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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

NE speaker addresses Gypsy stereotypes, misconceptions

By Soleman Hakeem/reporter

Having lived in Bulgaria and photographed Gypsies, a NE guest speaker said she wanted to eradicate misconceptions about Gypsies from people’s minds.

Photographer Ellie Ivanova described her exhibition Gypsies Without Borders April 12 as part of the campus’ International Festival.

“Today in the U.S., Gypsy is not an identity but a lifestyle, a costume,” she said. “It is almost forgotten that Gypsy is an ethnicity, an identity. They are not a homogeneous ethnic group but many different smaller groups characterized by difference in customs, trade of choice, dialect, religion, lifestyle.”

Ivanova believes her work helped her and can help others dispel some misunderstandings.

“Photography is a self-awareness tool to understanding the world,” she said.

Gypsy caravans started out from India in the 11th century and dispersed to different parts of Europe, Ivanova said. Gypsies often use the term Roma to refer to themselves.

“The distinct identity and group mobility has made Romas both highly visible and an easy mark for discrimination and one of the ethnic groups who suffered in the Holocaust, a fact that is not known to many people,” she said.

Having been born and grown up in Bulgaria, Ivanova was still considered an outsider among the Gypsy communities in Bulgaria. Before photographing them, she had to gain their trust and be considerate about how their society operated.

“I wanted to capture their candid emotion,” she said. “But at the same time, I was worried that they would feel vulnerable in that unguarded position and would think it was humiliating. So when they wanted to pose for me instead, I accepted that as well, if this is how they want to be represented.”

Under the rule of communism, different cultures and all citizens were considered equal, Ivanova said, but now discrimination is rising against Gypsy communities.

“Many Gypsy communities in the market economy suffer from guaranteed employment, lack of education and job skills or training,” she said.

However, with the new market economy, Ivanova said these people have hope by immigrating as Bulgarian citizens to other countries in Europe.

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