This selections shows iconic pieces of the Kai Dikhas Collection of European contemporary art of artists of Roma origin, which are linked to the history of the artist movement of Roma artists.
Delaine Le Bas
Delaine Le Bas is a multi-media artist who has shown her art extensively both in the UK and internationally, including at the Venice Biennale. The work shown here, „I am a Black Bird who has taken flight“ is a commissioned piece Delaine Le Bas made for Foundation Kai Dikhas. Its title refers to the song „El pájaro negro“ (the Blackbird) from the movie Latcho Drom by Toni Gatlif. Delaine Le Bas is amongst the most prominent artists of the Roma. She fuses in her art the powers of arts and activism proclaiming the „Romani Revolution“.
You, you’re a stork
Who has landed on Earth.
Me, I’m a black bird who has taken flight.
Why does your wicked mouth spit on me?
What harm is it to you That my skin is dark…
And my hair Gypsy black?
From Isabelle the Catholic…
From Hitler to Franco…
We have been the victims
of their wars.
Some evenings, some evenings
Like many other evenings…
Some evenings I find myself envying…
The respect that you give to your dog.
Why does your wicked mouth spit on me?
What harm is it to you
That my skin is dark…
And my hair Gypsy black?
Damian Le Bas
(30 January 1963 – 9 December 2017), was a British artist associated with the Outsider Art and a leading exponent of the “Roma Revolution” in art. This work: „Gypsyland”, was shown in the 1st Romany Pavillion „Paradise Lost“ curated by Tímea Junghaus as part of Venice Biennale in 2007. This legendary exhibition marked a milestone in the visibility of contemporary art of artists of Roma or Sinti background. The other iconic piece „Back to the Future. Safe European Home 1938“ of the series of art works linked to the installation „Safe European Home?“ by the artist couple Le Bas expresses both, the Europe of the People rather the one of nations, but at the same time its constant threat on the verge of its destruction.
„Gypsy Europa is my dream… My maps are subversive imaginary conquest, a Roma resistance against racism and right wing propaganda.“ Damian Le Bas
Ceija Stojka (23 May 1933 – 28 January 2013) was an Austrian-Romani writer, painter, activist, musician, and survivor of the Holocaust. The artist survived three concentration camps. As self taught artist Ceija Stojka managed to find a unique way of expression for what is called the „Porrajmos“ (Devouring) using both texts and a personal way drawing and painting. Following a large retrospective at the most important Spanish museum for modern and contemporary art „La Reina Sofia“ in Madrid in 2019 her art is celebrated world wide. Ceija Stojka has a become an idol of emancipation and the power of women.
„I paint my memories and my feelings. And I show the people from my world – amongst others, members from Lovara-Roma community. Every Rom and every Sinto is a highly individual, highly unique artist and bearer of a culture which must survive. I appeal to everyone not to forget the Romani, to cultivate the language and to pass down our culture to the children. In order to perpetuate our culture, we must create a consciousness, must have the will to allow others to share in it as well. It is important to be noticed and understood, and precisely this function can be served by art. It can reveal and communicate. No matter whether in pictures or music: art must be present in public space so that things come to light, so that people find a common ground.
We are people just like any others, and art can make it possible for us to breathe and to live.“ Ceija Stojka, Foreword Catalogue Kai Dikhas 2, 2012
Valérie Leray, was born in 1975. She lives and works in Orléans (FR) and Berlin. This image (“Castel de la Pierre, Coudrecieux 2006, Internet Camp for Gypsies 1940 -46“, 1mx1m analog photograph) was shown in the 3rd Pavillion in Venice. It shows an internment camp for gypsies that has been over grown with vegetation. As part of her art project “Place with no Name“, Leray – being herself descendant of a formerly imprisoned gypsy – travels to the sites of former camps, which today often are neglected pieces of land without trace of the historic events. With her powerful photographs she restores memory.
Gabi Jiménez lives in France. His family escaped from Franco Spain. “I come from a family of Kale Gypsies. We speak Andalusian. We dance the flamenco for generations”. This work refers to Federico Garcia Lorca, who has been the most important writer for Roma in Spain (not being Roma himself). He was killed by Franco’s government during the Spanish Civil War. ” During the Second World War, Picasso responded to a Nazi who asked him about his painting Guernica ‘Is it you who did this?’, ‘No, you’”. I can say the same thing about my paintings. “It’s not me who did this, it is the result of what the society does to our people!”.
“L’apocalypse Selon Saint Nicholas”, 2010, Triptych, Ink on Canvas, 100X243cm “Aqui me matarón, Federico García Lorca”, 2010, Acrylic on Canvas, 130X97cm “Guitare II”, 2013, Painted Guitar
George Vasilescu, born in 1984, is a visual artist living and working in Ploiești, Romania. He uses a variety of techniques including oil painting, sculpting in bronze, plaster and ceramic. In his opinion all humans are trapped in their own “Golden Cage of Thoughts“, full of prejudices and concepts. Art is there to communicate and to liberate people. The bronze sculpture presented here, “Unchained“ depicts the human breaking down its cage. Man has torn apart his cage – which was perhaps only a perverted cocoon – he leaves and is free. It is a powerful symbol of art as catalyst for society.
Gérard Gartner is a sculptor of international renown. In 2016 he made a name for himself by destroying all of his art works in Douarnenez during an event he called “Ultima Verba” following his last exhibition with the same name at Kai Dikhas Gallery. With this he wants to express that every generation shall recreate its own world rather receiving the readily constructed work of their predecessors. So he recycled all his art work, itself being made from plastics collected from rubbish, to become part of symbolic life circle. With this he also pays tribute to traditional French Romany travellers who used to burn the possessions of a human after his or her death.
“To show that Gypsies do not necessarily play music,” he became the spokesperson for Gypsy artists, by co-organising the „World Premiere of Gypsy Art“ in Paris in 1985. He wrote the biography “Carnets de Route” of his late friend Matéo Maximoff, the first French-speaking Roma writer. By showing himself in the intellectual sphere, where Roma were not expected, he became a spokesman of French Roma and he is an example to follow for the new generations. The iconic piece, „D.I.R. (Déchet Industrial Recycle)“, melted Plastic, presented here is one of the very few that survived. It has been shown both at the exhibition in 1985 and at his last show „Ultima Verba“ at Kai Dikhas Gallery in 2016. Gérard Gartner left this unique piece as a present to the Kai Dikhas collection. It seems like a wing elevating. It embodies the hope of the evolution of the Roma of tomorrow.
Imrich Tomáš was born in Slovakia 1946 and died this year. He created strong and powerful three dimensional colorful reliefs inspired by nature, using hemp, pigments and other materials. His art is a quest for artistic freedom and a sensitive way of seeing, which refuses categorisation; from painting to sculpture but also in the context of ethnicization.
Left: “Drom“ (Journey), 1997, 75x55cm, Material Collage, Hemp, and right: “Windkreisel“ (The hurling wind/‚Wind-Spinning Top‘), 2013 100 x 70 x 4 cm, Hemp and Watercolour on board.
“I want to be free – as Rom. I am Rom from top to bottom. What I do is Roma-Art. Because I did it as Rom. But apart from that I don’t know. I bring in anything: you will say there is energy, it is lively, it has links to nature. Yes, I am satisfied: I achieved what I wanted. But Roma-Art (as a term), that’s nonsense …“. Imrich Tomáš