Fortune Tellers Future
Exploring the future of European identity through meetings between European artists and the most discriminated Europeans – the Roma
Series of artistic expeditions into different regions of Europe in search of the European identity through meetings and collaborations between international artists, local Roma communities and local cultural actors. Initiating a process of multi-disciplinary artistic and trans-generational exchange. Summing up and reflecting over the outcomes of these interactions at recurring international events in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Sofia and Brno through exhibitions, performances, music acts and debates on the future of the European identity.
A dream is a first step towards changing reality…
The quest of reinventing the European identity
By meeting the Roma as a natural, integral, inevitable and permanent element of European society and its culture, the international artists exploring what European identity needs to become. Through the series of recurring international events with debates, performances, music acts, and contemporary art exhibitions, Fortune Tellers Future concept focus on the future of the European identity.
The entire process of interaction between the international artists, local authorities, cultural actors and local Roma communities in different European regions, is all about facing the reality of tolerance, diversity and human rights at the local and European level.
It is where the Fortune Tellers Future concept, as a mirror confronting all involved participants, becomes a platform for reinventing the European identity and it’s future.
Engaging the target-region, local partneres and a group of European artists
Engaging the local partners in a target-region
- Choosing the target-region in Europe (on the municipal, city or county level) for the next Fortune Tellers Future expedition. It should be a European region with either significant presence of the Roma, vivid local Roma community, or the region that has significancy in the Roma people’s history and culture.
- Establishing contacts with local authorities, cultural actors, local Roma communities, Roma artists and Roma organizations. Presenting the Fortune Tellers Future concept and establishing cooperation with local partners.
- Fortune Tellers Future production team make the first field trip in order to meet with the local Roma, collect stories, make interviews, take pictures, and conduct other local research.
Engaging a group of European artists
- The engaged artists are from different European countries. This group consist of 5-10 artists (individuals or artistic groups). Fortune Tellers Future features a wide variety of different art forms: from visual art, video, photo, comic strip art (graphic novel), to performance art, interactive art, music, dance and theatre.
- Before the departure, workshops are held for the artists in order to prepare them for the goals and methods of the Fortune Tellers Future. It includes the short history of the discrimination of the Roma people in Europe, presentation of the idea of exploring the European identity through the meetings with the most discriminated Europeans, and finally, presentation of the targeted region and its Roma community.
The target-regions: i.e. Eskilstuna/Sweden, Helsinki/Finland, Kiev/Ukraine, Saint Petersburg/Russia, Düsseldorf/Germany, Marseille/France, Den Bosch/Nederlands, Cardiff Bay/UK, Sintra/Portugal, Barcelona/Spain, Bologna/Italy, Sofia/Bulgaria, Sulukule (Istambul)/Turkey, Agia Varvara (Athens)/Greece, Novi Sad/Serbia, Skopje/Macedonia, Banja Luka/Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mitrovica/Kosovo, Košice/Slovakia, Brno/Czech Republic, Miskolc/Hungary, Timișoara/Romania etc.
2. Interaction and exchange
Exploring the European identity through the meeting between local Roma communities and the European artists
Creative meeting between international artists, local Roma communities and local cultural actors
During the 4-5 days long visit to the region, the Fortune Tellers Future artists interact with local Roma communities, collecting stories, impressions and materials for their work. This includes meetings with local Roma artists and establishing artistic collaborations on Fortune Tellers Future art productions.
Thanks to earlier research presented to the artists during the preparation, the artists already have some basic ideas on what they are going to produce, and what kind of material they are searching for. But the most important impact on the artists work has the meeting with the Roma people, their reality, perspectives and points of view.
For this purpose we organize meetings with local Roma organizations, Roma community leaders, Roma artists and other distinctive representatives of local Roma communities, including both men and women, and young and older generation of the Roma.
Promoting local Roma communities and supporting local exchange
This entire process is defined by the specific situation of the local Roma community in that particular European region. All activities aim to promote tolerance and human rights, and combat discrimination and xenophobia. In the focus are Roma people: their dreams, ideas and depictions of better future, as well as their real-life problems and obstacles. Also, this process focus on promoting the local Roma organizations and supporting the local exchange between Roma and majority communities.
