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Katitzi – A Literary Character Rooted in Reality

Katitzi – A Literary Character Rooted in Reality


Opening: October 9, 2013. 5pm

Opening speech: Maria Lind (S), curator, director of Stockholm Tensta Konsthall; Angelica Ström (S), teacher for children with special needs. Participators: Erno Kallai violinist.
Literary Workshop: October 9, 2013. 2 pm:
‘How can children’s literature and activism get along with each other?’ Literary workshop with invited guests organized by Nordic House Foundation and Gallery8. Participating experts: Lawen Mohtadi writer and author of the first biography on Katarina Taikon, Angelica Ström teacher for children with special needs, Zsófia Domsa lecturer ELTE Faculty of Humanities Scandinavian Studies, László Arató literature teacher ELTE Radnóti Miklós School, Hungarian Teachers Association.
'What are you calling me? Gipsy! What? What is that?' This is how Katitzi, the nine-year-old main character of Katarina Taikon’s book, faces her origin in the world of 'good' and 'bad' in pre-war Sweden. And this is how she will continue to search for her place, her home, in the 'western welfare state' during her entire life.
Katarina Taikon Swedish writer of Roma origin had raised attention with her first book 'Zigenerska' (gipsy woman) in 1963. Later on she continued to shake the Swedish public with her literary and political activism, fighting for Roma’s rights together with her sister, Rosa Taikon. On the pages of her biographical children’s book series 'Katitzi', the 'splendid' democracy, the Swedish 'welfare' society, is depicted as a society infused with discrimination – a particularly surprising and dark read for  the Central-Eastern-European reader. Through the narration of an innocent and curious child, the book challenges our notion of Western European 'developed' democracies and its myth of 'equality and well-being' societies.
Katitzi, along with the internationally well-known figures like Nils Holgersson or Pippi Longstocking, has been one of the most significant characters of the Swedish children’s literature. Hundreds of thousands of children and adults have read the book in Sweden. In 1980, for instance, the book was borrowed 432.000 times from the library. The story, not long after its coming out, appeared as a comic book as well as a magazine, the TV series based on ’Katitzi’ became popular and came out on dvd. Recently, the Folkteatern in Gothenburg has done a family show based on the Katitzi books and the Nationalteatern in Stockholm has adopted it for the post-modern times with hiphop elements. This latter piece has already reached thousands of primary school children.
The book series ’Katitzi’ has not only been a fascinating read for many generations, but was also a significant example of the new type of realistic children’s literature emerging in the 1960s. It also provides the reader with an insight to a Swedish society dragged by ethnic and social tensions and to the destiny of Roma living in Sweden.
What reasons can we find for the success and popularity of Taikon’s story, especially among non Roma readers? Is it the mixture of fairy tale and novel, together with the ancient motif of wandering that makes us go through this story of searching for home with such deep empathy? Maybe it is the unimaginable adventures of Roma life that maintain the actual attention of the readers? Or is it perhaps the destiny of a gipsy girl growing up amongst racism in a 20th (21st) century Europe that attracts us? And if the latter is the case – then why is it affecting us only in the form of literature? Is it a book that will open our eyes to social injustice and racism within society?
Literature is none other than the coalition of humanism and politics, as Thomas Mann’s Settembrini declares. Do we have/ Why don’t we have a Katarina Taikon? Why don’t we have our own Katitzi? What can a child or a children’s book tell us about the nature of racism? Would it be important for us to have our own Katitzi? How much can a children’s book contribute to the education of tolerance and how can we protect our children from racist writings nowadays?
In our upcoming exhibition ’Katitzi – A literary character rooted in reality’ we will search for the answers to these questions. International experts such as Maria Lind (curator), Lawen Mohtadi (writer) and the daughter of Katarina Taikon, Angelica Ström (teacher) will contribute to our project.
Gallery8’s book talk on October 9th, and the exhibition opening that follows, will present the literary and political work of Katarina Taikon. It will also attempt to reveal the 'success story' of the children’s book 'Katitzi' and interpret the 'Katitzi-phenomena' so that we can use it to reflect on Hungarian literacy and political actualities. During the time, and in the space of the exhibition, we will organize museumpedagogy workshops for primary school classes, which are supposed to make Katitzi’s story and message reach those that the author intended to: Roma and non Roma children, families and teachers.
The subject of the exhibition is Katarina Taikon’s (1932-1995) autobiographical figure Katitzi, who is the main character in thirteen books and eight comic albums published between 1969 and 1982. The exhibition presents first editions of the Katitzi books, comic albums, illustrations by Björn Hedlund. It also unfolds the history of the book’s reception. The items exhibited – articles, reviews, films, TV programs, photographs and other materials, will help the visitor live through and understand the particular popularity of the character called Katitzi.
The curator of the Hungarian adoption of the exhibition and the related programs: Veronika Vaspál, literary historian.
The project adopts the exhibition Katitzi - A Literary Figure Rooted in Reality, Tensta Konsthall October 2012 – January 2013.
The concept of the museumpedagogy workshops is based on the professional support of Pressley Ridge Foundation.
The transportation of the exhibition materials is supported by the Swedish Embassy in Budapest.
The exhibition is part of the program series of Gallery8, to be realized between September 2013 and September 2014, supported by the EEA Grants/Norway Grants and the Autonómia Foundation.

