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EUROPEAN UNION

GOVERNMENT OF ROMANIA MINISTRY OF LABOUR, FAMILY SOCIAL PROTECTION AND ELDERLY AMPOSDRU

European Social Fund

GOVERNMENT OF ROMANIA MINISTRY OF LABOUR, FAMILY SOCIAL PROTECTION AND ELDERLY OIRPOSDRU CENTRAL REGION

ROMANO BUTIQ A STUDY OF ROMA CRAFTS


ROMANO BUTIQ A STUDY OF ROMA CRAFTS


CONTACT

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Co-ordination: Ciprian Necula (KCMC), Ana Ivasiuc (Agenţia Împreună), Ana Chiriţoiu (Agenţia Împreună) Authors: Adina Albu, Simona Anton, Romeo Asiminei, Oana Banu, Irina Boeru, Ovidiana Bulumac, Alin Casapu, Diana Cataramă, Claudia Câmpeanu, Călin Chioreanu, Iulia Cristea, Simona Ilie, Silvia Lucas, Raluca Man, Loredana Manasia, Gabi Neagu, Elena Oprea, Andra Panait, Andrei Pârvan, Claudia Petrescu, Elena Petrescu, Ionuţ Petrescu, Mihaela Pitea, Mihnea Preotesi, Gabriel Săpunaru, Gabi Stănilă (ECHOSOC)

Photos: Sorin Onişor, Gabriel Bălănescu, Lorand Vakarcs, Cătălin Corneanu, Ştefan Muşat, Orlando Neagoe, Nicu Dumitru, Mădălin Nicolaescu, Mircea Nancă, Eduard Enea, Paul Ţanicui, Andrei Lupu Cover photo credits: Sorin Onișor Editing: Irina Georgescu (KCMC)

A STUDY OF ROMA CRAFTS


TABLE OF CONTENTS

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Foreword ............................................................................................................... 4 The story of the project ........................................................................................ 6

The story of Roma crafts .................................................................................... 10 Coppersmiths ..................................................................................................... 12 Cast pot makers ................................................................................................. 20 Ironsmiths ............................................................................................................ 24 Tinsmiths ............................................................................................................. 30 Silversmiths ......................................................................................................... 35 Brick makers ....................................................................................................... 38 Woodcarvers ..................................................................................................... 46 Spoon makers .................................................................................................... 52 Weavers ............................................................................................................. 56 Florists ................................................................................................................. 63 Harness makers .................................................................................................. 68 Sievers ................................................................................................................ 72 Hat makers .......................................................................................................... 74 Fiddlers ............................................................................................................... 78 How we were inspired by a craftsman called Nea Ion ................................. 88 How do we support the craftsmen? ................................................................. 92 An introduction to Romano ButiQ cooperatives ............................................. 94 The story of the Roma ..................................................................................... 106 Instead of a conclusion ................................................................................... 118 Bibliography ..................................................................................................... 119 Acknowledgements ......................................................................................... 120

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FOREWORD

Vintilă Mihăilescu

Why I admire this project Because it is useful, of course. Any NGO project must answer a specific problem and prove its usefulness by solving or helping solve that particular problem. In this instance, its usefulness manifests itself in the realm of social economy, a recent Romanian pursuit that still needs to be equaled in practice. A chronic problem among Roma communities. Because its thinking is not short-term, but strategic and medium to long-term. It’s not the kind of project that supplies ‘expertise’ and then moves on to other contracts. Because its strategy is intelligent and equally realistic. It’s not merely dealing with the Roma issue in general, only to end up yielding no particular concrete results. It’s not only ‘useful’, but also usable, identifying one of the most efficient courses of action and sticking to it. And following it through. Because it’s exceptionally well documented. It’s not simply an ‘out of the office’ or desk research project and it’s not merely e-mailing around applied, randomly validated solutions. The team members walked through towns and villages across 24 districts, went all around Bucharest, talked to people, sat down and listened to their stories and attested their capabilities. They made a field research and only after they had faced reality did they set out to come up with solutions. It stands to reason, it’s almost too easy, but still so rare in our current world of projects… Because this research goes beyond immediate and directly useful premises and pre-conditions and integrates the long span of history and covers the spatial diversity of the issue, thus putting into context

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and perspective the complexity and depth of its objective, making it not only known, but understood. The ‘story’, mind you, not ‘history’ of the Roma, in general, as well as that of the Roma craftsmen in particular are invoked sine ira et studio and construed not only to make information available, but especially to elicit understanding. Few can afford this ‘luxury’ in our (fast) ‘knowledge society’… I admire it precisely because it’s efficient like the Egg of Columbus. Putting together the 30 Romano ButiQ cooperatives, fostering production upstream and sales downstream altogether shape up The Solution. Basic and efficient, starting up veritably sustainable local development. And proving it’s perfectly possible: we already have a ‘success story’! In the context of the aggressive depression that currently surrounds Roma communities everywhere, this is an honour in itself. Last but not least, I admire it because it is well written, carefully edited with respect for the reader, who needs to be made part of the whole adventure, to be lured and persuaded - ultimately converted out of their stubborn prejudice. And perhaps eventually taken onboard. Far from being aggressive, vengeful or victimizing, its discourse is as simple as can be. This leads me to the main reason for my admiration. The text you are holding in your hands is so genuine, it’s such a gesture of normalcy. In the context of public discourse in recent years in Romania, which has lost all track of normalcy, this gesture seems out of ordinary. It’s soothing and pleasant like Spring breeze. And puts normalcy back on track. The ‘normalcy’ of a reality far from bright, yet one where Romanians from the heart of the village and Gipsies from across the river, while still segregated, used to forge fair, mutually beneficial, permanent relations. The normalcy of occupations that once made them proud and by means of which they can now reclaim their dignity. The ever more invisible normalcy of the Roma as hard-working, skilled craftsmen, without whom Romanian peasant households would not have been possible, but which today’s urban population has all but forgotten. Its remembrance thus brings a welcome capital of appreciation - to quote the authors - which could contribute to changing attitudes towards the Roma, but also a welcome economic capital which, once revitalized, could turn into the right answer to the poverty problems that many Roma communities are faced with.

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The story of the project Do you remember the grandparents’ household? Every kitchen used to have its coffee pot and tin kettle. Grandma used to scoop cornmeal with a wooden ladle and pour it in the kettle making sure it doesn’t turn out lumpy. Out in the doorway of the brick house you would find a woven mat to swipe your shoes and up above the door there used to be a horseshoe to bring luck to those who stepped inside. People used to go to the market and shop for groceries in a wicker basket. The yard broom used to be made of birch twigs. Corn cobs used to be gathered in a big woven basket and so was firewood. On the stove, a frying pan, sizzling under the wooden touch of the stirring spoon. Plum brandy used to be made in a brass distiller and tin buckets would help fetch water from the well. Traction horses or oxen were harnessed with thick, masterfully sewn leather. Those were things without which life was inconceivable, especially in the countryside, back in the day when there was no Teflon kitchenware nor plastic made in China. Objects which many of us doubtlessly grew up surrounded with, perhaps without wondering where those old, timeless things came from. They came with a lifelong guarantee and were often inherited from parents, sometimes even grandparents. Most of these objects came from Roma craftsmen: coppersmiths, cast kettle makers, ironsmiths, woodcarvers, spoon makers, brick makers, harness makers, rug weavers, basket weavers, tinsmiths who crafted with their bare hands basic instruments and plenty of hard work almost all that was needed around the house. Come to think of it, even good fortune (bafta) conjured by the doorway horseshoe came from the Roma1. In every village, it was common sense that objects bought from the Roma - who loudly beckoned clients showcasing their goods along the streets - would last for a lifetime. Food would taste marvelously in the cauldron, and so would coffee in the pot. Even water in the bucket would be better! Not only were these objects useful, they would make their way into family life and become landmarks in time - the pot grandma gave me as dowry, the distiller grandpa bought after the birth of his firstborn - as if they were becoming inanimate members of the clan. There was something else - each handmade object was one of a kind. A bit flat here, a bit rough over there, a hammer blow to the right, another one to the left - no coffee pot was like the other. Today, as standards and mass production yield clones of lookalike objects, we have started to realize the value of a unique object, crafted out of the hands of a human being. Back then, it was taken for granted. Little by little, though, things have changed, the world turned outwards. The town invaded the village universe, along with its array of cheap but shiny objects. Lack of money pushed villagers 1

‘bafta’(Romanian) = good fortune, luck (orig. Romani ‘baxt’)

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into preferring cheap alternatives, even if they knew they would break sooner; quality mattered less than the amount of money they were able to produce. Craftsmen numbers dwindled, as they were pushed to the cities. Many ended up not coping with competition from synthetic, imported goods. Horses became more and more rare, horseshoes were not so much in demand anymore, many ironsmiths abandoned the craft. Old time informal economy became more and more bureaucratic, bound within often unrealistic limits with no appeal for the craftsmen. However, Romanian collective consciousness still rightfully holds on to the idea that among the Roma there are lots of honest, skilled craftsmen. A welcome capital of appreciation, which could contribute to changing attitudes towards the Roma, and an equally welcome economic capital which, once revitalized, could turn into the right answer to the poverty problems that many Roma communities are faced with. Re-capitalizing traditional Roma crafts is not only a relevant idea; it’s in sync with the general trend and growing appreciation of handmade objects. In an era when mass consumerism is more and more questioned and criticized, an appetite for unique handicrafts, their makers and their stories can defy an economy based on lineproduced, lifeless, purely practical objects. Eventually we began to wonder: how many Roma craftsmen are still practicing their skills? Which crafts managed to survive transition economy? Under what circumstances? How are the craftsmen getting by? What would be the best approaches to help us reach our goal - to re-capitalize traditional Roma crafts, favouring innovation and community well-being? Literature on Roma craftsmen is rather precarious, much less on the crafts themselves. Thus, the only solution that could actually provide some answers to our questions was to hit the road in search of the craftsmen. Village by village - in the five regions of our project - asking passers-by, we went through Bucharest and 24 other districts to meet and sit down with the craftsmen. We found out fourteen different crafts are still being practiced in some Roma communities and for each of them we mapped the existence of several craftsmen communities: silversmiths, coppersmiths, cast pot makers, hat makers, brick makers, ironsmiths, florists, harness makers, basket weavers, lăutari (fiddlers), spoon makers, woodcarvers, sievers and tinsmiths - all of them spread around more than thirty different locations. We found the craftsmen in their makeshift workshops by their house, at fairs behind stalls, tending to their daily chores, and many of them allowed us to linger by, asking our outsider questions: ‘How is that made? Where do you source your iron? How many hammer blows does it take to shape such a wonderful coffeepot? And the tools? Where do you get them from? Is wicker hard to cut across? How long does it take to bake the bricks in the kiln? Is leather hard to sew? How easy is it to cast iron? Part ‘How It’s Made’, part road trip with exotic tinges, and yet not so far away from home. We dug out the story of each craft. We found out how much work is involved in making a cast iron cauldron or a wicker mat, a horseshoe or a wooden spoon. We found out how hardworking the craftsmen really are, contrary to all stereotypes against the Roma. We found out how resourceful some of them proved to be in order to adapt to an ever more competitive market, but also how hard it was for yet others, who were forced to leave their craft behind in search of more stable income. This provided a solid point of departure for us to design our future tasks - adapting the crafts to current market demand, professionalizing the craftsmen while making sure POVESTEA PROIECTULUI


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we give them back their well-deserved acclaim. Craftsmen have come back into the spotlight, showcasing their skills and craftsmanship, summoning inquisitive spirits of all kind to try out and better understand their crafts. In this book, we share what we saw and heard during these weeks of roaming around the country in search of Roma craftsmen to bring them closer to you. To tell you the story of objects you probably grew up with, at your grandparents’, as well as that of the people who kneaded them with their hands and hard work2. The research focused on running a sociological survey of 32 areas to identify practice-specific economic, social and cultural features. Data collection happened during October 15th-26th, 2010. The survey employed the following qualitative research methodology: 1. Semi-structured individual interviews with Roma craftsmen and with the local community leader 2. Semi-structured focus-group interviews with community members involved in the practice of traditional Roma crafts or in the capitalization of resulting products 3. Participant observation, taking down field notes in the observation log 4. Drafting development indicator files for the Roma communities 5. Photographs taken in the community, relevant for a particular craft

2 Because of reasons unrelated to political correctness, but out of respect due to any ethnic group and the right to selfidentity, we prefer the ethnonym ‘Roma’. However, when quoting the craftsmen the term ‘Gypsy’ is used, we left it as such.

