Monday 21 August 2023

Barvalo: Visual arts exhibition by European Romani artists stuns France

Roma, Sinti, Manouches, Gitanos, Travellers...
Mucem, J4— Niveau 2 | till Monday 4 September 2023

The new exhibition at Mucem is devoted to the history and diversity of the Romani populations of Europe. In Romani, barvalo means "rich" and, by extension, "proud". This polysemous word is the title of a new exhibition at Mucem devoted to the history and diversity of the Romani populations of Europe. A history that is inseparable from that of antigypsyism, against which those who are sometimes still called "Gypsies" have been fighting for a thousand years.

Developed in collaboration with Eriac, the exhibition "Barvalo" was conceived by a team of nineteen people of Romani (Roma, Sinti, Manouches, Gitanos, Travellers) and non-Romani origin, of different nationalities and profiles. "Barvalo" is divided into two parts.

From the earliest accounts of their arrival in Europe to the present day, the first section of the exhibition highlights the ways in which persecution of the Romani population, culminating in the Holocaust, arose and is perpetuated. This first part also deals with the role of stereotypical representations in culture and folklore. At the same time, this part of the exhibition also shows how Romani groups expressed themselves, especially through a common language, Romani, and claimed their rights in these situations of oppression.

The second part of the exhibition offers a reflection on the notions of belonging and identity, by reversing the visitor's view. This is the installation by the artist Gabi Jimenez, the Gadjo Museum: here we discover "gadjology", an imaginary and parodic science that echoes a Romani perception of the Other. This space takes the form of a diorama devoted to "gadjo culture", thus revealing the absurdity of the essentialisation of the Other when it is pushed to its extreme. It also questions the role of the ethnographic museum as a disseminator of "truth". 

At the end of the visit route, a gallery of portraits of famous and lesser-known individuals testifies to the richness of Romani cultures and the pride of the various communities in contributing to the cultural diversity of European societies in order to assert, loud and clear, barvalo !

Throughout the exhibition, the visitor is accompanied virtually by four 'guides' belonging to four distinct Romani groups. Their personal and family stories resonate with a broader, shared European history. 

In each part, the works of non-Romani artists are displayed alongside those of contemporary Romani sculptors, photographers and painters in order to allow the representatives of these minorities to give their vision of nine centuries of presence in Europe and to affirm their culture. 

The exhibition brings together 200 works and documents (printed, video and sound) from French and European public and private collections, including the Louvre Museum, the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, the Museum of Ethnography in Geneva, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, the Nicéphore Niépce Museum in Chalon-sur-Saône, the Archives départementales des Bouches-du-Rhône, the Archives municipales de Marseille, the Médiathèque Matéo Maximoff, the Musée de Grenoble, the National History Museum and the National Archives of Romania, the Kai Dikhas Foundation, the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture in Berlin, and the Dokumentations- und Kulturzentrum Deutscher Sinti und Roma in Heidelberg. 

Among these 200 works, 62 come from Mucem's collections and 15 were specially conceived for the exhibition and produced by the museum: 6 commissions from European Romani artists – Luna De Rosa (Italy), Gabi Jimenez and Marina Rosselle (France), Mitch Miller (Scotland), Emanuel Barica (Romania) – and 9 audiovisual creative works (film, animated map and sound).

Curatorial team
Co-curators :
Julia Ferloni, curator for heritage, head of the "Crafts, Trade and Industry" unit, Mucem 
Anna Mirga-Kruszelnicka, associate deputy director of Eriac - European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture (Berlin) 
Jonah Steinberg, associate professor of anthropology and director of the Global Studies, University of Vermont, USA
Associate curators:
Françoise Dallemagne, collections and research officer, Mucem
Alina Maggiore, CIFRE researcher at Mucem, doctoral student in social anthropology, University of Aix-Marseille / University of Freiburg, Germany
Expert committee:
William Acker, lawyer, general delegate of the National Association of Traveller Citizens (ANGVC)
Yahya Al-Abdullah, PhD student in social anthropology, EHESS Paris
Nelly Debart, fairground worker, president of the National Association of Citizen Travellers and member of the Travellers' Advisory Council
Bénédicte Florin, lecturer in geography, Arab World and Mediterranean Team (EMAM), CITERES laboratory, University of Tours
Lise Foisneau, anthropologist, research fellow at the CNRS
Pascal Garret, photographer and sociologist, Tours
Caroline Godard, project manager, "Rencontres Tsiganes" association, Marseille
Gabi Jimenez, visual artist and president of the Departemental Association Gadje-Travellers and Gypsies of France (ADVOG)
Timea Junghaus, art historian, director of Eriac, Berlin
Jean-Pierre Liégeois, sociologist, honorary teacher-researcher and director (1979-2003) of the Roma Research Centre at the University of Paris-Descartes, consultant to the Council of Europe
Valentin Merlin, freelance photographer
Cristian Padure, linguist, teacher-researcher at the University of Bucharest
Santino Spinelli, musician, composer and professor at the University of Chieti
Sasha Zanko, tinsmith, president of the association "Tchatchipen" and delegate of the European Roma and Travellers Forum
Scenography: bGc studio, Iva Berthon Gajšak, Giovanna Comana, Clara Launay
Graphic design: Fabrice Petithuguenin
The Mucem would like to thank Eriac (European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture) for its invaluable support from the outset of the project and for allowing the installation of the RomaMoMA nomadic library in the exhibition.

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