Timea Junghaus, head of the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture. Photo: Akos Stiller

Roma Artists to Open Cultural Institute in Berlin

The Roma Institute for Arts and Culture, the first institution dedicated to the culture of the Roma people—the largest minority in Europe—was officially launched at the German foreign ministry in Berlin on Thursday, June 8, Anny Shaw of the Art Newspaper reports.

Spearheading the initiative is Tímea Junghaus, a Hungarian Roma artist who stressed the importance of Roma people being recognized by mainstream society. Currently, only two Roma artists are represented in collections of European museums. The minority group achieved a major milestone in 2007 when the Venice Biennale permitted the first Roma pavilion. “It was a very important time in the Roma discourse. It was the first year theoreticians began to write about the economic and cultural aspects of Roma life through critical theory,” Junghaus said.

While the institute won’t open a physical location until September, it celebrated the triumph with an exhibition of Roma artists from eight countries. Among those exhibiting are Tibor Balogh, the first Roma artist to have graduated from the Hungarian University of Fine Arts, and Erika Varga, the founder of Hungary’s first Roma design studio. The institute will receive financial support from the Council of Europe, philanthropist George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, and the German government.

The institute will serve as a hub for Roma artists and intellectuals, and as a point of contact for festivals, galleries, museums, and other institutions that want to collaborate or include their work in exhibitions. It will also promote Roma culture and work toward overcoming discrimination directed against Roma communities.

“We’ve been living in Europe for six hundred years,” Sead Kazanxhiu, an Albanian Roma, told The Guardian. “Now for the first time we have a place we can call our own and the chance to present the image of who we are, rather than others doing it for us.”