For this purpose we organize different promotional and media activities, e.g. press conferences with artists and representatives of local Roma communities and local authorities/cultural actors. Among others, we visit local Roma settlements/suburbs/villages, local schools and other educational and cultural institutions, and have meetings with local social workers, educational and cultural professionals that work with and among Roma.
3. Art production
Reflecting the future of European identity in the lights of a new experience of meeting with the Roma
Fortune Tellers Future conceptual framework
The Fortune Tellers Future artists are back in their countries, and producing the artworks inspired by the new experiences of meeting with the Roma. While the artists have the full artistic freedom to express their visions, there is a predefined Fortune Tellers Future conceptual framework to serve as a guiding principle for this work:
- All artworks aim to promote tolerance and human rights, and combat discrimination and xenophobia. In the focus are Roma people: their dreams, ideas and depictions of better future, as well as their real-life problems and obstacles. The artworks reveals stereotypes, negative perceptions and prejudice about the Roma as groundless, shameful and stupid, while in the same time promotes local “Roma heroes”, and values of freedom and equality among people.
- The general theme is the future of European identity and what it needs to become.
- The artworks are part of a larger conceptual (on-going and growing) Fortune Tellers Future collection, added to already produced artworks during the past Fortune Tellers Future expeditions. The entire collection is an instrument for awareness raising about the situation regarding tolerance and human rights in Europe, as well as for embracing the debate around the future of the European identity.
Multidisciplinary and international art collaborations
Fortune Tellers Future features a variety of different art forms: from visual art, video, photo, comic strip art (graphic novel), to performance art, interactive art, music, dance and theatre.
The concept favor the collaborative works of several artists from different countries, and especially, a collaborations with local Roma artists that we met during the field trip.
Also, the concept favor multidisciplinary art collaborations. For instance, a combination of the theater, video art and visual art, where artists from different countries, together with some of the local Roma artist from the target-region, collaborate on the same conceptual work. (see the Fortune Tellers Future collaboration between the Swedish art group Glimpse and the local Roma theatre from Serbia). Another example is e.g. a music performed by a “mixed” musical group made of Roma musicians from the target-region and other “non-Roma” musicians from some other European country.
4. International events
A series of events in 4 European centers with exhibitions, performances, music and debates focusing on reinventing the European identity inspired by the meeting and exchange with the Roma
Recurring events in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brno and Sofia
The concept is based on cooperation between the vivid cultural spaces in 4 European centres: Tolhustuin in Amsterdam, Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, Red House in Sofia and the Museum of Romani Culture in Brno. Fortune Tellers Future exhibitions, performances, music, debates and other programs become recurring events and a component of their regular program, as a part of an international platform for exposing and debating the European identity and it’s future.
The Fortune Tellers Future event is also presented locally in the target-region
The Fortune Tellers Future event is held in the target-region, also. Local cultural institution becomes a part of larger European network, together with partnering cultural spaces in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brno and Sofia.
Main program is presented at the 4 partnering cultural spaces, while the supporting thematic programs take place at other locations
The main program is presented in Tolhustuin in Amsterdam, Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, Red House in Sofia and the Museum of Romani Culture. The program takes place during several days, with different events, exhibitions, presentations and debates. Other activities (supporting thematic programs) are held at other places in those 4 cities. Some performances are held at public spaces. Some programs are presented in other local institutions (other educational, governing and cultural institutions).
The content and focus of these other events will be programed according to the particularities of the target-region and it’s Roma community, and the specifics of the findings and artistic inspiration after the field-trips.
For instance, sometimes the main focus could be the Porjamos (the attempt made by Nazi Germany, the Independent State of Croatia, Horthy’s Hungary and their allies to exterminate the Romani people of Europe during World War II). In that case, some of the events could be produced and presented in cooperation with other cultural and educational institutions that focus their work on the history of the WWII and the victims of the Holocaust.
In other cases the focus could be on the diversity of the musical influences that Roma music carried and left throughout Europe. Then, some parts of the program could be presented in cooperation with other local institutions accordingly (e.g the institutions that work with the history of the music, or local orchestras etc.)
The Fortune Tellers Future focus on the Roma people, their historical destiny, current situation, and future. The main subject of the Fortune Tellers Future is the future of European identity, and the road towards discrimination-free Europe. In that sense, the questions raised by the Fortune Tellers Future are universal, important, actual and applicable on any European region.
