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Images You Think Are Romani

rrojasandribbons:

Hint: they are not.

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[image description: young woman with dark, wavy hair playing a drum while seated on the street]

Commonly labeled as a “Romani street musician”, this image is of Michal Elia Kamal. She is part of the musical group, “Light in Babylon”; a multi-ethnic and multicultural band. Kamal, however, is not Roma, as many have labeled her on the internet. She was born in Israel, but has Iranian roots.

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[image description: a woman with dark hair and green eyes, wearing a headscarf and several items of jewelry, is drinking from a cup]

I’ve seen this image labeled on Pinterest as everything from “Gypsy” to Romanian, to Moroccan, to Ethiopian. However, this woman is none of those things. The image was taken by Mirjam Letsch in Rajasthan, India and is of a Kalbeliya woman. The Kalbeliya are not Roma, and thus, not “Gypsy”.

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[image description: a barefoot, light skinned child with short, red hair is wearing a bindi, several varying styles of South Asian garb, and has a floral scarf tied around her waist. There is a White man playing what appears to be a sitar seated behind her.]

This image irks me for numerous obvious reasons. Not only are the individuals pictured here White, but they belong to a belly-dance troupe called “Gypsy Horizon”, which is run by Carrie Jenkins and based in Anchorage Alaska. This image, along with the numerous others on their website, is filled with cultural appropriation and racist stereotypes.

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[image description: a young woman with dark hair and a cross shaped marking on her forehead is wearing several layers of gold coins around her head and neck]

This image is so pervasively labeled as “Romani” and “Gypsy” that many truly believe this is a vintage photograph of a young Roma woman. However, this photo was actually taken in Tunisia by Lehnert & Landrick in 1905. The image is actually of a Ouled-Naïl woman; an ethnic group who live primarily in Algeria.

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[image description: a woman with dark curly hair seats posed for a photograph while wearing large hoop earrings, several layers of necklaces, an Eastern European styled shirt, and a floral scarf around her waist.]

Talk about stereotypes. This is actually an actress named Jetta Goudal. She was a Jewish Hollywood actress who was born in Amsterdam. This photograph is from her role as a “Gypsy” in the movie, The Road to Yesterday. She is not actually a Romani woman.

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[image description: a young girl dressed in traditional Hungarian clothing is smiling]

This photograph is not of a Romani child; it is of a Hungarian child. The original photograph can be viewed on the photographer blog, which is labeled on the image itself. According the the photographer, this image was taken during the Csíksomlyó Pilgrimage; a religious pilgrimage of ethnic Hungarians to Şumuleu Ciuc, a Catholic church located in Romania.

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[image description: three women are seated, each wearing numerous pieces of jewelry, including several rings on each hand, and headscarves adorned with gold coins.]

This is commonly labeled as either Romani or “Gypsy”, but in actuality, this is Rachel Brice, Jill Parker, and Rose Harden. All of these women are White and belong in the belly-dance troupe “Ultra Gypsy”. Rachel Brice is notorious for her cultural appropriation and stereotypes. If you check out this link, you can see more images of the trio that are also sometimes mislabeled as Romani.

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[image description: a woman is posed wearing cultural jewelry items, which include several bracelets, two necklaces and hair adornments]

This is Armenian. This woman is not Roma, not “Gypsy”; she is Armenian. This image is of an Armenian woman wearing Armenian clothing and Armenian jewelry. There is nothing “Gypsy” about it.

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[image description: a group of women dressed in long skirts, vests, headscarves and varying amounts of jewelry are dancing]

Possibly the worst offender: this image is so often mislabeled as “Romani” that I’ve actually seen it on a Romani-related Wikipedia page. Let’s make something clear about this particular photograph; it is of a White dance troupe who call themselves “Shuvani Romani Kumpania” and perform their idea of “Gypsy” dance at Medieval themed festivals. None of the women in this group are actually Roma, yet their [mis]appropriation of our language has led many to believe they are. “Shuvani” is a word that was lifted from Raymond Buckland’s book, The Gypsy Witch. Raymond Buckland is well known among Roma as having been a fraud; he was not actually Roma [he had distant ancestry] nor was he raised with Romani cultural traditions or language. The word he meant to use was “chovexani” [pronounced: chhoveykhahnyee], which means “witch”. “Kumpania” [pronounced: koompahneeyah] is the word for a group of related Romani families who live, travel or work together. It can be loosely translated to mean “extended family” because that is, in a nutshell, what it means. So, this group of White women not only dress up like “Gypsies” for fun, but misuse our language in an attempt to seem more “authentic”.

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