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The story of Roma crafts

Many craftsmen share the same story, profoundly altered by post-1989 transition economy. During centralized, state-run economy, most of the crafts were centred around production cooperatives which drove regular, consistent demand for products used in agriculture: mat covers and woven baskets for crops, bricks for various auxiliary buildings, etc. Shutting down the cooperatives meant the arrival of economic scarcity for many unprepared craftsmen. The craftsmen we met during our trip are dispersed around the five regions of the project. Traditional Roma crafts were mainly preserved in villages. On the one hand, imported goods had a weaker penetration than in urban areas, and distribution markets for Roma products resisted for longer, due to the specificity of economic activities practiced in villages. For instance, ironsmiths sell their horseshoes mainly in villages, where people use horses to carry stuff or to help in field work. On the other hand, bartering has been the preferred and enduring practice occasionally. Even today you can witness craftsmen exchanging their products for a hen, a sack of cornmeal or a few eggs. TRAININGS

Training

SURVEYED COMMUNITIES

ironsmiths fiddlers (lăutari) brick makers tinsmiths basket weavers woodcarvers

ROMANO BUTIQ COOPERATIVES

in progress Basket weavers Ironsmiths Silversmiths Woodcarvers

florists

Cast pot makers

cast pot makers

Broom makers

coppersmiths

Fiddlers (lăutari)

silversmiths

Tinsmiths

harness makers

Tailors

hat makers sievers spoon makers

a lot of craftsmen live and work in other places, not highlighted on our map

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The typologies we are about to present should be taken as models that assemble some of the characteristics of craftsmen communities - not as universally applicable general rules.

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The Story of Roma Craftsmen

Coppersmiths Studies published so far, as well as public opinion among the Roma themselves, generally agree upon the fact that Roma coppersmiths are among the most conservative, preserving not only the Romani language, traditional attire - especially women - but also a good part of traditions from the Romanipen - an ensemble of values and traditions of the Roma. Among coppersmiths the idea of Roma chachipe - namely real, true Roma, someone who keeps alive the traditions of the elderly and the traditional values - lingers on. Traditional values among coppersmiths revolve around honour (pakiv), brotherhood and mutual help (phralipen), but also symbolic cleanliness (uzipen) - for instance, it is considered an impure act for someone to touch the lower part of their body. For this reason, clothes are washed separately - in some coppersmith households there are separate wash basins for upper clothing items and lower pieces - from waist down, the ones considered impure. COPPERSMITHS


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Producing a single coffee pot requires over 4.000 strokes of hammer.

Objects made by coppersmiths not only comprise those traditionally made of tin - buckets, caldrons, distillers, coffeepots, spouts, pots and pans, basins, etc. Sometimes coppersmiths also make objects usually made by ironsmiths, for instance horseshoes. Coppersmiths work with copper sheets, galvanized tin (for washbasins), aluminum (for spoons and washbasins), brass (for coffeepots), cast iron or stainless steel. There are three main sources for raw material: specialized outlets (former district technical supply depots, presently en-gross supply and sale enterprises), or scrap metal collecting points, or the client’s own material. Coppersmith products are obtained only by hammer blows against an anvil locked on to the ground, the material being initially heated by a forge (or bellows) that can be a rudimentary, makeshift piece created on site, or a technical innovation, an adapted vacuum cleaner that blows instead of sucking air. The tools, besides having a direct utilitarian value, are very dear to the craftsmen, accompanying them in crucial moments during their life: ‘I was born by the cartwheel, next to the forge’, said a coppersmith from Sărulești; another, proudly pointing to his anvil, said: ‘There’s the anvil! It’s from Papu, from grandpa! He had it with him at the Bug river!’, reminding us the tragic episode of the Roma deportation in the Trans Dniestr. Tools have memory. When craftsmen talk about their tools, they cuddle them: ‘my hammer beauty’. COPPERSMITHS


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Every craftsman signs their products, like artists, leaving hammer marks in the texture of the caldron foil. Every coppersmith can tell apart objects made by someone else: ‘Each of us has his own hammer blow. We’re not making flowers. Each of us deals blows with the hammer. You can recognize the hammerhead in the mark that it leaves.’ Coppersmiths in Sărulești say the best way to measure and shape the pattern of objects is by using their palms and fingers: ‘We use our palm. 6 and a half palms on buckets, 10 buckets for 9 palms. We don’t use a meter, only palms. Two palms and two fingers for the bottom, then we circle around, put it one on top of the other and hammer it out. […] We measure it down by palm.’ Craftsmen prefer to work and go to the trade fairs in summer. They do that for practical reasons, but also to synchronize with the year-to-year agricultural practices of their main clients, the peasants, as well as with their buying needs and possibilities: ‘We mostly work in summer, we don’t do much in winter, days are too short. When there is work to do, we do it in summer and in winter, if not, we hang around doing

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‘We used to wear long hair and beards, like Jesus Christ in his images, that is how all of us Gypsy kin used to be; we call ourselves caldarari (coppersmiths), we are not tinkers who sometimes fool around; we caldarari were born this way and known this way, we used to be on the map; caldarari don’t steal, don’t break into houses, don’t break stuff, they only live by their trade, by the hammer; that’s the way we’ve been since forever, since old Adam and his Eve; since then things have changed - some were tinkers, others were silversmiths, yet others coppersmiths - but we were nomads - that’s how our kin was - long haired, nomad, bearded Gypsies.’ (S.I., Sărulești).

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nothing. There’s not so much work as there used to be. In winter we eat what we produced in summer.’ Many coppersmiths spend summers in tents from village to village, opening improvised workshops: ‘We go to the countryside in tents, that’s how we work still, in tents. If the client is willing to see where we work, let it be, he can sit by and watch us work.’ Coppersmiths from Piatra Olt say the most favourable sale season is fall, when grapes, tomatoes, plums and other fruit are harvested. It’s a painstaking craft, all the process is manual labour and exclusively based on hammering out the sheets. It’s also quite dangerous, as accidents can happen quite frequently - they can hit themselves with the hammer or cut themselves in the sheets. However, craftsmen are proud of their craft: ‘This is true work, proper work!’ says a coppersmith from Craiova. Craftsmen cut up to 1mm-thick copper sheets by scissors - sometimes helped by their wives (who hit the scissors with the hammer). If the sheet is thicker, men cut it by hammer and chisel against the anvil. Then they forge the pieces at high temperatures, depending on their thickness and the type of object they are about to produce. Sheets are then taken out of the forge and hammered out. Then they are reheated, hammered out again until they become malleable, and ultimately wielded out in order to obtain the desired object (measured, cut out, assembled by hammer blows, glued together, brushed and cleaned up). Eventually, coppersmiths brass-plate the caldrons. Caldrons are not to be tinkered, or varnished, in order to avoid chemical reactions that may harm the body through oxidation. Tinning and brass plating are also not recommended for aluminum buckets or pots. These are only hammered out COPPERSMITHS

‘Kin by kin we’ve been doing this. From generation to generation, hand to hand. We don’t even know who started it off.’ (Coppersmith, Sărulești)


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at sparrow tail shaped joints, adding handles made of copper or scrap iron cleaned of paint, rust or other contaminants. For cookware, lined copper is used, which contains small quantities of alloy metals. Then comes the wife’s part, who polishes the vessels in order to make them shine for successful sales. For coppersmiths in Sărulești, haggling is a true pleasure. There is no sale without this stage. In Sărulești, it’s usually women who quibble over the price of products with the villagers: ‘I ask a price for the caldron. One says - I give you such amount. Another says less, then another less still. I factor in how much material was used, how much we paid for it, how much work was done. If they bring a broken bucket or distiller, we hammer it out and we exchange it - he gives the difference I give him another one. We work on the broken one too. Sometimes we make a loss. It depends on the client.’ Travelling trade is dying out. Craftsmen still remember old times with pleasure: ‘Our coppersmith kin used to travel by cart, by tent, village to village, they used to pitch their tents and villagers used to welcome them. I used to go to a village and make a caldron for someone, then two or three other people showed up and had a look. The next day one of them would come to me and say he wanted a caldron just like that for COPPERSMITHS


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himself. That’s when I used to have so much work I couldn’t keep up.’ Lately, though, travelling trade all but disappeared; coppersmiths in Craiova ended up only working upon demand, as covering up for the investment in raw material took too long: ‘There is no use in making stuff and ending up not selling it and stacking it up in the gateway. If you want to place a written order for me to make you a few caldrons, I make them. […] If your company has an order and you have a place to sell them on, I make you as many caldrons as you wish. Hundreds. Any kind of caldron, any kind of pot, any kind of basin, anything you desire.’ It’s a great shame among coppersmiths to go abroad to find work, as that means leaving their family at home with no support, something you simply do not do. Instead of going abroad leaving their family without support, they prefer to limit themselves to practicing the old craft: ‘No coppersmith kin ever crossed any border. No one ever left… they stayed home with their wives and children.’ COPPERSMITHS

‘Once I bought a glazed bucket. The enameling fell off and it started to rust. If I make you a bucket, it lasts for at least 10 years. Buckets we make are more resistant and cheaper. (S.I., Sărulești)


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The craft is handed down from father to son, on a paternal lineage. That’s also where the motivation for young girls to marry inside the family comes from: ‘If one of our girls marry a Romanian boy, he wouldn’t know how to make caldrons and so wouldn’t be able to provide for her.’ Children start learning the craft early and help their parents with small jobs: ‘Our children have already picked up the craft […] they help us since they are little, ever since they can hold the hammer in their hands, around 7 or 8 years of age.’ Even in communities where craftsmen tend to be pessimistic about the perpetuation of their craft due to financial difficulties they are facing, they still continue to teach the craft to their children.

‘50 years on and people will still need caldrons, Romanians will never quit drinking ţuică (plum brandy) […] Ardeal is not left without its palinka.’ (Coppersmith, Crăciunești)

‘You take burnt sand (…) to get it stuck, you mix it up, pour water on it, not too much, put it in the mold, put the mold into the matrix, press it, peel off the mold, and keep the mold in the sand. Then you pour the melted material. It takes long before it shapes up. You can obtain various shapes. Whatever the client needs, we give it to him, not only caldrons.’ (Craftsman, Toflea)

Scan here and find out more:

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The Story of Roma Craftsmen

Cast pot makers Cast pot makers work with non-ferrous metals, especially with aluminum that they cast in molds they make for themselves. They feel respected and appreciated, partly due to their well done, responsible work. ‘We are wellregarded, people are satisfied, for what we do is not faulty, we make stuff that is useful to people. […] We don’t run into trouble, we pot makers are very dutiful people.’ Like other craftsmen, they value handmade objects which, in spite of their imperfections, are superior to line-produced objects: ‘This knife, the kitchen knife, I’d rather buy it from the Gypsy that worked hard to make it, its edge stays sharp for longer and it’s altogether more lasting than this other one which may look good, but its handle breaks, its edge blunts away and so on…’ Cast pot makers have to take into account the cultural variations of demand for various shapes and products. Travelling across the country, they realized that in Oltenia, for instance, only pots with square-shaped handles sell well, therefore they only produce this kind of pots when they take their stuff to this area. Pot makers from Pârâul Sec, Bacău district, think that raw material they use in order to make cauldrons (charred coal, burnt in ironsmith ovens, aluminum) is more expensive or harder to find than five or Back in communist times: ‘The sanitary authority came. Where is the aluminum? Here it is, here is the sand, here is the pot, there you go, that’s it. The Sanitary were the greatest. We melted the aluminum, they took note. Sir, if temperature goes from 100 to 600 degrees Celsius all microbes are gone. There are no microbes anymore. No microbes over 600 degrees. So they gave us the medico-sanitary authorization. […] The police used to ask for the functioning authorization, from the Sanitary.’ (Pot maker, Pârâul Sec)

ten years ago. One kilo of aluminum costs 4.5-6 lei now at collecting points, 5-10 years ago it used to be 1-1.5 lei. Coal is bought from enterprises or from locals and sometimes it’s replaced with lower quality coal. In order to avoid high raw material costs, craftsmen from Toflea, Galaţi county, try to source their aluminum from villagers that don’t use their old pots and pans anymore and so they can do without them. The pot makers work

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is not without danger, because aluminum melts at very high temperatures, which means children under 14, sometimes even under 18, are forbidden in the place where the metal is cast. Usually that place is in a far corner of the yard, by the house. Tools employed by the cast pot makers are usually quite simple: ‘What you need is a mold and a hammer to shove the sand into the shape.’ In Toflea, casting the pots starts in the morning, around 8. The housewife starts the fire with wood and charcoal and puts the aluminum pieces into a cast-iron cauldron for them to melt. Men and boys over 14 prepare the molds and do the casting itself. The melting aluminum is stirred using a cast iron ladle. While the aluminum is melting, the craftsman beats the sand up, moistens it, fills the molds up with sand and places them upside down. The mold is well beaten and sprinkled with a different kind of sand, coarser and whiter, so that the pattern doesn’t get stuck to the shape. Then sand is poured into the shape and pressed down with a hammer. Then the cleat is added, to make sure the pot doesn’t break, and the craftsman thumps down the sand with his feet. He takes out the shape and the cleat and pours the melted aluminum at 600-700 degrees. He leaves it for 5 minutes to harden and then takes out the new pots. The sand is then moistened again for the next series of pots.