5. And then…
After the “full circle” of field-trips, art productions, and events/presentations is fulfilled, the preparation for the next circle of the Fortune Tellers Future expeditions begins. New target-region is chosen, and a new group of international artists from different European countries is formed.
Off course, other cultural spaces in Europe could join the network and hold the Fortune Tellers Future events.
The body of produced artworks and collected stories is growing after every full Fortune Tellers Future circle. It is used for production of a website, book, video presentations and other materials that present the Fortune Tellers Future concept, expeditions, participants, artworks, events, questions and findings.
Involving and supporting local Roma communities
Using art to embrace role-models from their own local Roma community, the Fortune Tellers Future concept aims to inspire and support young Roma to grow their dreams and ambitions in order to continue and complete their schooling. The entire process of cooperation between the international artists, local Roma communities and local cultural actors, is in fact an awareness raising campaign that target all involved participants, including the local educational professionals, other youth, media, and the society in general, endorsing the communication and exchange on local level between Roma communities and the majority population.
Discrimination vs. Education
One of the most important issues in fighting discrimination and social exclusion of the Roma is education of young Roma (higher education in particular). Still, there is a large number of school-dropouts among Roma children.
Most of the Roma children enroll the first class of primary school, but far from all of them actually accomplish the entire primary education. Some statistics shows that only 30% of Roma children enters secondary school. Even smaller number actually complete secondary school, and extremely small number of students enrolls university education.
Unfortunately, this situation is similar throughout the Europe, from East to West, from North to South, despite that the future of the Roma, and a large part of the battle for discrimination-free Europe is depending on it.
This is a consequence of a long and shameful history of discrimination and exclusion of the Roma in Europe, but also, an expected outcome of the
absence of the real and equal communication and exchange between Roma communities and the majority populations in Europe today.
Role-models vs. Unsupportive environments
There are many problems Roma children are facing on their way towards better and higher education, even inside their own Roma communities. Sometimes Roma parents are not supportive of their children going to school (for different reasons). In other cases families are too poor to afford the costs of schooling. But, the lack of role-models for high education inside the Roma communities is one of the major obstacles.
But most of the obstacles are truly on the side of the majority population: discrimination, ignorance, prejudice and lack of understanding of all the problems the Roma needs to overcome in order to fulfill their dreams, ambitions, complete their schooling and establish themselves in the society. There is neither proper support from the pedagogues, school personal and classmates, nor the real recognition of this problem in the society in general. That is also, for a large part, a result of the same lack of role-models and good examples from the Roma community itself.
The communication and exchange at local level between Roma communities on on side, and the majority populations on the other, is one of the main preconditions for establishing a united front for overcoming the problems in this field, and support the young Roma to gain education.
The Artistic Aspects
- The future of a fortune teller? – Being in charge of deciding own future comes with personal responsibilities. – Stereotyping and negative perceptions of Roma people, embedded by some media and parts of the European public opinion feed discrimination in all spheres of life. – What kind of future we dream of? – What is European identity? What it should become?
Stereotypes vs. Responsibilities
Dreams vs. Discrimination
Future vs. Fear
European identity vs. Xenophobia
Faces Behind the Stories and the Stories Behind the Faces
The Roma as equal partners and inspiration
As long as local Roma communities are passive receivers, an inferior and unequal partner in communication and exchange with the majority populations, there can’t be no real understanding nor truly sustainable progress in the development of the tolerant and non-xenophobic society. Sadly, Roma people are usually neither visitors nor the subjects of the artworks presented in local art spaces – except in rare cases when Roma are commonly presented through stereotypes and clichés. Contrary to usual practice, Fortune Tellers Future present an international art cooperation focused on and inspired by the strength, talents and the potentials of the Roma, with the local Roma communities and artists as equal partners. This is not only an important goal per se, but an essential part of the artistic concept itself.
Tolhustuin in Amsterdam as a Fortune Tellers Future home-base
The Fortune Tellers Future is based on cooperation between 4 cultural spaces in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brno and Sofia on one side, and local Roma communities and cultural institutions in target-regions. The concept is developed by Terraforming.
Fortune Tellers Future concept had it’s premiere in Serbia during November – December 2011. It was an exciting meeting between a group of Swedish artists, local artists and Roma communities, local cultural actors, pedagogues and authorities. Read more about it and check out the pictures gallery.