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A picture book made by young Roma
Working with The Children’s Society and arts group, Akademia Pstryk, a group of talented young Roma aged 7 to 14 used pinhole photography to produce a picture book that will teach people about their culture. 1500 copies of the book have been given away at public events, and it will also be available to download online.
The Roma people originated from India around 1000 years ago and are currently Europe’s largest ethnic minority. However, widespread ignorance of Roma culture has meant prejudice against the Roma is still common in mainstream society.
Roma culture is so rich with stories and songs that have been passed down verbally for generations that story-telling sessions can go on for many hours. For centuries these stories have been told only to a chosen few, but now everybody has the chance to enjoy them.
The group has chosen to work with a traditional story of a family threatened by the mysterious Bumburumbum living secretly at the top of their house. One-day, mum sends her children to fetch the smoked meat from the attic for her cooking, but they don’t return and it is only when dad returns to a silent house that the Bumburumbum finally meets its match.
With the help of Akademia Pstryk, the group have illustrated the story using pinhole photographs. This little-known technique is not only a cheaper alternative to digital photography; it is also very environmentally friendly. Using cardboard boxes, paper and chemicals no longer needed by professional labs, the young people made their own cameras and developed their own photos.
During Gypsy, Roma, Traveller History Month (June) they took to the streets of Newham and the South Bank and gave away copies of their books to parents and children as well as teaching members of the public how to do pinhole photography themselves.
The work was funded by the Arts Council, The Polish Consulate and The Children’s Society.