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The melting lasts for 2-3 hours, the shaping 1-2, hours so the whole process amounts to approximately 5 hours, depending on how fast the material melts and how fast the fire burns, which in turn depends on the kind of coal used. Altogether, the pot makers in Pârâul Sec estimate they can make 15 to 30 pots per day. Pot makers stock up and take their stuff to trade fairs, but most of the time that is not the only way they go about selling their products. Craftsmen have a very good knowledge of the time periods for all well-established fairs or markets that may take place, and they find out about new ones on the internet, from their children. They travel a lot, in order to exhibit and sell their products. Some of them admit that time spent at home is exclusively dedicated to casting pots. The rest of the time, they are either looking for raw material or selling stuff at fairs: ‘Sometimes we sleep in villages, at home we only cast, that’s it.’ Pot makers in Toflea, who now have their own cars, remember the hard old times: ‘We used to take carts up to the train station, then we took the train, then again put everything back on carts… It was awfully hard. We put the pots in sacks, we carried them on our shoulders, we took the bus and then on to the train. Sometimes we were let in, sometimes not… Now we have these cars and it helps a lot. We don’t carry so much weight anymore.’ Women also helped with transport: ‘We took the train, we put the pots into sacks, sealed the sacks off with wire, bound them with string, I would go up on the train and my husband would hand me the sacks.’ Craftsmen from Pârâul Sec used to lay their products outside factory gates in the area on pay day. When factories were CEAUNARII


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closed down, the habit subsided. Meanwhile though,

Pot makers practice the craft mostly as a basic need.

as Romanians started to migrate abroad to work,

Often it’s the only skill they possess and learn from the

another market opened up, created by those who left

family. Lacking alternatives, they go on practicing the

abroad. Thus, pot makers in Pârâul Sec sell most of their

skill they learnt from their parents, not because they

products in August, when those who left temporarily

are in love with it nor out of respect or to perpetuate

come back home and buy pots to take them to their

inherited tradition, but rather because they don’t have

Romanian acquaintances abroad: ‘And so, one thing

any other options: ‘This isn’t something that is typical

led to another, how’s it going, you also bought one

or helps people identify us as pot makers or gypsies…

last month, are you going to buy another one now? I’ll

It’s just that there’s nothing else to do… Not that we

send it to my girls in Dubai. And the girls have their own

wouldn’t change it, there’s too much work in it and the

friends and this man buys from us and sends the stuff

pay is not covering for day to day toil, we lift up to one

over there. […] In the month of August sales are better,

and a half tons a day, it’s a lot of weight, but there’s

then come the Italians, the French, the Spaniards, and

nothing you can do… That’s the way it is, this kind of job

they each take one pot to their country, they work and

means a lot of work.’

they make polenta à la Romanian and sarmale (stuffed cabbage rolls) à la Romanian. When they leave, there

Both young and old generations view the craft rather

are no more sales.’

pragmatically, and, regardless of their age, they think they can start practicing a new activity that would

‘There are good days and bad days, that’s life.’ (Pot maker, Toflea)

generate income. Young craftsmen still practice the old skills for lack of alternatives, but at the same time, there are former craftsmen that gave it up altogether, in order to start a new business with their family.

Pot makers in Pârâul Sec, Comănești, practice apprenticeship, even if the skill is handed down inside the family. In order to learn the craft of casting pots,

‘We never mugged nobody, we get by and win our bread, we are loved and resourceful.’ (Pot maker, Pârâul Sec)

one needs to go through a stage of apprenticeship that usually lasts 2 to 3 years. Sometimes it starts at 7-8 years old, sometimes at 12, but permission to handle the stove is only granted after a certain level of experience has been attained, generally over 18 years of age.

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The Story of Roma Craftsmen

Ironsmiths Blacksmithing is divided into subtle specializations: horseshoe making, ironware, fittings. It’s often attributed to the Roma, having been practiced both during slavery and by some liberated Roma after the emancipation3. Some authors state that Roma ironsmiths held a monopole over the craft across Eastern Europe and the Iberian Peninsula: ‘In the Old Kingdom there used to be no peasant household without ironware made by the gypsies.’4 Moreover, it seems in rural areas this monopole caused a semantic overlap between ‘Roma’ and ‘ironsmith’.

Whenever they have enough orders, ironsmiths work up to 10 hours a day.

Blacksmithing was initially practiced during nomadism. Craftsmen used to go to villages to sell their products or to offer their services to mend household objects. The settling process, encouraged by the powers that be, managed to tie the ironsmiths to the villages for good, at the start of the 19th century5.

Ironsmiths believe they are appreciated by the Romanians due to ‘Come, my lads, let’s take a breath and have a smoke. The three of us, if we work like this the whole day, we can cover the whole village in iron.’ (I. Agârbiceanu, ‘The Pharaohs and other Roma life stories’)

the fact that they work hard and don’t steal, contrary to stereotyped perceptions of the majority about the Roma: ‘I work hard. I’ve never had my children steal and never will.’ The income is not enough, therefore it has to be supplemented by income obtained through selling walnuts, day labour on farms, carrying stuff by horse, performing music or gathering scrap metal.

3

Grigore, D., Sarău, G., Istorie și tradiţii rome, Organizaţia Salvaţi Copiii, Bucharest, 2006, p. 24-25. Achim, V., Ţiganii în istoria României, Editura Enciclopedică, Bucharest, 1998, p. 49. 5 Idem. 4

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However, occupations like these tend to be rather infrequent and seasonal: ‘Sometimes I find work in the village, otherwise we starve to death. This summer I did a few small jobs, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. There’s no possibility. There’s not much to do.’ Some tools are purchased, but certain instruments are inherited from father to son - i.e. the anvil: ‘This one’s old, my parents gave it to me, see this… it took so many blows it’s cracked in the middle.’ Besides hammers of various sizes and the anvil, ironsmiths use tongs to hold the piece of metal over the fire, a sort of rasp, hoof clippers, chisels, punches, grips, hobnails, as well as bellows to keep the fire alive. Recently, ironsmiths have not hesitated to adopt new, electrical tools: electric welding machines, electric forges, grinders to cut the material, air brushes. Ironsmiths in Dolhasca have specialized in agricultural blacksmithing: they shoe horses, make and mend various parts of a cart, especially those made of metal. Horseshoeing demands a great amount of attention and skill. If the farrier misses by as little as 1 mm and he ‘touches’ the horse, the hoof might get infected. Hoofs are made of iron rods: rods are cut into 20-25 cm pieces and heated in the oven. Heat in the oven

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is maintained using the bellows. The rod is held by the tongs over the fire in order to become malleable. After the red hot rod is taken out, says the craftsman: ‘I turn it around 2 or 3 times, I hammer it down, first one end then the other. I can make 4 pieces in an hour. If I have a client’. The end of the shoe is bent, then hammered in, thus making the necessary calks to prevent the horse from slipping during gait. Holes are punched in to grip the shoe on to the hoof by hobnails or by welding. The latter procedure is employed to make the shoe last longer. Ironsmiths in Ostroveni have diversified their activity and make various objects, such as wrought iron gates, horse carts, grates, handrails. When there is construction work in the area, ironsmiths are called upon to make clips needed in roofing. As far as gates are concerned, there is a preliminary stage that precedes the drafting of the model. Before wielding the iron itself, the ironsmith draws a sketch and presents it to the client, ‘for that’s how we model it, to the man’s desire’. To create the gates, the ironsmith cuts the material, heats it up with a forge, places it on the anvil, hits it with the hammer, punches it, doubles it, adjusts or binds it, giving it the wanted shape. When you make the gates, the model is important - it leaves space not only for design innovations, but also for the ‘tools of the trade’: ‘I am from this village, even kids know me, and when someone comes to me they want a pair of gates like the ones they saw, they take me there, I take a video of it with my mobile phone and I come back right here and make it.’ FIERARII

‘My mom told us, when we were small, dad used to call her to help and she rocked us with her feet down in the shed where she worked while also using the hammer. Paying someone was too hard. (Sanitary mediator, Flămânzi)


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Ironsmiths in Moţca make various objects, both practical and ornamental: agricultural tools (hoes, shovels, spades, forks), household objects (caldrons, kettles, pots, pans, etc.), horseshoes, bells for animals or chimes for carols, wrought iron gates, steel handrails, various iron fittings. Although the women help making the objects, they are not allowed to willingly and systematically learn the skills. Equally, access to the workshop is forbidden every time there is a perceived state of symbolic ‘impurity’ - during menstruation, pregnancy or childbed; women are not allowed inside the husband’s working space, being perceived as ‘maxrime’ (adulterated). Some ironsmiths from Medgidia even admit to having had sisters who were pretty well skilled and were working at the same rate and under the same conditions as men. Once married, though, basic responsibilities become those related to housekeeping and child raising, always a priority against income making activities. Ironsmiths involve all the family members in the working process, be it women or men, young or old. There is a hierarchy given by age rather than abilities. The price of objects produced by ironsmiths is negotiated depending on the client, but also on the complexity of the service: horseshoeing can be accompanied by welding or not, horses can be hard-mouthed and may demand more effort (restive horses are confined into a wooden contraption that restricts their movements). The price also depends on the client, whether they are well-off or not, so that the price can be higher for someone who is rich or lacks negotiation skills. If the material used belongs to the craftsmen, the final price is raised. ‘I say three lei, he says 2 and a half. We haggle. To each their own, depends on the man and his wallet, his dough.’ In some communities, the price for objects or services is often fixed by the master smith; children seldom haggle, wives sell products for prices fixed by their husbands. FIERARII


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Whenever suggested, some ironsmiths accept to barter in exchange for food, partly or completely: ‘Some people give us beans. They bring beans, they bring potatoes. If I finish this tonight (pointing to an object in the shed) he gives me an extra can of wine. Or if he says he only has 200, he’ll give me beans or potatoes.’ Ironsmiths in Comănești don’t mind bartering, as it helps handling competition, especially when they offer their services in remote places where there are local ironsmiths who will only work for cash: ‘They have their own ironsmiths over there, but if you accept food, people will give you some potatoes, a bit of flour. What matters is what you ask for. If you ask for food, it’s an easy sale. They don’t have so much money, but they will always have some food.’ Skills are handed down in the family, but also to apprentices from outside. However, the pleasure to practice the skill is an essential ingredient for the success of any apprentice. Pleasure has to overcome harsh working conditions: ‘It’s one thing to learn the skills at 40 or 50 and another to learn them since you are a small child. Start early and enjoy it. As long as there is no enjoyment there is no learning. Not even at 40. You will only end up tinkering around… I taught lots of people, a lot of them. Not only Roma, many others, but without pleasure, it’s all in vain.’ Skills are only handed down to those who are prepared to acquire them: ‘The master who knew the drill used to show you the skills. If you weren’t paying attention, it was useless, you learnt nothing. Skills are to be stolen!’ Nowadays, some ironsmiths bemoan the fact that young generations tend to follow other paths. The extinction of the craft thus seems to be inevitable. However, a closer look will show some hope for renewal still exists. Some craftsmen clearly find themselves in a race of perpetual innovation: ‘If I see something special, I go back where I saw it first, then the image is recorded, and when

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’There are still three or four of us outstanding personalities still working, kids today don’t learn the skills anymore.’ (Ironsmith, Comănești)


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you come back home afterwards you don’t make it as such, as it would mean copying… you make it even better, for what you’ve done today, tomorrow you do better!’ Incidentally, blacksmithing has been an innovative territory for decades, as a result of new tools: from sharpening objects with a rasp, they started using the manual grinder and then the electric grinder, while the welding machine replaced ‘boiling’: ‘Once I used to boil the iron, putting it in the fire. You put the iron in the fire until it gets red and then we placed it like this (one piece on top

A lot of people show up first, but they go away after seeing such a mess (Ironsmith, Moţca)

of the other), we thinned it here and there - both ends - and then we put it like this in the fire until sparks came out, like fireworks. If someone comes and asks for it, that’s the way I’m gonna do it.’, says the ironsmith, opening the way to ‘selling’ the craft as a performance.

