WHO WE ARE
ARA ART is an association mainly consisting of young people who are involved in art creation with social overlap and realization of this aimed culture events. This association acts most of the time theatrically and musically as well, it also deals with organizing conferences, discussions and more and more educational projects focused on the population that suffers from social disadvantage. During the year we organize many smaller events (concerts, performances) of young Roma artists, but here are our main and long term cultural projects.
WHAT WE DO - OUR PROJECT AND FIELDS OF INTEREST
A) Roma theatre group ARA ART was founded in 2011. It is formed by a group of young active Romas, and their target is to point out the Roma-Czech situation through the theatre.
The ensemble contains of 10 actors and one director, others are involved depending on the project that is being realized. The group of 10 actors involves professionals and amateurs.
The group rehearsed the play “Guľi daj”, which proved to be a very efficient tool in terms of highlighting the Roma minority in separated locations. It is an original drama written by a Roma journalist, film maker a LGBT activist David Tišer. The play is trying to transfer a legend of a mythical Roma character of “Guľi daj” (in English Sweet Mother, similar to Czech Polednice) to the present time, and also discusses the current situation of the Roma minority from their own point of view. The play had been performed at many Roma festivals and cultural events during the years 2011 – 2014. Thrilling stories from the lives of the Romas had a significant impact not only to the activist and the major society, but mainly on the Romas themselves. Nowadays there is not any other theatrical ensemble composed only of the Romas in the Czech Republic. The fact that the Romas act for the Romas is very important to reach our goals – to involve the Romas and make them think about their social status as well as wake up the civil sentiment in them.
B) Theatre of the Oppressed is a method that was invented and gradually established not only in Latin America, but later in Europe by a Brazilian director, pedagogue and social activist Augusto Boal, in the 60s and 70s of the 20th century. This theatre deals with the exploitation of life’s stories, real situations, theatrical approaches and techniques of working with socially excluded groups of citizens, or with those who have some experience with any kind of social oppression. They try to reflect current situations but lead also to social communication, ideally to a change.
Theatre of the Oppressed is a method that works in two phases. The group which wants to work on their topic prepares a short play, the preparation of which involves hours of meetings every week during two months. During the meetings they use techniques leading to process the topic of social oppression and also methods to help non actors express their story through theatre. (See Augusto Boal: Games For Actors and Non Actors) In reality they involve in games and exercises to relax, develop imagination, group dynamics, and basic theatrical skills and to reflect their own feelings and experience..
The second phase, the performance, is a theatrical form known as theatre-forum, where the spectators have the possibility to enter the performance after watching it for the first time, and by altering the behaviour of one character change his destiny. That leads to a natural conversation that helps to mutual acceptance and understanding for both sides of this “baricade”.
A group of Czechs and Romas that managed to prepare two performances, “The times are blue” (Modrá je doba) and “American dream” (Americký sen) had been formed last year thanks to the cooperation of ARA ART and the Charles University in Prague. These performances had a huge impact on the educated public and had been repeated many times. They are currently working on other three performances with the topic of oppression, discrimination based on ethnicity.
2) International Roma day (8th of April)
Starting point - Nowadays there are no descent celebrations of the day of Roma people in the Czech Republic comparing to other countries of Europe, in Slovakia as the nearest example. However, formal celebrations with sufficient publicity are very important for the formation of national identity where we can introduce positive patterns not only to the majority society but also to another Roma people. In addition it has also an educating character. Therefore we think it is suitable to set up this tradition- to make an event with all Roma organizations‘ strength which would be the starting point and after there could be a great celebration created for another years. Long-term aim is to be on air with the celebration of the day of Roma people by public TV as we can see it in Slovakia.
3) Roma LGBTQ
Romani LGBT people face a range of facets of discrimination: firstly as Roma, secondly as LGBT people, thirdly as LGBT people in Roma communities. Other factors enter into play such as gender, age, social status, poverty, marginalisation, spatial exclusion and intersectionality. Due to the deeply embedded cultural and religious traditions governing sexuality still observed among the various different Romani communities, the position of people of minority sexual orientation(s) is particularly challenging and fragile (Cemlyn et al, 2009). Although there is some evidence to suggest that migrant Roma communities who have moved to the West and some Romani communities are becoming increasingly accepting and tolerant of LGBT people amongst themselves (Brooks, 2009), in some traditional Romani communities, sexuality and sexual orientation are still taboo subjects (Tobi et al, 2010; Nirenberg, 2011). Some Roma deny homosexuality altogether, see it as a disease and anyone who would openly come out as LGBT would be excommunicated (primarily by Romani but also LGBTIQ communities) and become a social outcast (Cemlyn et al, 2009). As a result, some Romani LGBT people resort to suppressing this aspect of their identity and personality, sometimes leading to mental health issues, in some cases suicide (Cemlyn et al., 2009). In such milieus, different mechanisms of excluding Romani LGBT are at play, e.g. in the home, where families may exert control over a Romani LGBT person's identity by putting pressure on them to conform to tradition and to hide their sexuality by staying single or by marrying and having children (Council of Europe 2014). Patterns of exclusion may also be observed in social interactions with non-Romani LGBT where Romani LGBT persons experience hostility, at times rejection grounded in racial prejudice and/or anti-gypsyism; at the same time, there is anecdotal evidence suggesting that in close-knit Romani communities, Romani LGBT persons who perform an indispensable societal or occupational role are accepted as full-fledged members of that community (Council of Europe 2011, 2014).
