Romani Street Performers and Carneys Poem

I decided to write my poem on the entertainment side of Romani history. The film that I used for my research project was about a Romani street performer, and after watching the movie so many times, it sparked my interest in Romanies involved in carnivals and performances.

According to ROMBASE, street performers and carneys were treated like guests, but they were not respected as human beings, but rather as “idlers and charlatans.” In Germany, they were not given basic rights, and had no voice in court. They were also not allowed to become members of craftsmen’s guilds. I hope to point out these flaws in society in my poem.

I am going to take the point of view of a non-Roma viewing a Roma performing on the street. I feel like I will be able to relate the most to someone in that position. The narrator will be a little girl who has been fascinated with performing Roma for her whole life, and how she has the dream to run away with them and experience a free lifestyle. According to The Gypsy Chronicals, “a common misconception about Gypsies is that they have romantic carefree lifestyles and are free to point the wheels of nicely decorated caravans in any direction and travel at will.” I think it is important for non-Roma to understand that this is not the real way that Romanies live.

The narrator will encounter one of the street performers outside of his performance and she will see how different his life actually is than what she expected.  She will witness things like poverty and prejudice. She will then understand the injustice and it will completely change the perspective that she has. I hope that my readers will also experience this and realize that this still happens everywhere today.


Romani Proverb Poetry

Romani proverbs are a huge part of Romani culture. That is because for a very long time, the Romani language was spoken, and not written. These proverbs serve as social behavior guidelines and little nuggets of wisdom. They were spoken and passed on to each generation, and their meanings were usually not extremely apparent. A lot of the proverbs talk about truth and avoiding trouble which shows that Romanies take pride in their culture and what to do whatever they can to preserve it, and for people to think of them as good people. Also, the proverbs are very applicable to everyday life, no matter who you are, no matter how old you are, and no matter what culture you are from.

The proverb that I chose to write my poem about is “The wind doesn’t recognize whose wagon it blows over.” It means that it doesn’t matter if that person had a lot of money or has a lot of power, bad things can happen to anyone. I chose this proverb because I think it will be interesting to come up with a story about how something bad happened to someone despite their privileged life, and focus on how their misfortunes could be similar to someone who does not have a privileged life. Although they are in completely different words, I think that comparing their misfortunes might change someone’s perspective about their own struggles and realize that everyone experiences something like that in their life, and that they are not alone. This really inspired me and made me think this way, so I think that it is important to share that message through this poetry assignment.

Ekphrastic Poetry


Unknown, by Malik Brigitta

This painting by Milak Brigitta depicts a man probably around his fifties or sixties playing a violin with a huge smile on his face. He sits on the ground with his feet pigeon-toed in the center. It’s interesting how that seems to be the center of focus, instead of on his face. The colors in this painting become lighter at the bottom, which draws the eyes downward. The reason for this may be to place emphasis on the awkward position he has his feet in. His legs look uncomfortable and broken. This might reflect on what he has to go through in his day to day life, that he leads and uncomfortable and broken lifestyle. Also, being a musician, I know for a fact that playing the violin in that position is really difficult and quite uncomfortable.

Also, the painting cut off the ends of his elbows, right above the bow, and it doesn’t show the bottom of his shoes. A reason why Brigitta might have done this was to make it clear that it doesn’t matter what was going on in the background. The only visible background is a dark musty color with virtually no detail. I think that is because Brigitta wants the viewer to decide where this man is playing violin, whether it’s by himself, for a crowd, or for the people passing by while he sits on his front porch.

It is evident that this man taught himself how to play violin or was taught by another person within his group of people because there is an unlikely chance that he would be able to afford lessons with a professional. His front teeth are knocked out without replacements and he doesn’t have shoelaces in his shoes, which indicates at least some degree of poverty. This poverty is normal for a man like him because of persecution and hatred from society. Yet he still finds the joy in life that comes from playing the fiddle. In my poem I will focus on this joy that radiates from his face and place him in a setting of my own imagination.

Ars Poetica

The long road

by: Saban Iliaz


The main action of this poem is a group of Romani people embarking on a “journey of sorrow” from their old home, which the narrator thought of as a “great land.” They are looking for a new place to settle. The narrator mentions that they are unaware where their journey will take them, which is most likely caused by the persecution that Romani people face in almost every country. They then keep travelling down small roads, probably to avoid the bigger ones near people who hated them and would probably hurt them if they saw Romani people travelling. They then have to find the “darkest place” to rest to be out of the people’s sight. This group of people can only find solace, or just enough comfort to be able to sleep, when they are in the shadows and hiding.

The image that stood out to me most in this poem was the fact that they are not able to have a proper burial place for their dead. The only way to deal with this is for them to bury them in the woods where they are travelling. When the narrator says “in the forests our father grew old,” it implies that members of this travelling group die young, and have to spend their old years in the forest, far away from their families and loved ones, just because they do not have a place to call home.