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The Story of Roma Craftsmen

Tinsmiths

In order to make and fit in 50 meters of gutter, the craftsman needs 2-3 days

In the case of tinsmithing6, there can be identified three subdivisions, depending on the use of the resulting objects: • industrial tinsmithing: pegs, downspouts, gutters, roof tin; furnaces for stoves, zinc buckets for construction work, stove pipes for smoke, chimney hoods, heat maintainers (smoke traps heat so it does not escape through the chimney) • household tinsmithing: buckets for draw-wells, zinc buckets for agricultural works, basins, dustpans, garden sprinkling cans, weathercocks (fixed at one end of chimneys, they drive the smoke away when the wind blows), alcohol distillers, scissors, cabinets, shelves, roof ornaments, funnels for gasoline, funerary lamps • domestic tinsmithing: baking trays, pots and pans, funnels for sausages The raw matter used in making gutters is zinc-coated sheet. Sheets are cut into pieces, as many as needed to cover an entire edge of the house or shed. Then all the pieces are bent to form a semi-circle, and finally the edges are rounded off. The next stage is the cutting of sheets in order to make the downspouts. The cut pieces are shaped to form a cylinder. The next stage is making the flat-bar pegs to fix the gutters on to the truss frames. Flat-bars are cut and then bent into pegs. Pegs are fixed on the truss frames at the client’s home. Then the gutter pieces are mounted, then the S-shaped spouts that make up for the cornice. A clamp is locked at the truss end of the S-shape to avoid sliding. Even though making spouts and gutters seems easy, craftsmen need a lot of technical data to install them on houses or stables. Additionally, they need to observe rules imposed by dilation and contraction, which means possessing knowledge of physics not accessible to everyone. Tinsmiths in Fizeșu Gherlii estimate the duration for making a dustpan at around ten minutes. The craftsman starts by scissoring a rectangle out of a sheet and then cutting another piece for the handle. Then he straightens out the edges by cutting. 6

Some bibliographic sources state that tinsmithing is a recent occupation: while according to some authors it starts after the Emancipation (Grigore, Sarău, 2006), others situate it more precisely in the 1960’s. We seem to be dealing here with ‘invented tradition’ rather than traditional crafts; it seems the oldest craftsmen took over the skill from their old masters, friends or acquaintances among the non-Roma population (Olivera, 2009) TINSMITHS


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Ten years ago, for periods lasting between several weeks to several months, during summer, craftsmen in Fizeșu Gherlii travelled, alone or with their families, to sell their products, to get new orders or honour previously commissioned deals on-the-spot, especially making and fitting up gutters. These works did not last long, and craftsmen used to take their raw material with them. They also used to honor repair work for old objects. Home-commissioned work at has all but disappeared. What put an end to this lifestyle was the obligation to carry an authorization which allowed travelling and itinerant trading. Fear of fines made many craftsmen not declare their work and thus not going around anymore. Goods traded by craftsmen in Fizeșu Gherlii outside their village were pots, caldrons, platters, funnels, dustpans. They even used to carry this kind of goods on their backs when they traded locally or in nearby places. In spring and summer, gutters were in high demand. Craftsmen travelled to other villages shouting out loud to advertise the products: ‘We went along the village shouting: come around! we’ve got pots and platters, we’ve got troughs!’

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Craftsmen almost unanimously agree that satisfied customers are a good promotional tool: ‘Here in this village I once made such a handsome stove and women went around: who made it? Marin did - and they would send people over to us… That’s how people ended up knowing who Marin was. […] People kept coming over, you know how it works, you make something good, you make a stove and it burns properly, they go: this stove really burns, who made it? They baked bread and cookies. It burns so well and it bakes such good bread… and so the word was out - it’s him who made it, not the other one. You know the way people say: he’s the one who works really well.’ Bad quality commercially available products make craftsmen in Crăciunești not fear the competition of market place gutters and spouts, usually made of plastic. For the same price, they

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And so I found myself practicing this skill. By some fence or down in someone’s yard, using dad’s tools, I picked it up. First I was messing up, I remember dad slapped me once. Then he showed me, he guided me. Making the first pot was hard, but then, little by little, I reached 40 years of practice.’ (R., Fizeșu Gherlii)


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include the fitting work, and tin is ‘100 times more resistant’ than plastic anyway. Handing down the craft is often done by practicing, ‘by doing’. Tinsmiths in Fizeșu Gherlii learn the skill from their parents, grandparents or uncles, without any theory classes, directly during the making of commissioned work or objects, both at home and during travel to remote places for fairs. Children learn by hanging around and doing little practical jobs: for instance fetching a particular piece - they learn how it’s called; or fitting two pieces together - they

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‘There were clients in every house, rich people… we would make distillers, buckets, mend things… We used to go to Mureș and mend pots for welloffs, right there, on the spot. We mended pots and pans for well-off town-ladies. […] Pot and pans were also Roma-made. A new one would be too expensive, so they were better off with mending. […] Once, things were not as you think they were. We’d carry our tools on our backs and roam the city streets. Every corner we would stop and ask: madam, anything to mend? Back in Ceaușescu times, we used to make a decent living as tinsmiths, people valued us… Now things have changed.’ (Craftsman, Crăciunești)

learn the name of that stage in the process. Children are encouraged to learn the skill, to be able to make a living through honest, hard work: ‘you need to win your bread’, ‘you need to be honest’, which is considered to be of utmost importance.

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The standard job denomination of ‘precious metals jeweler’ is included in the official jobs register of Romania.


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The Story of Roma Craftsmen

Silversmiths Bibliographic sources mention them as goldsmiths (zlătari) or ring makers (inelari), originated in former nomadic court slaves.7 Often considered highly skilled craftsmen, silversmiths are regarded as once representing the elite of the nomadic ancestry. In India, as well as in their beginnings on European clay, their direct descendants were their kinsmen the gold diggers, who panned gold out of river silt and sand. The only silversmiths community we focus on in this body of work is located in Bucharest. The traditional branch of Roma silversmiths is well represented in the Alexandria municipality, in the Ialomiţa area, more intensely in the city of Ţăndărei, in the Bucharest and Ilfov areas (less) and even lesser in Tulcea. Roughly, the number of families that constitute this branch is approximately one thousand, as we were informed by its members. The distinguishing trait of silversmiths is the handling of precious metals (gold, platinum and silver) or replacements, of which they fashion out jewelry, ornamental objects (rings, earrings, pendants, bracelets, necktie pins, hairpins, tiaras, buttons, jewelry boxes, etc.), religious objects (candle holders, chandeliers, 7

Grigore, D., Sarău, G., Istorie şi tradiţii rome, Organizaţia Salvaţi Copiii, Bucharest, 2006, p. 23.

‘That’s how we make a living, we need to have a lot of stuff on display, we need to have an attractive display wherever we go to attract people, that’s the whole point. You need a lot of merchandise, stuff you made yourself, to attract people, to work there on the spot in front of the client; that’s what matters, having great credibility, the fact that you make it yourself. Practically you work right there, theory shows ‘cause they can see you work. People can see us and that’s how we make our living, how we raise our kids.’ (E.P., Bucharest)

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icons, icon frames, bells and carillons, incensories, votive lights, crosses, etc.), as well as ornamental art objects (silverware, dishware, coats of arms), or book production elements (bindings, crossings). The idea that practicing certain crafts brings about particular features is quite frequent. For instance, silversmiths in Bucharest that make the object of this book told us about how they consider themselves to be ‘more tranquil, more lenient’ than other Roma branches that have practiced less itinerant activities, because silversmiths ‘have traveled all their lives’ and know their ways both with the majority and the minorities. Most of the times they work with silver, brass, nickel silver (alpacca) and copper. They get hold of those either in trade fairs in Bucharest or other cities, or straight from clients who then only pay for the handwork for the newly obtained object: ‘People pay for handwork, it’s only fair, I worked hard for that object, and in exchange they give me scraps, all kinds of silver objects, we melt them out and reshape them.’ The silversmith tools include: anvil, hammer, scissors, tongs, pincers, blowtorch, rasp. Most of them work at home, but silversmiths in Bucharest also own a workshop, belonging to several persons, where some of them meet, whenever they feel the need, when they have a more complex order and the final product is harder to accomplish at home. The process starts with acquiring and then melting the raw material. After it has been melted, the metal is cast or shaped manually, adjusted, hammered down, stretched out, cut, sculpted, and then engraved, polished and finished. Silversmiths claim they make around 5-600 objects every month, including orders, but, in principle, besides ‘live’ production, stocks need to be replenished constantly to be convincing. Silversmiths, like other categories of traditional craftsmen, are aware of the fact that performing the whole production process in front of an audience of potential buyers makes a contribution to the added value of the finished product, not strictly economically but also culturally. Along with the uniqueness of the products, the performance is an ‘asset’ in itself, which makes the difference between mass-produced, commercially available

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stuff and their own handmade, live-produced jewelry.In the absence of established outlets to sell their products in cities, the alternative market is represented by fairs, but participation or information about them is not always accessible to everyone. In order for younger generations to be attracted by the perpetuation of the craft it is necessary to believe that practicing it is lucrative. In order to make sure their young will practice silversmithing, the craftsmen

‘We don’t need money; […] we’ve never asked and never will, other than to help me organize weekly fairs for my craftsmen. I never asked for it for free, I’m no beggar, if I was a beggar I would have ended up in France, I would be there.’(I.C., Bucharest)

need to prove them it’s perfectly possible to live off of it; otherwise, they will follow other directions: ‘If I don’t provide proof that I progress economically, that he can survive, if I don’t make that point clear enough, there’s no way he takes it up, my offspring is not taking it up and follows another path.’ We met a craftsman who was proud of the way his two daughters were helping their parents sell jewelry: ‘They both study law’, he added.

