In Whose Image? Building a Gypsy Identity, One Image at a Time

By Manole Razvan Voroneanu.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Shortly after the collapse of communism, many prosperous Roma, clan-based communities have started a necessary yet ambitious project: the forging of a new Gypsy identity through the building of settlements. Twenty years in the making, these settlements remain enduring construction sites where potential Gypsy imageries are being tested every day. The resulting landscape is one of perpetual change, an ever-amended collage of disparate images.

This paper argues that settlement construction is driven by the production of disconnected architectural elements that mimic the image of actual and fictional environments relevant to the maker. Drawing from a wide array of both directly observed and media fashioned imagery, the new Gypsy architecture aims at visually reproducing environments with little or no concern about constructive, spatial, or functional determinants. The maker relies on a conceptual and procedural dichotomy-one deeply embedded into the Gypsy tradition of making-between structural enclosure (canvas) and adornment (image) to continually refashion the décor of the settlement.

Surprisingly, the goal of the maker is not to produce an architecture specific to Roma culture but to create an image of the settlement that identifies the community as a continually relevant social entity. To this end, the image production is vastly coordinated with the hierarchical structure of the clan, and continuously weighed against how the community is perceived to outsiders and portrayed in media. Continually reimaging itself, Roma architecture speaks simultaneously about a desire for identity and a quest for recognition.

Keywords: Gypsy, Romania, Imagery, Image, Roma, Identity, Settlement, Architecture, Adornment

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp.89-96. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.859MB).

Manole Razvan Voroneanu

Assistant Professor, Department of Architecture, School of Architecture, CET and Construction, Southern Polytechnic State University, Marietta, GA, USA