Art mirrors society for Roma in Europe

By Gabriela Hrabanova, European Roma Grassroots Organization (ERGO) Network, and Fotis Filippou, Campaigner for the Human rights here, Roma rights now campaign for Amnesty International

“We wanted to try to find a way to stop racism in the world, because it is not right that Roma people do not have the same rights as other people; we should be all equal” say Calin Denis and Danila Elena, winners of the art competition My Story, My Rights, jointly organized by RomaReact, a digital platform managed by ERGO Network and Amnesty International.

The “My Story, My Rights” art competition aimed to explore and discover Roma experiences, Roma identity, Roma aspirations and the impact of racism in the lives of Roma, directly from young Roma themselves. The competition provided a space for Roma artists, thinkers, activists, performers to share their stories through innovative and creative forums. Entries came in different forms, including photography, video, comic strips and painting. Each story was authentic and unique, opening a window into the personal journey and life of a Roma artist/community. Their use of words, colours, textures  and sounds explore Roma identity and their daily experience of racism, yet they also articulate a Roma vision and hope for the future – a world without racism, where everyone’s human rights are respected.

The competition received entries from all over Europe, of a very high standard. The winning entry by Calin Denis and Danila Elena, 17-year-old high school students from Oravita, Romania, is a painting of a Roma child holding a mirror that reflects the world around him. The painting shows people pointing at the child and addressing him with hurtful words. In contrast, the image also reveals the child’s dreams of one day becoming a famous musician, studying at a prestigious school, who will become a hero.

Calin and Danila explain: “We … took some time to find the best way to illustrate racism. We wanted to show that despite the marginalization the child is experiencing, what is most important is the power to dream that life will get better… Roma must follow their dreams, no matter what people say.”  About winning the competition, they said: “We are very happy that we won, we didn’t believe it at first because there were so many great photos. This experience has given us more confidence in our capabilities.

The winner of the competition is invited to attend an event in Brussels, part of Amnesty International’s “Human Rights Here, Roma Rights Now” campaign, which calls on the EU’s executive body, the European Commission, to use all its power to end discrimination against Roma. The event will mark an opportunity for Roma activists and supporters from across Europe to engage with the EU Commission and officially hand over their petition. You can still join the campaign and sign the petition here.

RomaReact and Amnesty International congratulate and thank all the entrants, who took part in the competition and shared their personal stories. Their accounts provide an opportunity to better understand the reality and racism that Roma people face, as well as their hopes and dreams for themselves and for society at large.

All entries can be viewed on the RomaReact platform, or you can find out more about each of the winning entries’ unique stories:

1st place “Stop Racism” by Calin Caius Denis and Danila Elena, Romania

2nd place “My Story My Rights” by Rambo Halilovic, Italy

3rd place “Is it ok for you? By Ilona Notar from Hungary

4rd place “I choose with my heart” by Alina Serban, Romania/UK

5th place “What Roma youth want” by Sebijan Fejzula, Hungary

6th place “All people should be equal” by Vrecea Darius and team, Romania

7th place “Equal rights for all” by Mustafa Jakubov, Macedonia

8th place“Noureddine Mehmedov” by Byulen Mladenov, Bulgaria

9th place“Equality of the Roma and non-Roma people” by Sergen Gul, Turkey

10th place“Ternype – TernYpe Magyarország Hálózat” by Vilma Jakab, Hungary