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The Story of Roma Craftsmen

Brick makers Making bricks is a seasonal craft, only practiced in summer, and the brick makers’ social status is perceived as inferior even among craftsmen from other branches. Therefore, it’s possible that brick makers willingly shift the focus from their brick making, preferring instead to underline other crafts they may practice: wicker weaving, mat making, wood carving, blacksmithing or playing music. Access to raw materials is one of the most outstanding hardships against the practice of brick making. For brick makers, clay is both raw matter and working space, not to mention the fact that a certain type of clay is needed in order to make proper bricks: ‘A carefully chosen clay, you can’t make bricks out of any clay… you only make them out of well-chosen clay, black and yellow striped clay.’ Lack of access to raw material is explained mainly by the fact that land which up to 20 years ago was used as no man’s land or community land meanwhile became the object of retrocession, thus coming under someone’s property. Furthermore, the underlying cause for this situation consists of the fact that the Roma were not even land owners before collectivization, therefore they were only the subject of retrocession in small numbers. Accordingly, while during the very first years after the 1989 revolution they could still dig out the ground on land perceived as communal, belonging to the state, once the land was returned to owners, the brick makers were faced with the situation where they could only source raw material from their own land (which is practically impossible, since all they own is confined to a few square meters in their backyard). Even in the case of a larger surface, using it for sourcing clay is not a sustainable strategy in the long run, as digging pits can narrow down the remaining plot destined to drying the bricks. Alternative sourcing includes buying from construction workers or night digging on the village outskirts. If they dig the clay out in their own yard, they carry it in cartwheels and buckets over to the preparation site. However, if they can afford it, they pay 100-200 lei per truck (depending on the load). One truckload is enough for making around 25-30,000 pieces of thin bricks

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Before being sold, bricks go through nine different production stages

or 12-15,000 pieces of thick bricks for construction. Clay is transported by cart or by car. Whenever they don’t have their own transport, they pay for the favour in cash or kind. To produce bricks you also need water, and in large quantities. Most of the times they choose to dig a well next to the working place, but there are always alternative solutions, such as transporting water from the river, in barrels, by cart. In brick making there is a certain balance to be held between the needed amounts of water, sand and clay. Sand is the other raw matter, used especially for coating the moulds in which bricks take shape. Brick makers in Viperești source their sand from the banks of the Buzău river, without any formal agreement with the authorities for exploiting these resources. There is always the possibility to buy the sand from construction warehouses, which also means paying for the transport. BRICK MAKERS


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Another important ingredient is the fuel used to bake the bricks, coal being the fuel of choice. Currently, modest economic resources involved in production make fuel procurement impossible, which means the brick makers end up using wood, which is cheaper to buy. Collecting wood leftovers from forest exploitation is a practice which, although illegal, is usually condoned by the authorities. Brick makers also need plank wood and nails in their working process, in order to produce tools needed to blend the materials together. Bricks can only be made when the weather is warm, from around May until September, and they are mostly sold in summer and in fall. Brick makers in Roseţi make a distinction between two types of traditional ‘gypsy’ bricks: made on a table and made by the pit. Both kinds have been handed down from generation to generation, but what sets them apart is the way they are produced. Thus, the table technique is used in Roseţi and is more modern, as one of our interviewees sees it, due to the fact that they don’t spend too much time with their feet under water and they use sand to prevent clay from sticking to the mould. In Spanţov and near Olteniţa, as craftsmen in Roseţi told us, they make ‘water’ bricks: brick makers in Spanţov dip the mould in water and then they throw it back down when they want to cast it.

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Brick makers in Roseţi had several ways to sell their bricks until a few years ago. They went by cart in places in their district on a 30km radius around Roseţi, waited for clients to show up at their gates, drove the cart or the car on Saturday and Sunday mornings to the fair in Călărași or sold the bricks to various warehouses. However, nowadays, due to restricted circulation for carts on public roads, trips to nearby places have considerably diminished in numbers. Going to the fair, in its turn, is not so lucrative anymore, as it doesn’t return as much income. And so it is that currently most of the craftsmen sell their bricks at their gateway. Before being sold, bricks go through nine production stages. Necessary time for brick making varies according to the number of bricks the craftsman intends to make and to his disposition. Thus, 1,000 bricks can be made in four-five hours, but that can stretch up to eight hours ‘if you’re not in the mood to make so many and let the wife finish the job.’ The first production stage consists of digging a pit to scoop out the clay. Initially craftsmen estimate how big the pit should be, so that they have enough clay to make the number of bricks they intend to make. They scoop the clay out with a spade and then someone comes along with a shovel to grate it off and add it up. Preparing the clay happens on the night before casting the bricks, as the clay ‘rises’ until the next day. During the second stage several clay bundles are formed and with the help of a hoe the clay is gathered in the form of a plate with the rims upwards, just like you do when you make plaster. Then they fetch water in a bucket from the well or from the river, or place a hose in the middle of the bundle. Clay needs to get well soaked and then checked with a hoe. If it’s not wet enough, more water is added. Then the middle of the bundle is thoroughly blended, as if kneading bread, until it reaches the consistency of a paste. During the third stage the rims are blended into the middle of the bundle. Everything is stirred well together, then a bucket of water is added to soak the composition. Then they wait for it to soak and start stirring again. Clots are broken with the edge of the hoe. After everything is well mixed up, the composition is pushed towards the centre like plaster and clay is checked for stickiness. This move is done using the outer part of the hoe which was initially soaked in water. Brick makers in Curcani not only use the hoe during this stage. They also use their feet. Someone constantly treads on the wet clay: ‘You model it by foot, you step into the clay and draw it in by the hoe, you soak it up, draw it back in, twist it around like dough, only you use your feet…’

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The fourth stage starts at 5-6 in the morning and consists of fetching the sand and forming a bundle. Then you fill the table up with clay so that only corners remain clean. During the next stage, the fifth, the molds are drenched in water, to get clean inside and out, then they are rubbed in sand, or ‘salted up’. Then they get the surface ready. Clay is flattened down, sand scattered over and leveled on the surface with the radius. Eventually, during the sixth stage, the mold is laid on the corner and filled with clay, the clay is leveled down using a metallic ruler, then the mold is taken to the surface and one brick is cast. After each casting the molds are filled up again. If they work in teams, they hurry each other up. Until midday-1pm they finish the casting and lay the bricks out in the sun to dry. The seventh stage is the drying of the bricks, which can last from a few hours to a few days, depending on the weather. In order to check if a brick is dry it’s placed on the edge of the table and hit with the hand. If it resists, it means it’s dry. After all bricks are dry, during the eighth stage they gather them together off the surface and place them in an N-shaped three bricks formation. If the forecast says rainy weather, bricks are covered with a plastic sheet. Bricks dry completely in 10-20 days and then placed in the kiln. During the ninth stage bricks are laid in the kiln in the N-shaped formation. The kiln is built four layers high with a side-to-side groove in the middle for air circulation. Coal is put in the groove. The kiln walls are made of faulty bricks stuck together with sand, dirt and straw. This layer is called a ‘coat’ and is supposed to isolate the fire. When the fire reaches half a meter, cracks are filled up. If steam starts to come out instead of smoke and the walls of the kiln start to burn off, the bricks are laid out and left to bake for another 10 days. They make as many bricks as they estimate will be in demand in fall, based on previous years’ experience, except sales in recent years don’t give them enough reasons for hope. Those who can travel to other places make more bricks, between 10,000 and 25,000 pieces. Those who only sell them outside their gate only make 2,000-6,000 pieces and ley them outside waiting for buyers.

BRICK MAKERS

Prin lovirea a două cărămizi, meșterul verifică foarte ușor calitatea acestora, prin sunetul astfel produs.


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The price of a brick is negotiable and ranges between 0.3 and 0.5 lei, depending on the season and the place where they are sold. Brickmaking enjoyed great appreciation during communism, as a result of demand from state agriculture institutions for building barns and warehouses for cereals, animal sheds and big halls for cattle, sheep and horses. These institutions commissioned craftsmen to make bricks. The aim of production was therefore selling, not construction. The craftsmen were contracted in summer. Brick makers in RoseĹŁi state that around 20-30 families used to work for a production cooperative, to make as much bricks as possible, so that construction is ďŹ nished rapidly. They used to work in teams made up of 5-6 families. More exactly, one of them left and found employment for making 200,000 bricks. He knew he could only make 50,000 during the appointed time, so he would call for help among family members or neighbours. Travelling took place both within and outside their district, depending on the location of the employing institution. Thus, in summer, from

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May to September, brick makers left their households, together with their families, and settled in temporary dwellings in the new location, preferably next to a water source. Most of them took their domestic animals along, and left them to freely graze the grassland. Food was procured from the cooperatives - meat, fruit, vegetables and cereals were deducted at the end of the month from the money they received in exchange for bricks. Brick making requires the teamwork of at least two people (one in the clay pit, the other ‘on the shore’ laying the clay in the brick molds). Consequently, there is a clear division of labour between the sexes, and handing the craft over takes place both paternally and maternally. Thus, fathers hand over the most physically demanding part to their sons, and

BRICK MAKERS

‘Yes, we decided our girl needs to go to school. We insisted upon it, there was no other way. You know how we managed to keep her in school? We were breaking walnuts all winter, it all comes back to me. We couldn’t take it anymore. My hands hurt it made me cry. I cried and broke walnuts, all winter long, cried and broke walnuts.’ (Brick maker, Roseţi)


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mothers the part that is considered to be the easiest to their daughters: ‘Father to son, mother to daughter. There are two different processes. What the man does is commended to the son, while the mother hands over to her daughter. Men handle the clay preparation hacking, soaking, blending and getting ready for the molds, while women doles it up in small portions and prepares it for the surface. That’s what women do up on the shore while men work down in the pit. Hard work is down, easy work is up, so to say, but that’s actually also hard work.’ Brick making is regarded among the interviewees as a really difficult craft which involves great physical effort, as well as working in harsh conditions, drenched in water and mud up to the ankles. It’s no wonder then that most of them wish for a different future for their children. Brick makers in Roseţi associate work with grubbiness and squalor, so they want a higher level of education for their children, so that they embrace another profession, as only then they can be ‘better seen, earn more and get cleaner.’ Most brick maker communities adopted the idea that it’s preferable that the young cease to practice the skills as main source of income, but rather as supplementary, leisure occupation, as income raised in brick making is never ‘I’m a gypsy brick maker, I’m a gypsy and I’m proud. Though my work is dirty I never bow my head. No reason to feel shame, I can look anyone in the eye, my soul is pure, I’m not ashamed at all. (Luţă Vasile, brick maker in Roseţi and a poet in winter)

enough to provide for the family livelihood. Lack of profitability, practical difficulties, incapacity to face competition and adapt to market economy, combined with a somber future perspective, made many craftsmen give up practicing the craft.