This poem makes me appreciate poetry a lot more. I feel like I am now a part of this group. The use of the words “we” and “ourselves” are very inclusive words and the writer may have chosen that point of perspective to create that affect. Also, after reading it, I feel as if I read a short story instead of a 16 line poem. The imagery is so powerful and the choice of words is so precise that it seems like so much more is said then it actually does.

“Gypsy Mafia” and the “Tough Guise”

The Romani character in the film clip “La Strada” is Zampanò. He uses violent abuse and reprimands his companion every time she messes up. The portrayal of Zampanò as a Romani character in this film is necessary because his actions and attitude are that of a stereotypical Romani man. His use of violence and abuse creates a stereotypical character, and with his role as a main character in the film, Zampanò portrays a Romani man with a “tough guise” (Tough Guise: Violence, Media & the Crisis in Masculinity).

In this clip, Zampano’s violence represents a true stereotypical minority. In “Tough Guise,” Jackson Katz explains that violence and intimidation is used for characters portraying “men of color because there are so little images of diversity of them to begin with in media culture” (Tough Guise: Violence, Media & the Crisis in Masculinity). When Zampanò attacks Gelsomina’s leg with a branch, he asserts his dominance and “helps to construct violent masculinity as a cultural norm,” (Tough Guise: Violence, Media & the Crisis in Masculinity) just like a dog owner yanks back violently on a leash, to control it.

The fear instilled in Gelsomina is the same fear that the audience feels because this is an outburst of character that really defines Zampanò. He is portrayed as a violent and a criminal because that is just the way people think of Romani men. “It takes very little effort to demonstrate that there is an institutionalized antigypsyism on the part of some law enforcement agencies in the United States” (Hancock). The characterization of Zampanò in this clip, and Hancock’s quote about how people still assume Romani people are vagabonds, show just how important it is that Zampanò was a Romani man in this film; otherwise, there would be no “justification” for his actions.

Hancock, Ian. “Gypsy Mafia, Romani Saints: The Racial Profiling of Romani Americans.” Danger! Educated Gypsy! An Anthology of Essays by Ian Hancock. Ed. Mícheál Ó hAodha. Nottingham: Five Leaves Publications, 2007. Print.

Katz, Jackson. “Tough Guise: Violence, Media & the Crisis in Masculinity.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 22 Apr. 2006. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

SmBeyOnNet. “’È arrivato Zampanò!’ La Strada.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 22 Apr. 2006. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

Laura Mulvey, the Male Gaze, and Representations of Romani Women

In this video clip from Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, one of the main characters, Esmeralda, is a Gypsy woman who promiscuously dances in front of a group of men. This scene is a good example of one of Laura Mulvey’s theories in her article “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.”  She discusses the topic of scopophilia, which can be described as the pleasure of looking and objectifying them. Weather it is of a character within the scene, or an audience member (Mulvey, 835). This is portrayed in this scene because of the looks on most of the mens’ faces. Out of all the men showed on the screen, only two did not have a smile on his face. This supports the idea that men enjoy the look of women, which further degrades the image of women on screen. Not only that, but the fact that Esmeralda is a Romani woman who dances in front of pleasure-seeking men further degrades the stereotype of Romani women as well.

Another theory of Mulvey’s is the “Women as Image, Man as Bearer of the Looks” implies that “the presence of woman is an indispensable element of spectacle in normal narrative film, yet her visual presence tends to work against the development of a story line, to freeze the flow of action in moments of erotic contemplation” (Mulvey, 847). This is supported by the fact that this scene does not do much for the storyline of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Although Esmeralda is a main character in the movie, this scene does not develop her character at all, other than just reinforce already disgusting stereotypes of Romani women. Also, this is a children’s movie in which a woman of minority dances around a spear like a pole dancer. There is no way that a scene like that could be developmental to a G-rated movie. The only purpose of this scene was to seduce the other characters on screen while simultaneously insulting women and the Romani people.


Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings. Eds. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. New York: Oxford UP, 1999: 833-44.


Cooper, Jasmine. “Esmeralda’s Dance.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 22 Apr. 2006. Web. 13 Feb. 2014.

The Function of Romani Characters in Film

The statistics on Brandon Weber’s chart, “1/3 Of Women With Speaking Roles In Movies Are More Likely To Be … Naked?” opened my eyes to the extreme gender inequalities in the film business. Most of the issue for we was the fact that out of the 30.8% of female speaking actresses in the top 500 films from 2007-2008, 26.2% got partially naked as opposed to only 9.4% of men. This inequality occurs because of the age-old stereotypes about how women are made just for men’s pleasure or as sex objects. The unequal representation of men and women in this way simply reinforces this stereotype, along with the general degradation of women.