ROMA NATIONAL LGBT WORKSHOP
The Roma LGBT workshop was a 5-month project consisting of three parts.
The First part was a weekend workshop where 20 young Roma gays (mostly), lesbians and transgender got together (for the first time in the Czech Republic and also in the whole of Europe) and tried to verbalise their life experiences, feelings and problems about being gay/lesbian/trans in traditional Roma communities. The workshop weekend was divided into 3 parts:
screening of documentary movie Roma boys as an introduction into topic;
creative workshops with Lukáš Houdek (photography) and Pavel Berky (fashion design) where participants had to think about their orientation and life situations and use it;
workshop with Edita Stejskalová focused on introduction to political and civic activism
After this workshop there were two follow up meetings for a smaller, selected group of participants who were interested in becoming more involved (10 people). The First follow up took part during the world Roma festival Khamoro (May/June); the aim for the group was to become more familiar with the organisation and production of bigger events. The Last part was a special Roma LGBT-themed evening called Hot Chocolate during Prague Pride in August 2014. We prepared an exhibition of photos from the workshop and also a publication featuring the participants' life stories collected during the project was introduced to the public.
INTERNATIONAL ROMA LGBTIQ CONFERENCE
The very first International Roma LGBTIQ Conference took place in Prague, Czech Republic, from 13th to 14th of August, 2015 as a part of the Prague Pride festival. The conference organised by the Prague-based Romani association ARA ART was attended by 28 representatives of Romani LGBTIQ professional associations, civil society and international governmental and non-governmental organisations (OSCE ODIHR, OSI) from 12 countries (Czech Republic, Canada/France/United States, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain and United Kingdom). During the two-day by invitation-only conference, participants first discussed the realities of the lives of LGBTIQ Roma, Gypsy, Sinti and Travellers across Europe and impacts of national legislations on their everyday lives. Subsequently, they drafted a joint statement recognising the urgent need for action to meet the everyday challenges LGBTIQ Roma, Gypsy, Sinti and Travellers face. Part of the accompanying conference programme, which was open to the public, included a performance by the Theatre of the Oppressed and a public discussion entitled “Hot Chocolate International – the situation and experiences of Roma LGBT in the World“.
The first day of the conference was divided into two panels. The first panel consisted of presentations of several field research projects and personal testimonies describing the realities of the lives of LGBTIQ Roma, Gypsy, Sinti and Travellers from the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary and Serbia. Presenters spoke on several topics such as “coming out in Romani communities“, “the need to raise awareness within the Romani communities and the broader social fabric about multiple discrimination that LGBTIQ Roma, Gypsy, Sinti and Travellers face“ or “the problem of the invisibility of members of LGBTIQ Roma, Gypsy, Sinti and Traveller communities”. The second panel focused on how the various national legislations in the respective countries impact on the lives of LGBTIQ Roma, Gypsy, Sinti and Travellers in the Czech Republic, Spain, Slovakia, and the United Kingdom. Panelists talked about the existing legal instruments, their use in practice, and the overall existing political environment towards LGBTIQ-related issues in their countries. All of the presenters concluded that there is not only a lack of concrete data on the actual impacts of national legislation but also a disconnect between legislation and the realities of the lives of LGBTIQ Roma, Gypsy, Sinti and Travellers.
The second day of the conference had a more strategic focus and was devoted to furthering cooperation among the conference participants. Representatives of Romani LGBTIQ professional associations and civil society agreed to set up the first joint European Roma, Gypsy, Sinti and Traveller LGBTIQ platform that would foster cooperation on the international level so as to promote and secure the human rights of LGBTIQ Roma, Gypsy, Sinti and Travellers, raise awareness and enhance acceptance by majority societies of people of non-heterosexual sexual orientations and/or gender identities within Roma communities, as well as within the broader social fabric.
4) Gallery PHUNDRADO VUDAR
It is very difficult for young artists to find a place to show their creations. We decided to open an experimental exposition which is going to be open for young artists (not only from the Roma minority). The goal of this gallery is to present the Roma culture and the Roma artists in a different setting – to show that the Romas are not only musicians and dancers. We want to find young Roma artists, expose their creations and cooperate with them in the future. We also want to connect with already existing Roma galleries in the whole world. Workshops and other activities will take place in the gallery, cooperating with the Museum of the Roma culture in Brno.
Gallery is placed in Caffe Souterrain, Bělehradská 82, 120 00, Praha 2