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The Story of Roma Craftsmen

Woodcarvers Woodcarvers ply the wood, typically producing dishes, plates, bowls, scoops, pails, mallets for battering clothes, troughs, spoons, cups, platters, pieces of furniture (coffers, tables, chairs, cupboards, swings). Some woodcarvers are a special case for ethnographers, mostly as a result of their own identity claims, many of them insisting they don’t have any Roma origins, being in fact direct descendants of the ancient free Dacians. Some authors argue against this theory. Firstly, what made them give up Romani language is the craft which isolated them among Romanian herdsmen and shepherds. WOODCARVERS


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Meanwhile, there seem to exist in Romania a series of compact woodcarver

‘We woodcarvers are very hard working people. What we touch we wield out. Corncobs, wood, chores, we do everything. There is no troublemaking, no stealing, no such thing.’ (N.D., Băbeni).

communities where Romani is still being spoken. Secondly, isolation from other Roma communities and living in upstream forests apparently prompted gold panners-cum-woodcarvers to adopt customs and traditions from local contact populations, whose cultural identity they borrowed. Some woodcarvers consider themselves to typify the authentic, ‘traditional’ Romanian peasant. According to craftsmen in Băbeni, woodcarving originates in the basic, traditional needs of the peasant: ‘Our craft is only drawn from the very core of the Romanian peasant’. They set themselves apart from other Roma branches by the fact they don’t speak Romani. Another defining trait woodcarvers always mention is traditional attire, which is different from the one usually associated with the Roma. They mention white shirts and trousers as typical clothing, stressing on its continuity, even though nowadays they don’t wear this anymore for practical reasons: ‘My father used to dress like this - white, homespun shirt and trousers. All our kinsmen wore this, I also did. […] Not so much nowadays, you don’t find them anymore, linen is hard to spin, we grew older… When we go to fairs, though, we do wear them… This is our attire, we were born wearing it and we will die wearing it.’ Woodcarvers traditionally work with wood, with which they created a special bond; some craftsmen even claim the very term ‘rudar’ (woodcarver) originates from the fact they are ‘related to wood’8. Even though this is completely erroneous from a linguistic point of view, it brings forth the way woodcarvers see themselves in relation with wood: relatives of wood, to which they are acquainted and make themselves an acquaintance: ‘Wood hides itself. You need to know where to search for it, but for that you need to know it.’ Access to wood has been a problem for woodcarvers ever since communist times, when they used to gather wood from state owned forests with the

8

rudă (Romanian) = relative, clansperson

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risk of having it confiscated. Many woodcarvers started to reorient themselves towards other skills even back during the socialist regime, thus breaking with tradition: ‘They ceased having access to their work, to their traditional activities; spoons, troughs and spindles were not in demand anymore because other objects started to appear - made of aluminum, stainless steel and tin. They were forced to reconvert, and in the final years of communism, as far as I remember, their only trade was selling wood’, says a Roma leader from around Olteniţa. Băbeni, Vâlcea district, is situated on an alluvial plain on which a lot of softwood used to grow. However, nowadays craftsmen find it difficult to source raw material they need in order to make their wooden objects, as wood in their region is too young to be used: ‘Now it’s very hard to find in Vâlcea and we have to bring it from Argeș or other counties.’ Softwood is the preferred essence for carving, in order to avoid further treatment which craftsmen might not be able to handle or might lack the right tools. Thus, craftsmen prefer willow and tamarisk, sycamore maple, hornbeam, poplar, Carolina poplar, cherry, beech or ash. When choosing wood, woodcarvers especially select white coloured wood, in keeping with tradition. Older craftsmen prefer working solely with tamarisk, an essence they consider to be sacred - ‘the tree where Virgin Mary wept’. In the past, cutting wood was preceded by a ritual of kneeling and prayer for forgiveness for the person who did the cutting. ‘That’s the way it was done. They went, kneeled down by the tree and sometimes wept. Wood is not a joke. It’s alive just like we are and unless you try to soften it up when you cut it, it’s all in vain. It won’t yield.’ (S.D., Băbeni)

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Fetching wood is also a problem in itself. Long distances need to be covered to find the needed essence; high prices, as well as the lack of proper transport are the main problems the craftsmen have to face. Since very few of them have their own vehicles to transport their wood, locals are compelled to hire. Woodcarvers use traditional, ‘Dacian’ tools, as they never fail to mention: hatchets, axes, chip axes, drawknives, knives or less usual tools, such as compasses or chisels9. Very rarely modern technique is considered useful in woodcarving. The wooden lathe and multiplying machines are not traditional tools and they are seldom used by woodcarvers. Thickness planers are the only tool that is used to create and flatten boards. Although some pieces could be finished using a lathe, many woodcarvers refuse to modernize their means of production, as this would mean parting with their ‘Dacian’ heritage, which only allows basic, rudimentary instruments made of metal and wood handles: ‘Everything is made using Dacian tools, we never use machines. We’ve always used these tools only. Everything is done manually. Cut with the chip axe, then axe up the backside, chisel the interior… use the drawknife too… Then the women polish and rub. Theirs is hard work, too.’ You need around 3 to 4 months to observe all stages. Crucially, wood needs to be dry for high quality objects: ‘Unless dry, wood is still alive. It lives on for a while. It draws humidity out of thin air, uses it to create fats, it comes back to life. It changes shape, it cracks up.’ 9

translator’s note - several regionalisms in Romanian may refer to one and the same tool (i.e. florar/capră = compasses, scoabă/horj = chisel)

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To dry wood, carvers use smoking, especially in winter. Wood is dried up in warm smoke, not straight into the fire, lest it changes its characteristics. Once smoke-dried, wood is carved along with an axe, cleaned up and leveled with a hatchet and then flattened out with a drawknife. Although they regard their skill as beautiful and noble, they don’t hide the fact that it’s also very difficult: ‘Carving wood is titanic, it’s hard work. The hardest… That’s why they say those who use tools with wooden handles work the hardest.’ Woodcarvers generally sell their products at fairs. Fairs are organized several times each month, less in the cold season. Participating also means staying up to date with others’ products, from other places around the country, and perhaps ‘borrowing’ new models. Besides local fairs and markets, some woodcarvers have even managed to penetrate export markets, albeit occasionally and with a limited number of products. This happened through acquaintances, but on such occasions craftsmen noticed the taste for and export potential of objects branded as ‘traditional’ handicrafts: ‘When we went to America, a lady came and she already had a store with a lot of objects… She filmed there in the hallway and asked our manager to send her a sample range of our objects. And indeed she showed up - Mrs. Lepădatu, she said, I’d like you to give me these to sell them in America. Our address was written down on every object. We already gave some stuff to someone in England and they went there to the market to sell it.’ Along with the products, they can also export, if needed, the ‘making of’ performance - another sign that shows both craftsmen and clients see this as an integral part of the product: ‘Three years ago we went to Israel and people came and sat beside us for three days to watch us work.’ WOODCARVERS

‘When you talk from the heart and you have fond memories, when you talk about your life and someone else’s life, you need not stray from the righteous path, from what is good, what is to God’s liking. As long as you fool someone… I can scam you as I like, but there’s someone up there who surely knows and will make you pay back in due time.’ (V.L., Băbeni)


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Woodcarving is practiced in families by men and women equally; sometimes even by children. Besides the technical, practical training, a sort of initiation is needed to acquire values like goodness and righteousness, in order to attain the necessary spiritual cleanliness to practice the craft. Wood is considered sacred matter, so the trainee needs to be endowed with its sacred essence. When asked what kind of abilities they need to possess in order to learn woodcarving, craftsmen in Băbeni stress on the fact that the skills are transparent, but can only be acquired by those who keep certain standards: emotional involvement, practical aptitudes, and ‘spiritual cleanliness’. Only those who satisfy all these criteria can hand down the craft. Interestingly, some craftsmen add to these skills the need to possess ‘ancient blood’, a reference to the supposed Dacian origins of woodcarvers and the perpetuation of the craft within the bloodline. Carvers in Băbeni are confronted with the lack of perspectives when it comes to developing and sustaining the craft; that’s why young local craftsmen see themselves as the ‘last generation’ - they are more and more convinced soon there will be no young men to practice the craft. Active persons between 35 and 40 years old believe they are the last generation, having lost all hope that their younger relatives will take after them. They tried to save and perpetuate the craft by introducing optional practical training courses in schools, but unfortunately kids refused to enroll. In the case of several communities, a paradigmatic change

‘Time goes by and people tend to forget, especially the young, who don’t respect our tradition anymore… That’s man’s greatest sin of all forgetting… No one seems to carry it forwards… The young want something else, they want money. We all need to live and have enough to eat…’

was noticed among the young: while the elderly think respecting tradition is important and offers the only solution to secure an income, the young see the craft as merely a job, with no regard to tradition, symbols or connotations handed down from generation to generation. Their vision is adapted to the free market, a place where memory engraved in the handicrafts only matters as long as it drives sales. The cultural dimension of the craft only comes second when survival is key. Scan here and find out more:

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The Story of Roma Craftsmen

Spoon makers Spoon making is a subdivision of woodcarving and refers to those who mostly made spoons, although not exclusively. Spoon makers remember how their grandparents once used to go in the woods and stayed there to work sometimes even overnight and came back home with the partly carved spoons. Spoon makers in Fildu de Sus make spoons out of both softwood and hardwood. Spoons are mostly made of willow, poplar, lime, ash, plum and cherry wood. The time needed to turn wood into an artifact varies depending on the type of object created: to make a spoon, wood is cut into small pieces and then carved until it takes a shape vaguely resembling a spoon. The working method is splintering, which may lead to losses of up to 70% of the material. After the object has taken shape, the drawing stage takes place, during which a pair of compasses is used. It is important at this stage to leave a small difference between the drawing and the final desired shape - this is one of the secrets of the craft: ‘It’s a little secret… you need to leave a small difference, so that when it dries out it comes back to its perfect shape; otherwise it shrinks in, it doesn’t stay perfectly round.’

SPOON MAKERS

The name of the ‘releasing’ procedure leads you to believe the tree trunk is nothing but a prison that confines the soon to be made object, and the procedure is nothing but liberating this object from its ‘prison’. Once the spoon is ‘released’, it only needs to be carved.’


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In brief, after it has been fetched from the forest, wood is cut, splintered, carved, axed, chiseled out in order to be finally sold as a spoon. First comes the cutting - bringing it down to the scale of the desired object. This procedure is followed by ‘releasing’, which means getting rid of surplus around the object; it’s obvious at this stage spoon makers can already visualize the object confined in the piece of wood. The whole procedure of making a spoon is fully manual. Craftsmen in Fildu

‘Making a spoon is not so easy, you need to work it with your hands seven times over to get to the final shape (M., Fildu de Sus)

are convinced that if anyone ever tried to make a spoon with the help of mechanical procedures, it would turn out to be impossible, due to the machine’s insensitivity: ‘Fix it on the left, it breaks on the other side, fix it on the right, it breaks over here. There’s no way a machine can make it.’

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If you mixed together several spoons, made by various craftsmen, say a hundred spoons, they claim each of them would be able to recognize the one he made. Troughs are another product made by craftsmen in Fildu. The smaller troughs are used to knead dough or preserve pork, but such objects are rarely bought. Troughs in demand abroad are even smaller and craftsmen fancy they probably serve as flower pots. Making troughs is somewhat similar to making spoons. It involves cutting the wood, chopping it down to scale, cleaving every piece in half with an axe, clipping it with a long axe, carving the interior with a chip axe, polishing the interior, adjusting the edges with a drawknife, getting rid of surplus material and slow drying it in the sun, face down. Market demand made some spoon makers also try manufacturing besoms, round or flat. The carver’s tools, inherited from grandparents or grand-grandparents, are the axe, the chisel (a metallic piece made of a bar bent and sharpened at both ends to form a right angle), the chip axe and the hacksaw. Differences in the art of spoon making lay in the hollowness of the spoon. Craftsmen in Fildu each focused on one particular shape. Some of them make smaller spoons, others make bigger ones for making jam, others yet make spoons for scooping out fried potatoes or ornamental spoons. Spoon makers sell their products at fairs or more often in markets. Income is not too substantial, but craftsmen are glad to be selling them: ‘You’re just happy you sold them, if not, you’d be going back home sad.’ Spoon makers in Fildu de Sus sometimes resort to travelling trade, carrying their products along and loudly advertising them in villages. They only venture out in areas where they know the products are in SPOON MAKERS


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demand, or in places where there is no competition from other craftsmen, as travelling trade without an authorization may entail significant risks: ‘If they catch you without authorization they confiscate your stuff.’ Obtaining an authorization is a problem for spoon makers, as they can’t afford the cost of these procedures out of their insignificant income. If they find a salesman who sells spoons in bulk, craftsmen in Fildu de Sus prefer to sell them to him, even if they are aware he will surely sell them for a higher price than theirs. Incidentally, some middlemen have even bought wooden spoons for export. Spoon makers in Fildu de Sus express their regret at realizing young men fail to practice the craft. This decline is regarded as losing touch with their ancestors, with a heritage of abilities handed down throughout the centuries. The survival of the craft is not questioned, but regarded as ‘normal’: ‘Why not master the craft, when that’s what our forefathers did?...’

‘Making a spoon is not so easy, you need to work it with your hands seven times over to get to the final shape‘ (M., Fildu de Sus)

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The Story of Roma Craftsmen

Weavers Weavers work with reed, bulrush, wicker or birch twigs to make rugs, baskets, coffrets, creels, besoms and other household objects - generally used in agriculture or as decoration. Often, they practice various other crafts in order to make a living. The decline of agricultural cooperatives has had a devastating impact on weavers, who once received constant, substantial orders from the state. Weavers in Fildu de Sus remember back then there used to be cars that brought raw matter in and a few days later they came back to pick up the finished products - thousands of rugs. People stockpiled and all they needed to do was dispatch the rugs in due time. The clients were flower or vegetable hothouses, various cooperatives and furniture factories. Craftsmen did not have to worry about distribution or other details. Clients were taken for granted, through state institutions, and continued to exist even after 1990, based on previously established deals. Meanwhile, though, most of the hothouses were closed off, and among actual owners few are aware of rugs made in Călui for instance. Oltenia is one of the last areas in Romania where rugs and similar objects are still made. In Gura Humorului, the person who managed the team was also the one who took the orders, and income was distributed according to everyone’s work.