The Bechdel Test, as mentioned in Anita Sarkeesian’s video “The Oscars and the Bechdel Test,” is a test that has very few requirements. It measures a woman’s importance to a storyline and exposes the reality of how few movies actually pass this test.

This chart and the video mainly focus on women in general, but a part of Sarkeesian’s video does mention that the Bechdel Test could be applied to minorities as well. In her example, she uses two or more characters of color (or any minorities) who have names, and talk to each other about something other than white people (or the majority). Even less movies passed this test.

This helps us understand how minorities like Romani people are portrayed in film even today. Like the women who are depicted as sexual objects a lot of the time, the Romani are depicted as fantastical figures in a story line. In Ian Hancock’s article, “The Origin and Function of the Gypsy Image in Children’s Literature,” he says that a lot of people like the literary Gypsy that live in caravans and hide out in the woods and practice magic because it is an attractive literary culture, yet completely unrealistic (Hancock). When films portray these stereotypes, it is almost like a domino effect. When a group of people are misrepresented on film, people start to believe that that is the right way to think about that group of people, which causes complete misunderstanding by everyone.

1/3 Of Women With Speaking Roles In Movies Are More Likely To Be … Naked? Chart. New York Film Acadamy: New York, 2012. Web. 6 Feb. 2014

Sarkeesian, Anita. “The Oscars and the Bechdel Test.” Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube, 15 Feb. 2012. Web. 6 Feb. 2014.

Hancock, Ian. “The Origin and Function of the Gypsy Image in Children’s Literature.” RADOC. Web. 6 Feb. 2014.

Human Rights and Stereotypes

There are so many stereotypes that are given to Romani people these days, and they all originate from stereotypes that were conceived from misconceptions of the past. Non-Romani people came up with reasons to why Romani people were the way they were, which caused a lot of strange and completely untrue things to be made up about them. A lot of them are still around today, even though they do not, nor have they ever, applied to the Romani culture.

For example, the reason why Romani people were always moving around was because they were trying to escape persecution. But, as Ian Hancock says in We the Romani People, this constant moving around caused ironic suspicion. In mediaeval Germany, they believed that Romani people were spies for the Turks. This caused the Nazis to think they were enemy spies, and a Romani housing site to be abandoned in 1990 because it was too close to the Ministry of defense and because they “could pose a risk to the security” (Hancock, 55).

The stereotype of how Romani people are “inherently evil,” comes from Christian documents from mediaeval times. When the Romani people first came to Europe, it was reported that they had very dark skin, which the church recognized as being associated with sin, since light meant purity, and dark meant sin. It was the “swarthiness of their complexion” which caused the belief of inherent evilness that plagues Gypsy stereotypes today (Hancock, 57).

These stereotypes foster the idea of antigypsyism simply because they were created so long ago. They have been around for centuries, and when that’s all non-Romani people hear about Romani culture, they eventually learn to accept it as the truth. Like for the people in Slovakia, they are probably not segregating children at school because of the pure satanical notions in their heart, but because some of them believe what they are doing is okay (Amnesty). Clearly, they are not doing the right things, and it is the stereotypes to blame for their antigypsyism.

“Roma: Demanding Equality And Human Rights.” Amnesty. Amnesty International. Web. 30 Jan. 2014.

Hancock, Ian. We are the Romani People. Great Britain: University of Hertfordshire Press, 2012. Print.

The Gypsy Criminal Stereotype


The picture that I chose depicts a caravan pulling away from a farmer, and the farmer’s child reaching out after being picked up and stolen by Gypsies. This is just one of many different pictures like it, and whoever sees this will only have a single story about the Romani culture, which may result in a complete misunderstanding of their way of life, just like many people have today.

According to Hancock, the stereotype that Romani people steal babies started  from a media outpour of posters, signs, film, and movies about this belief. But in the non-Hollywood, media-filled world, there is no evidence that this is actually true. He says that there are cases where non-Romani women would give Romani women their children because they themselves couldn’t take care of them. He also uses that logic that it is hard to take care of their babies to begin with because food would be hard to come by. So why would the Romani women want to steal more babies to feed (95)?

Some fantasy literature uses the theme “running away with Gypsies,” which after time can turn into the idea that the children were not run-aways but actually stolen by these Gypsies. This stereotype has led to people making remarks and warnings about keeping their children safe, and not letting them be around Romani people, even though they are just as human as them (95).

There has been a fear instilled in children and parents that gypsy people will come and take their children away, which is a completely false idea that has been generated through media and misconceived ideas that have spread out of control for centuries.


Hancock, Ian. We are the Romani People. Great Britian: University of Hertfordshire Press, 2012. Print.