Questions, questions… Today I shall set down some of the questions that visitors have been asking, many of which I have only been able to furnish with a feeble answer. Luckily for all of us, Damian and Delaine will be in York on Sat Feb 23rd to furnish us with some answers – catch the artists either at their York St John 10.30am talk, or in the afternoon when they will be in the gallery from 2pm. For full details see our webpage
What do Relantus and Perlantus mean? Are they lost Irish words?
What does ‘Sky H
What is the significance of the eyes in Damian’s maps?
What’s the story of the Tinker and the Stag?
Are there Romanies in Palestine?
Is the Romani Revolution flag an official Romani flag?
What does the wheel symbolise in the flag?
Are Damian’s eyes, noses and lips referencing the Nazis’ use of facial measurements as a means of identifying the Roma/Gypsy/Sinti?
What does ‘Trashimos si ruzlipen, chavvy’ translate as? Is it Romanes?
Today I discussed Damian’s ‘Budapest’ map with a visitor, who pointed out it was not just of Budapest but eastern Austria, western Hungary and northern Romania. She had lived in Hungary for many years. What was the significance of Budapest to the Roma? I asked. She felt there was lots of negativity towards gypsies in Hungary – fear and loathing in Budapest, not Las Vegas. We talked of ‘otherness’ – how easy it is to delineate between ‘us’ and ‘them’ and how easily that leads to societal enclaves, splits, prejudices, assumptions… Later, another visitor tells me stories about her work with York’s Traveller community in the 1990s – her memories of the rewarding time she spent building trust and developing a photographic project with teenagers, and her agonies over the attendant bureaucracy and prejudice – even (especially?) from those who should have known better. One senior official remarked on seeing the final exhibition: ‘I didn’t realise we were living in Beirut!’
This exhibition opens windows, and helps us see things differently – helps us reflect on how things have been and how they are now. I have a real sense of people changing a little bit between walking into and walking out of Black Butterflies. So all in all, today was another good day at the office!
We’re delighted to confirm the following artist-led events to coincide with Black Butterflies:
Fri 22 Feb (2pm): Romany Romance/Gypsy Garbage: a talk by Damian James Le Bas at York St John University (Fountains Lecture Theatre). Free, but book here
Sat 23 Feb (10.30am): Roma Gypsy Art and Identity: a talk by Delaine and Damian Le Bas at York St John University (De Grey Room 124). Free, but please email a booking via firstname.lastname@example.org
Sat 23 Feb (from 2pm): Meet the Artists! A chance to meet Damian, Delaine and Damian James Le Bas at the gallery, to ask questions and discuss the issues raised by their Black Butterflies exhibition. Free, all welcome, booking not required.
Mon 25 Feb (4.30pm): 1000 Years Inspiring Dreams and Hatred: a lecture by Damian James Le Bas at the University of York’s Ron Cooke Hub (Heslington East campus). This talk will contextualise the contemporary experiences of the Roma against the history of Romany slavery, with particular reference to the Holocaust. Free, booking not required.
We are grateful to the Faculties of Education & Theology and Art & Design at York St John University, and to the Centre for Applied Human Rights at the University of York, for supporting these events.
‘Gypsy Kirkby Stephen & Appleby’ by Damian Le Bas (detail)
Black Butterflies has been running for several weeks now and I have to say that it is providing me with some of the most stimulating conversations I’ve known with visitors since we opened the gallery over three years ago. Not everyone likes the art, but that’s not what the art is here for. People do engage with it though, and with the surrounding issues. Topics touched on just in the last few days, in no particular order, include My Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, white middle class ‘gadjo’ guilt, York’s Jewish massacre at Clifford’s Tower, the Holocaust, territory, freedom, boundaries, pastoral ideals, traditional societies, Aboriginal conceptions of time… I must start keeping a more accurate record of these conversations. Perhaps I should record them? At any rate, there are hopefully many more to be had as the show still has three weeks to run.