Did you know what Charlie Chaplin, Elvis Presley and many other world-famous celebrities have in common? All of them had Roma roots. Among them are even Mother Teresa and Pablo Picasso. The only exhibition of this kind in Lithuania was opened in the restaurant of the well-known singer and Roma community member Ištvan Kvik “Gypsy Lounge and Grill”. It contains ten stories of well-known people all over the world.
The aim of this free exhibition is to let as many people as possible to learn about the roots of the Roma nationality and its distribution in the world. And the most important thing is to break stereotypes, as if the Roma nationality is somehow inferior to others. Singer Ištvan Kvik, leader of the Roma ensemble “Sare Roma” which is known throughout Lithuania, who has been working with Roma integration for many years, says that the tolerance is the thing that needs to be talked about in society constantly. I. Kvik, in order to dispel myths about Roma in the society, even founded the first Roma restaurant in the Baltic States, where he employed Roma who could not find work in Lithuania.
Even Pablo Picasso had Roma roots.
“Employers are still afraid to hire Roma because they are guided by various stereotypes that stem from fear or ignorance. It is also the case when Roma people are looking for a house to rent. Very often non-Roma people not only do not want to live in a Roma neighborhood, but also do not agree to rent out the apartment he owns. Roma children are still bullied in schools and are often ostracized by their peers. Therefore, it seems to me that it is necessary to talk about what we are constantly.
Until now, very little has been said about the fact that the Roma were persecuted for many years, and during the Second World War, not only Jews but also Roma people were killed. It is estimated that over 3,000 Roma were killed in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp alone. Therefore, I am very happy that the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Roma Holocaust on the 2nd of Augustis is already included in the list of memorable days in Lithuania”, said I. Kvik before the opening of the exhibition. However, the singer himself could not participate in the opening due to an unexpected illness.
He is convinced that the best way to overcome prejudices is to get to know each other. “The world adores Pablo Picasso, actor Alen Delon or everyone’s beloved Elvis Presley. Does learning that if they had Roma roots diminish their ability and talent? Of course, not”, says I. Kvik.
From now on, in the restaurant that he’s managing, everyone will be able to get acquainted with the famous people of the world who had Roma roots. Among them there are already mentioned above Charlie Chaplin, performer Elvis Presley, Mother Teresa, Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, as well as English actors Bob Hoskins, Michael Caine, famous French guitarist Django Reinhardt, Spanish flamenco guitarist Carlos Montoya and Swedish soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimovic. “These are examples that show us that there is nothing to be ashamed of the roots of the Roma nationality, we must be proud of them and talk about it loudly”, says the well-known Roma community member I. Kvik.
There are12 million Roma people living in Europe.
Vaiva Poškaitė-Kovaliuk, the author of the idea of the exhibition and head of the Baltic Region Roma Association, says that the exhibition was born out of a desire to show that Roma are talented, gifted people. “It is common to say that the Roma are a nation of travelers who came to Europe 600 years ago. Few people know how this nation spread across Europe and other countries. Today, about 12 million Roma people live in Europe alone but we still know very little about the history and culture of this nation. Until now, the Roma are one of the most discriminated national minorities in Europe, as well as in Lithuania.
Therefore, we want to show people that many people have Roma roots. Unfortunately, Roma are the nation who, due to stereotypes and myths established in society, often tend to hide their origin. Therefore, we know very little about how many excellent, talented people there are among the Roma. At this stage of our project, we invite the public to get to know the 10 best-known celebrities in the world who had Roma blood. And in the future, we plan to present separate exhibitions for each of these personalities in more detail. We hope that this will help the public to take a different look not only at their beloved celebrities, but also at the Roma people,” says V. Kovaliuk.
The exhibition will be exhibited free of charge for an unlimited time at the Gypsy Lounge and Grill restaurant in Vilnius, Etmonų st. 2. The project is supported by the Vilnius City Municipality and the Open Citizens Foundation.