WEAVERS

We would soak the bulrush in the evening, even in winter. By 1 o’clock in the night it froze. We would shake off the snow and ice, take it inside the house and start weaving the rug. Sometimes your hands froze… you would warm them up on the stove… or with hot water… (F., Călui)


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‘You need years, a lifetime maybe, to get to know wood… it needs to be ripe, young, not frozen… You also need to know where to find it, in what conditions. Not an easy task, you need to be reasonable when you bend wicker twigs down the proper way, in order to make a beautiful weaving’.

Staple products for wicker weavers in Deaj, Mureș county, are wicker baskets and besoms. There is only one elderly craftsman who once used to make ornamental objects, such as wicker covers for bottles, but he is not working anymore. Once the twigs are brought out of the forest or purchased at the nursery mainly by the men, they are taken home and the weaving can begin. Wicker can be weaved either raw, from July until winter, and then baskets come out white, or boiled, in winter, when it turns brown. After the twigs have been peeled and dried out, in case they are boiled, the actual weaving of the objects begins. Although the highest demand is in autumn, determined by the usefulness of weaved products in agriculture, weaving is practiced throughout the year. Wicker weavers use relatively few tools: a knife and a base for propping up objects in progress. The bottom of the basket is the first to be made. Craftsmen first bind the sticks together to form a cross or a circle and then start to weave across until they reach the desired height. When weaving baskets, the most

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difficult stage is making the handles, because they need to be strong enough to withstand the weight they are meant to carry. Previously, rugs were largely used as household objects, such as bed sheets and covers, carpets, or as curtains to divide interior spaces. Rugs were and still are used in farming, to cover crops in winter or to protect recently cemented surfaces. While they once were a basic necessity, weavings eventually became dispensable, conspicuous and purely decorative accessories: paneling surrogate, sun umbrellas. To make a rug, first you prop the netting on the loom in parallel, tightly fastened bulrush strings (hitherto prepared). The lower part of the loom is the ridge, which helps compress the rug as it takes shape. The grooves of the ridge can be dense or sparse, depending on the utility of the rug, the client’s needs or the estimated durability of the product. When everything is ready, the netting is cut loose off of the loom and the edges are finished, isolated. From the start of the netting until the rug is finished, three, maybe four hours can pass. Two people work to make a roughly four square metres rug (175x200 cm); actual

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work can last up to 15-16 hours, during which three-four pieces can be made. The fixed capital of bulrush weavers is extremely limited. Basically, it’s confined to three or four objects and a few tools - firstly, cutting instruments, among which sickles are the most appropriate and employed to harvest bulrush. The loom and ridge are used during the actual weaving. Both are made entirely of wood. Household objects are easier to make than handicrafts and ornaments. An active weaver ends up making up to forty household objects in a month. Nowadays, craftsmen mostly work freely, stockpiling, rather than upon order. Artifact baskets are produced in smaller numbers than practical ones, taking longer to make, as craftsmen crave to make them as beautiful as they can; there is even some sort of competition among weavers as far as the novelty of such

WEAVERS

‘Oh, if it still goes on? […] We’re the only ones left. The elderly maybe, other than that… it’s wearing out. I’ve told you, they still make it here and there, but in the end it’s gone. This summer no one harvested any bulrush. What are we supposed to do if there’s no place to take them…’ (Weaver, Deaj)


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‘You need a basket to carry wood, you weave it yourself. […] You only need to be good at it, that’s all you need. I have no training. I stole the craft off others.’

products is concerned. The more innovative they are when it comes to decorative objects, the more clients and larger amount of respect from their peers they manage to attract: ‘I’ve made armchairs, I’ve made so much wonderful stuff!’ People often mention hard work, especially recollecting times when they used to work in town or in the fields during the day and then practiced the craft during the night, when there are less household chores, when animals and children are fast asleep, and there is less interaction with the neighbours: ‘You would wake up at midnight and work on a rug, then on to breaking up the bulrush, rubbing it to pull out the strings. The next day we started over. […] All over again. You know how bulrush is? A bit like leek… You need to peel it off, put it down, take it back, then do the netting, unless you do the netting, there’s no use.’ Weavers generally resort to travelling trade, carrying their products on their backs to villages and shouting out loud they have baskets to sell. However, as they face the challenges of free market, many of them give up practicing the craft.

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The Story of Roma Craftsmen

‘Boldeni’ florists The boldeni florists consider themselves a distinct Roma lineage which has long had as occupation the flower trade, especially in the streets. One typical trait among the boldeni is their awareness of belonging to a certain bloodline, a particular ancestry, according ‘We are the traditional boldeni florists. We are the true ones. Behind us come other races, how shall I put it… other clans. Those other ones, the tinkers, the lowly dealers, they’ve just started to trade flowers. But the true florists are the boldeni. The real boldeni. That’s been their trade. Ever since King Carol’s time. Those were the boldeni. (F.G., Bucharest)

to genealogical tracking back to one common ancestor, which sets them apart from other florists10. There has never been a study about boldeni florists before in Romania. Up until three or four generations ago, the majority of the boldeni in Bucharest lived in the Teiul Doamnei and Colentina areas, next to the former flower market at Pia a Obor. Three generations of extended families lived in the same house and neighbours knew each other. Nowadays, boldeni live scattered all across Bucharest. Back when most of them lived in the same area, they were closely

Boldeni florists are the only ones among the Roma who have a matriarchal lineage, the woman typically being the one who controls the household finances. Up until the 1980’s their leader was Mătărdia, a woman about whom one of the boldeni said: ‘She was […] a genius… she was everybody’s boss, I’m telling you. […] She was the queen of florists, their boss. Everybody had some bread to win from her.’

related, everybody knew each other. Even decades after, a certain genealogical awareness was still there, and even if not all of them knew each other anymore, they knew which family they came from, named after the eldest of the women, who was also head of the family trade. Her first name or nickname is used as proof of legitimacy, of affinity to the boldeni lineage, or ‘nation’ - as one interviewee called it. The boldeni call the other florists - especially 10

Grigore, D., Sarău, G., Istorie şi tradiţii rome, Organizaţia Salvaţi Copiii, Bucharest, 2006, p. 26. ‘BOLDENI’ FLORISTS


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those who recently picked up the trade - bargain makers, upstarts, cons, thus setting themselves apart as a sort of nobility among florists. One of the central pieces of boldeni women attire is the apron. The boldeni women have a special outfit: long skirts, not too loose, headscarf and slightly rounded, pocketed aprons, specially tailored by a certain seamstress: ‘This is customary. It’s what I’m used to. If I ever go to America, this is what I’m wearing.’ After 1989, the flower market in Romania was taken over by Dutch imports, and the result was a leveling of the offer and a price increase. All flowers originated in the auction market in Holland, so prices were aligned to the European standard: ‘Flowers are expensive nowadays. They are all foreign, not Romanian. The only ones left are our chrysanthemums.’ Most of the flowers, except those purchased from Romanian producers, are imported from Holland, where they are flown in from producing countries (usually Latin America, but also South-East Asia). Flowers are purchased at an auction, either by a broker or directly (in the case of those who were granted direct access by a broker), which demands at least basic computing knowledge and understanding several words in English. Flowers are purchased by Dutch auction, which means starting with a high price and going down to a level preferred by one of the wholesale bidders. Once purchased, flowers are shipped to Romania, which means flowers cut on Fridays or Saturdays reach Romania on Tuesday or Wednesday, already four days old. From Holland, wholesale flowers arrive in Piaţa Coşbuc in Bucharest, where the boldeni make their own purchase. The selection made by retailers depends on their experience (necessary to estimate eventual sales), on the attention to current trends and on the offer and prices in the wholesale market. First of all, you need to exhibit a lot of different flowers, and florists prefer to buy more flowers than they know will be sold, because otherwise they won’t attract customers and compete with ‘BOLDENI’ FLORISTS

For forty years the elderly have done it like this. Come on, lass… Come over here, princess… Give them cash registers and invoices now they won’t be able to handle it!’ (F.R., Bucharest)


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the other outlets. The richer and more diverse the offer, the more likely they are to ultimately sell some flowers: ‘You need to have a bit of everything, lest you lose the client. I see a client buy a flower. That’s what I’m getting. I see this other florist has this kind of flowers, I need to get some myself. We follow each other. People pass by carrying bouquets… You see stuff on TV, on the internet… Notice what is selling.’ One particularity of the flower trade is that it deals in highly perishable goods, which entails additional expertise from the florists, in order to choose the most fresh and durable flowers. There are some secrets to the trade: ‘For instance the chrysanthemum - it needs to be boiled when purchased. […] The peasant scalds the stems down to last longer. If not, their petals start to fall and they wither away dying.’ Stocks are most often bought on tick, to be paid for after it’s been sold. Perpetual debts can thus representing one of the main obstacles against leaving the trade. When the investment amounts to around a thousand ‘BOLDENI’ FLORISTS


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Euros, the debt pushes florists into purchasing and selling even more flowers, looking forward to peak periods when they can recover financially. Peak time is around bulk holidays, during the first week in March, the start and the end of the school year and on important patron saint days. The introduction of relatively complicated technical items in the current running of the flower trade has made their job more difficult to run. Cash registers were introduced and they now need to fill in and issue invoices and fiscal forms. Equally, communication with the brokers at the auction market, negotiations, setting the terms of a deal - all of this requires mastering at least elementary English. This meant some wholesalers have had to hire people to deal exactly with this (consequently raising costs and vulnerability to theft and scams), or, in best cases, to involve family members (men) who benefited from some education (as opposed to women) and would be up to this kind of tasks. Ultimately, their trade, the knowledge and experience they have accumulated so far are becoming more and more outdated. The boldeni feel excluded and pushed aside: ‘Right now this is my problem. Neither my mom nor my wife knows how to use a cash register or issue invoices. And I have big problems because of this. What can I say, she writes down all the sales, she comes over in the morning, I enter it all in the cash register, I write the invoices, go figure, what if I go under scrutiny…’ Until 30-40 years ago, most of the retail flower trade in Bucharest was done ‘out of hand’: vendors used to roam the streets with their flower baskets. Until recently ‘When I was a little girl, mom used to take me with her to the market, I was so little, I had no idea what she was buying, what she was doing… I just sat there by her basket and sometimes fell asleep right there. Around 2 a.m. she would take us all, madam. That’s how it was back then, unlike now, now we are kings, we wake up at 8 or 9. We would go home for 2-3 hours, she would give us a bath, cook something, dress us, take us to the market where we would fall asleep. I picked it all up as a child. I just sat beside her while she was setting stall. She would make small bunches, set me up aside and taught me how to sell. Whatever I saw mom did, I’d also say.’ (V.D., Bucharest)

- 4-5 years ago - most of the florists didn’t have any authorization for their outlets. After much official filibustering, a florist revolt happened in 2007. The endeavors of the Florists Association were meant not only to create a legal frame for the trade (during the same period florist shops were equipped with cash registers and required to document their activities and sales in order to pay tax like any other commercial outlet), but to also set up decent working conditions and improve the public profile of florists. New kiosks have brought improved work conditions for the florists and the possibility to protect stocks from

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inclement weather, but have also elicited new problems: sizeable investments (some kiosks cost around 8,000 Euros), as well as larger current expenses (electricity for lighting and air conditioning). Florists pay VAT, income tax, outlet tax, as well as public sanitation tax. Even if they have ownership papers for the kiosks, they have no concession over the land underneath, which leads to uncertainty: ‘There is no stability for tomorrow.’ More and more clients prefer to only buy one flower, and florists try to increase sales by preparing ready-made bouquets. Although all in all the discount is large, the florist’s advantage is that she ends up selling more flowers than when the clients make their own choices. The wrapping, although it represents a cost, is offered for free, and, even if they let the clients choose

