 500,000 of their lives.
The Goethe-Institute supports the work of RomArchive and accompanies it with events.
The Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen is partner for the technical implementation of RomArchive.
62 % of the total budget is allocated to the conception and implementation of the contents of the project by the curators, working groups, advisors and the advisory board. 13 % of the funds are spent on technical implementation (database, digitisation, website) and 25 % on administration, i.e. financial management, coordination, communication and marketing as well as ongoing costs.
For international accessibility, the archive will be set up in several languages. English, German, and the Romani language will be used from the very beginning. Translations into additional languages, depending on funding by the countries in which they are predominantly spoken, are envisaged.
The project executing organisation for the five-year set-up phase of RomArchive is sauerbrey | raabe gUG.
After this five-year project duration, the project initiators Isabel Raabe and Franziska Sauerbrey will transfer RomArchive to to a European Roma organisation, which will be chosen by the advisory board. To ease this transfer, the German Federal Agency for Civic Education intends to support the editorial management of the archive for a further five years from 2019 onwards.
Nicoleta Bitu, president of the Democratic Federation of Roma from Romania and chair of RomArchive’s advisory board:
“The advisory board is very pleased that, in supporting RomArchive, the German Federal Cultural Foundation has created a framework for implementing the principle ‘For Roma by Roma’. This way the project is setting new standards regarding the Roma’s self-representation.”
“The aim of the project is to establish Europe’s first comprehensive digital archive for art of the Roma; it’ll make our contribution to European culture visible.”
“We are proud to have assembled some of the best artists of the Roma community as curators for RomArchive!”
Romani Rose, chair of the Central Council as well as of the Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma and member of RomArchive’s advisory board:
“I am very glad that RomArchive allows us to raise awareness of our minority’s important contributions to the cultures and histories of their respective home countries.
We live in a democratic Europe, and this gives us the chance to voice grievances and at the same time to refer to and reassess our long history.
This includes, for example, the role of Hungarian Roma in the uprisings of 1848 and, even more so, of 1956, or the part the Roma played in overthrowing the Ceauşescu regime in Romania – just like their contributions to music, be it to classical music or modern jazz.”
“We hope that with RomArchive we’ll be able to effectively counter stereotypes and prejudices by making knowledge digitally available to a broad public.”
“The high-calibre advisory board testifies to RomArchive’s high standards and its international dimension in terms of cultural policy. Moreover, we are happy that two experienced partners, the European Roma Cultural Foundation and the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, act as advisors to the project.”
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