The following 7 photographs are all 48 x 40 inches
(122 x 102 cms)
Angela Bodi, Vivienne and Kristian, Sajokaza
Erno Kallai, Student at the Juilliard School in New York, Budapest
Anastazia, Lajos and Bea, Solyom Settlement, Sajokaza
Petofi Washday, Sajokaza
Petofi Family, Sajokaza
Giero Restaurant, Budapest
Eva Kiss Kalmanne, Budapest
“Once We Were Birds” by Kate Pawsey.
On 9th January 2010 a vibrant show was launched at Oriel Myrddin in Carmarthen. It attracted a flock of scattered individuals to feast on the colours and richness of the photographic exhibition by Tina Carr and Annmarie Schône. The show is the culmination of a long and sensitive project recording and interacting with the Roma people in Hungary. It is also part of an ongoing creative movement to highlight their circumstances and be part of a positive change in awareness, appreciation and respect and all that can follow from this. It is entitled “Once We Were birds” referring to a Roma story based the peoples’ own nomadic origins.
I was struck by many aspects of the photographer's work and the moving talk they gave, but two particular things that occurred have stayed with me.
Tina was telling us that at one point while they were finding a gentle way into the lives of the Roma people and had already taken some photographs, they decided to print out some of the images and give them back to the families who had allowed them in. When this became known Tina and Annmarie were actively sought out to take photographs in ways and situations that were deeply proud, hospitable and generous and their work deepened still further.
As Tina was recounting this I had sight from where I sat in the gallery of a beautiful Roma woman’s face looking out from the pink nylon lace door curtain of her home. I imagined her being able to see and feel what I was experiencing in the gallery and feel the value being added to their lives and their particularly precarious identity and existence. It reflected the dignity I felt through Tina and Annmarie’s gift of images of the Roma people to themselves, as well as through the images and stories they brought back from Hungary. These daring women have succeeded in showing me a complex scenario within which the Hungarian Roma story is a recurring one for minority groups who strive to maintain a cultural and philosophical identity, and who are scape-goated, marginalised and facing extreme poverty, prejudice and violence. The joy, love, creativity and vibrant colour of their art, music and family life is all the more striking against such a background.
Topically, it was pointed out to us that the extreme cold weather we are experiencing this winter is the norm in continental Europe, where the Roma people live in basic and un-insulated concrete buildings most without running water, electricity or central heating. In Hungary they have undergone enforced settlement.
The second memorable tale I heard was of how Tina and Annmarie, to get to the launch of their own exhibition, first walked three miles from their home in Tregroes though the deep snow to catch a bus to Carmarthen. Later the same evening, carrying a rucksack of supplies and a bunch of red tulips, they took the return bus and walked back home in the dark under a diamond studded sky. Such a colourful pair of birds ...