Nicolae Gheorghe passed away

Nicolae Gheorghe passed away

Words seem inadequate to express the sadness we feel about Nicolae Gheorghe passing away. The Romani Elders and ERCF will do its best to serve and continue his legacy.

The Statement of Christian Strohal - ODIHR Director 2003-2008:

"Nicolae has always been such an inspiration! His openness of spirit, his patience and perseverance, and his charisma has been galvanizing more than a generation throughout Europe. I was privileged to work with him at the ODIHR for several years. My sincere condolences to Nocolae's family, my regards to his comminiuity and friends.
Let me recall the statement of the US delegate, Erika Schlager, at the 2006 OSCE/ODIHR HDIM:
"Finally, the United States notes with a certain sadness that this is the last Human Dimension Implementation Meeting we will have with Nicolae Gheorghe in his capacity as the ODIHR Senior Advisor on Romani issues. There have been many positive changes in the years that Nicolae has been in Warsaw, and in the years since he first played an instrumental role in securing the OSCE’s first reference to Romani human rights in the historic 1990 Copenhagen Document. Nicolae, it has been an honor and a privilege to work with you."
I can only join in this."

Read the life story of Nicolae Gheorghe

Multiple Exposures - Memory of the Roma Holocaust-contemporary reflections

Multiple Exposures - Memory of the Roma Holocaust-contemporary reflections

Opening: 6 pm, August 2, 2013 – on the Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day

Exhibiting artists: Tibor Balogh, János Bogdán Amigó, Marcell Esterházy, Andrea Izsó, Erika Lakatos, Csaba Nemes, Jenő André Raatzsch, Klára Rudas, Erzsébet Vojnich

Literary reflections: Tamás Jónás, Judit Hevesi, Lili Kemény

Opening speech: Balázs Böcskei


There is a photo – at the Vas County Archive, Szombathely (Hungary). There is a woman, Erzsébet Horváth. We know quite a lot about her: she was born in Rábakeszthely in 1920. Her parents are Károly Horváth and Rozália Horváth. She is of medium height. She has oval face and her hair is cooper red. Her eyes are blue and she has no missing tooth. She is Catholic and works as a day-labourer. We know barely anything about her.
Photographic images play a key role in shaping both our knowledge and our memory of the Holocaust. Images bridge across time and space, function as links in trans- and intergenerational communication as well as enable the secondary generation to touch the past, to identify with the lost past world and to remember it.
There are approximately two million photographs of the Holocaust scattered all around the world hidden in libraries or archives however only a small number of images are incorporated in our collective knowledge. Nevertheless, in the case of the Roma Holocaust in Hungary it is hard to consider any photographs as well-know Holocaust-icons, and those few which can be considered as authentic documents of massive destruction fail to constitute an inherent part of the visual canon of the Holocaust.
The exhibition focuses on the memory of the Roma Holocaust and approaches it from a transgenerational point of view. It invokes the photo – more precisely, a photo and the ID which serves as its direct context – as a vehicle of remembrance. The image talks for itself, however, in order to encourage, multiply the discourse and to create a discursive space around the photo we invited contemporary artists, writers, poets.
A document was registered in May 12, 1937 in Szentgotthárd. A black and white photo is glued on it: it shows Erzsébet Horváth. She rests her left arm on her hip.
The photo belongs to the Roma ID no. 59.
Curator: Anna Lujza Szász
Curator assistant: Judit Szalipszki
Venue: Budapest-1084, Mátyás tér 13.
Collaborating partners: ERCF, Museum of Roma Culture (Brno), mecem.sk, Dialog Pheniben Journal
Support: International Visegrad Fund
(image: Csaba Nemes, untitled)

Superwomen - Czech and Slovakian Roma Woman Artists and Talents (June 27, 2013 - July 29, 2013)

Superwomen - Czech and Slovakian Roma Woman Artists and Talents (June 27, 2013 - July 29, 2013)

Vera Duzdova, Lada Gaziova, Zuzana Hruskova, Tamara Moyzes, and the Daily Dzessika Magazin


The exhibition presents Czech and Slovakian woman artists whose artistic carriers demonstrate the operation of structural oppression towards the Roma, they offer models for revolting against this oppression, and how to reject the majority’s dominance in order to construct new Roma woman identities. The exhibited works and the Daily Dzessika Magazin focus on the question of visibility, and how women artists can rewrite or modify the mainstream discourse once they arrive in the position of visibility.


The works that operate with the power of humor are not simply spontaneous games, or theatric self-exhibitions, but ritual performances, which are formed under the pressure and influence of oppression, deploying the power of taboo, and fleeing from the horror of exclusion. They use the subversive power of parody, the way Judith Butler suggests: „They reject and change the laws, in order to use them against those, who created them”.


Curator: Timea Junghaus

Image: Daily Dzessika Magazin, Cover Photo, Issue 7, May 2013, dailydzessika.org.uk

Image on the right: Tamara Moyzes: Miss Roma (stills from the video, 2007)


'Roma Issue' - A Majority Project (May 17, 2013 - June 26, 2013)

'Roma Issue' - A Majority Project (May 17, 2013 - June 26, 2013)

Comparative institutional study of the Hungarian Roma Parliament and the Brno Museum of Romani Culture


‘Roma Issue’ - A Project with Majority’ was curated by Joanna Warsza, in the framework of Wielkopolska Revolutions in October 2012. The event looked upon the biggest minority in Europe as a source of possible, not apparent but vital political and social inspiration. The project website states: “Roma are most often stigmatized and marginalized and even social programs introduce an irreducible difference between the normative majority and the marked ’Other’. ’Roma Issue’ is an invitation to forget culture’s specific set of rules and asks how Romani culture could become a horizon of possible scenarios for reworking democratic tools, and what kind of models it could provide when it comes to collectivity, mobility, post-nationalistic and anti-territorial agenda, general assemblies, or self-design and daring architecture.”[1]



Gallery8 has adopted the attitude and approach of ‘Roma Issue’ for studying the two major institutions of the region in order to understand and define these “locations of cultures”.[2]

The exhibition will present the history and building of the Hungarian Roma Parliament, the sole institution in Hungary which could enable the Hungarian Roma minority to practice Roma cultural rights. It has been completely destabilized and deteriorated in the past years, and was almost evicted with force in 2012, only to be abandoned and emptied, and left in uncertainty. The exhibition presents both the history and the institutional construction of the Roma Parliament through the use of visual analysis. It focuses on the problematic of Roma representation using Brigitta Milák’s gigantic panel (2 m*3 m) entitled The Laws of Our Ancestors. This historical panel, which decorates the main wall of the Roma Parliament’s Theatre Hall, is a Roma national historical painting constructed from the montage of photos, gobleins, tapestries, prints and images collected and recycled by the Museum of Ethnography, and the artist herself. We suggest that the significance and importance of the Roma Parliament as a cultural location lies exactly within the potential to critically analyze the machinery of oppressive Roma-image production.



But if the critical analysis of the Roma-image is one of the main objectives of a Roma cultural institution, than is the only such institution – the Museum of Romani Culture in Brno - able to carry out this mission? Hence the exhibition also describes the history of the Museum of Romani Culture in Brno. It presents the popular informative film on the Museum and on its collections as well as exhibitions. Furthermore, the exhibition aims to outline the distribution of the institution’s funding sources. Although the Museum was called to life in 1991 after the lobbying activity of the Czech Roma intelligentsia - led by KarelHolomek - as a result of Roma cultural activism, since its establishment the Museum has not touched upon the sensitive issues related to the situation of Roma in the Czech Republic nor has it reflected upon the vivid international discourse of Roma contemporary art (since its establishment). Instead, it has made the choice to operate with ethnographic and anthropological curatorial and scientific approaches, completely avoiding (thus) the political connotations of art and identity, in particular that of Roma contemporary art. In its de-politicized representations, such as in the Museum’s promotional film, we see Roma people sing and dance but without any (cultural, social, historical) context or interpretation, while art pieces are made to constitute an inherent part of an ethnographic structure. Even in this „safe mode of representation” some of the exhibited artifacts disclose the operation of Roma oppression, such as the molded masks of Roma Holocaust victims, the Bock brothers, decorated with the original hairs collected by Robert Ritter and Sophie Ehrhardt German anthropologists during the Holocaust. These masks are now exhibited with seven other molded heads at the Museum’s Roma Holocaust exhibition (the sole comprehensive exhibition in the region about Roma Holocaust).



Will we be able to preserve the Roma Parliament for future generations? Do sustainability and independence arise as opposites in the case of a Roma Cultural Institution? Is working actively and consciously from within the Roma subjectivity feasible in the state-funded space of the Museum of Romani Culture, in Brno? What does the Brno location mean, for Europe’s only Roma museum space?  - These are some of the questions which we will search the answers for in our current exhibition.



Curators: Timea Junghaus, Viktória Nagy, Dóra Paulik



Image: Art collection of the Hungarian Roma Parliament



Opening speech: Jenő Zsigó, Timea Junghaus


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