‘I would like a flower, I’m going to see the doctor. I can’t tell him give me four hundred or give me three hundred, can I? He hasn’t got any money. Give me as much as you like and go. It’s for the doctor. That’s me. I’m not for fooling people. If that man goes to the doctor or to a funeral, I’d better leave it like that… […] There’s no loss. Give and you will be given. You have to give something, when you see them like that, you don’t want their heart and soul, do you? […] And God has been helping me.’ (P., Bucharest)

colours and textures, most of the times the final decision belongs to the florist. Although they don’t treat retail prices as fixed, they are not likely to cut them too much just to get rid of the flowers. They agree to the practice of haggling, but they take offence when clients try to cut prices too much, especially when they do it aggressively. However, there are cases when florists may agree to cut prices more than reasonably or rationally: for instance when buyers are poor or grievous, or when they say the flowers are meant for their doctor. Florists we spoke with insisted these are not losses, but gifts that will one day come back to them. Traditionally, girls learn from their mothers how to choose and purchase flowers, how to take care of them, how to sell them and how to address the clients. Most of the learning is made informally, through some sort of apprenticeship. Children witness all activities since they are very young and later emulate them. Similarly, girls used to be taught ‘on-site’ how to write and compute, and, more importantly, how to handle money. True talent resides in the ‘sweet talk’ the florists employ to attract and keep their clients, a feature perceived as pertaining exclusively to the boldeni: ‘You need smooth, enticing talk. I have clients who never buy anywhere else, they say: ‘I don’t like the way they treat me, the way they talk to me, so I come to you. I come with all my heart, and flowers last longer’, that’s what they say!’

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The Story of Roma Craftsmen

Harness makers There

Harness makers belong to the larger category of

is a distinct

leather smiths. They make harnesses for animals -

Roma group in

especially horses, but they can also make belts, dog

Dobrogea, named

collars, wrist watch straps, waistbands. The existence

xoraxaj, distinguished

of the Mangalia stud farm made many Roma who

by their Muslim religion.

practice this craft to settle in Constanţa county.

Harness makers in Medgidia belong to this

The most frequently used raw matter in making

group.

harnesses and belts is cattle skin. It has to ‘look good’, as sometimes the first layer (of better quality) is scraped off to manufacture leather coats, gloves, handbags of footwear. ‘Bad looking’ leather is lower in quality and affects the durability of harnesses: ‘You need to know your leather! It needs to look good, with pores where the hairs were, and you need to be able to notice when it’s natural and when it’s artificial or so.’

Harnesses can also be made of pig skin, stretched and treated with chemicals, but if these harnesses are kept in a place infested with mice, they will most likely be ruined. Another raw material used in combination with leather or pig skin is split (derived from the German ‘Spalt’ = cracked) - a kind of cardboard-like, thinner, lower quality leather also used in upholstery and footwear. Harnesses made of split retain humidity and deteriorate over a shorter period of time. Other raw materials are used for the strips that are sewn

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together, which can be made of calf skin, sheep skin or goat skin. The most utilized is calf skin. Yet another raw material needs to be mentioned, used exclusively in workshops with an attached smithery: iron strands, forged out of molten iron and turned into rings and loops of various shapes and sizes (round or rectangular). Their role is to keep the harness in place and withstand the traction force of the horse. Harness makers in Dobric work upon order for Romanian customers who also purchase the raw materials; so far as both the cost of leather and the selling price of the harness is determined by the Romanians, the Roma end up merely representing cheap labour, without the slightest chance to independence: ‘They come to you and if you can afford to sew for the price they pay… if not, you risk starving off! […] I’ve been working hard for 20 years! If I had been paid decent money, in 2-3 years I would have saved some money, started a business, bought a car, gone to fairs and sort things out! But they won’t let you, they keep you at hand! If you go to buy a skin from them, they ask for a lot of money, so that you don’t end up competing with them!’ Harness makers in Medgidia, on the other hand, don’t have to face these problems; they purchase the skin directly, either privately or from slaughterhouses. Animal skin needs to be prepared before it is turned into leather objects: rawhide is brought to the tannery from the slaughterhouse, hides are dunked into special barrels and treated with chemicals, mostly aluminum sulphate. This procedure is called tanning. Once considered tanned, hides are taken out of the barrels,

Scanează şi află mai multe aici:

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stretched on a frame, and, after they have dried out, they are stretched further by a press and cut into layers or left as they are, according to demand. Then they are measured out and craftsmen decide which of the harness pieces they will fashion out and

Craftsmen adapt their harness models to

how many pieces they can make out of one hide.

the particularities of

Craftsmen carefully diversify their products: ‘There

the region where they

are big horses, smaller ones, so we make different

sell their merchandise.

sizes to fit the market demand.’

The bridle’s colour and model is what gives away

Parts of the harness include: the bridle (accessorized with blinkers), the collar, the breeching, the pad, the

the geographic region where the harness will be used.

crupper and the back strap. Each part is first cleft out with a knife and then the edges are pierced to make the holes which will be sewn together and finally a layer of paint is applied (black or brown, according to the owner’s preference). After they have been dried out, they will be bent and nailed to be fixed and thus correctly sewn, along the punched line. Division of labour in a workshop insures each craftsman is assigned one operation: a single person is doing the cleaving and punching, before the parts are directed to the sewing part, where 3-4 people sew various parts of the harness and in some cases one person who fashions the iron rings and loops that help the harness withhold the traction force of the horse. The cutters also fashion out models on the edges with the help of punchers; decorative eyelets are then clipped on to the edges with a hammer. The same person adds the loops, buckles and studs on to the parts that need these accessories. After they have been sewn, the parts of the harness are checked, counted and stored in a special shed, away from moisture or direct sunlight. Some of the parts are assembled, but the actual assembling usually happens in a specially designated area at fairs, in order for the performance to be part of attracting new clients.

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Harness makers can recognize their own products out of a thousand others. ‘If I see the harness I made on a horse in Constanţa, I recognize it as mine. Everyone recognizes their own work.’, says a craftsman in Bistriţa-Năsăud. Seldom, innovations are used in order to create an attractive design, to be up to date with what modernity means for the producer. These innovations are usually meant to create ‘parade’ harnesses, not field work ones. Another innovation could be the procedures employed to treat pig skin or split so that it imitates leather texture and look. Nevertheless, sales are not as they used to, due to the gradual disappearing of horses. Some harness makers, especially those without legal forms, move about from one gate to the next in order to sell their new harnesses or offer their mending services for the old, used ones.

Women take no part in the practice of the craft. Craftsmen explain: ‘It’s a dirty job. You can’t touch these hides and then cook food. You get sick, they’re full of microbes.’ Thus, women are entirely dedicated to household chores. Harness makers believe it takes talent to sew harnesses, but the skills can also be acquired throughout time. One of the craftsmen told us the story of another craftsman who made a bet that he would manage to sew an entire harness blindfolded, and won.

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The Story of Roma Craftsmen

Sievers Some sources claim that sieving has died out. During our trips, however, we ran into a sieving community down in Mărtineşti, Tureni commune, Cluj county - famous in the region for the quality of sieves and sifters made there. Craftsmen maintain sieving has not died out, as there are still enough people in the village who still practice it, able to easily make ‘100 sieves a day’. Actual practice has ceased about a year ago though, as ‘it’s not worth making them anymore, as you sell them and end up losing more than you win.’ Making sieves and strainers first of all needs a frame - a thin rim made of fir or beech wood. Craftsmen in Mărtineşti used to travel for hundreds of kilometres, up to Vatra Dornei or Reghin, to find cheaper frames. Frames were not made in factories. There were artisans (called sieve frame makers or veşcari), who made frames in their workshops. Frames were sold in the form of ballots, which contained enough material to make around 30 sieves. Craftsmen used to buy frames by the ballot and carry them on their backs on trains and buses. ‘There were no working hours here. Work was pleasure. Today I make 20 sifters and tomorrow I take them to the market or up in villages. My mom… she used to sit down and work. In one day she could make up to 50-60 sifters.’

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To

The other part of sifters, the mesh, was made traditionally of

demonstrate the

calfskin or, more seldom, of pig skin - tanned and prepared

durability of his sifters in a

- then punched and stretched on the frame. Sifters were

market, sometimes craftsmen would

harder and more expensive to make, so they were made in

put them upside down on the ground

advance and the price was negotiated beforehand. Most

and stand up on them, showing the

of the times they were made of calfskin, but the more sought

clients they can withhold their

after and expensive were made of pig skin. Pig skin was

weight.

hard to find, because people kept most of it on cured ham. According to use, sieves were made in different sizes, and

the mesh was denser or looser. Copper wire or zinc coated netting was used for wheat flour sieves. For maize flour, meshes were made of zinc coated netting or, more recently, plastic nets, ‘just like mosquito nets’. Sieve makers always worked alone, and, depending on their skills, they would finish one product in 10-15 minutes, which amounted to 70-100 pieces per day. Like other craftsmen, sievers also used fairs as good occasions to stage a performance: ‘Once you’ve made 100 pieces or 50 pieces, you go to the market, stack them up nicely, sit down and get on with your work… Once you noticed sales were good, you’d get on with it… and people paid attention.’ Children who wanted to learn the craft began by watching their parents work. Then they were assigned basic tasks, such as cleaning up or hammering nails. If they successfully passed this stage, they were allowed to make a whole sieve by themselves, under strict supervision. Sometimes the apprentice would mess up, and then he was given a warning - first verbally, and then, if the mistake was repeated, with a twig that was meant to ‘help’ him concentrate. When the craftsman decided the product was good to go and within quality standards, he declared the apprentice capable to practice the craft of sieving.

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The Story of Roma Craftsmen

Hat makers

Hat makers in Iara call themselves ‘silk gypsies’, arguing they have a superior living standard and status as opposed to general perceptions about Roma communities.

Hat makers make all sorts of hats - pointed or flat-topped, men’s hats or women’s hats, made almost of every kind of fur: Astrakhan lamb, fox, nutria, mink, otter and seal. Men’s hats take different shapes: elongated, flattopped or with a trim, called ‘Ceauşescu hat’ by the craftsmen. It has a fur peak at the front, with the interior lined in cloth or fabric, calibrated to shape on a hat block made of poplar wood. Men’s hats are made in two colours: black and grey. Women’s hats resemble flat-topped men’s hats, except the top is convex.

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As far as innovation goes, as opposed to former generations, hat makers in the present have added some novelty into the craft, both in the nature of the material used and its manufacturing and reliability. Although models tend to be similar, they have added a peak to those they think will be worn in the city. Raw material used in hat making is shearling lambskin, especially the Karakul breed. Lambs are slaughtered while very young, under a few weeks old, so that their skin is soft and not so rough to the touch. One of the

This hat is something… elegant. A while ago, who used to wear an expensive hat? Colonels, professors, priests, law enforcers… no ordinary men. Common people wore low quality stuff. Not Astrakhan. (Roma leader, Iara)

most precious and pricy furs is seal fur. For esthetic reasons, fabric is used to line the hat. Most hat makers in Iara say they start thinking about purchasing raw materials early on, and the transaction is fiscally registered on an invoice for proof of provenance. Fur is purchased in Northern Moldavia, in Botoşani. They go there in spring and furs are bought on the cuff, as craftsmen do not possess money for investment. Sums are going to be reimbursed with interest. In order to make hats and fur jackets, trim and finish the lambskin and then dry it out for further processing. The main operation, considered an art form by hat makers in Iara, is the cutting. Cutting is usually a man’s task. At this stage the craftsman needs a mold in the shape of a hat - pointed or flat-topped. Throughout the cutting stage various types of mold are used, made of various materials: cardboard, buckram or soft tin. Apply the mold onto the lambskin, draw the desired shape, then cut the skin with a felimongering scissors. Cut the lambskin into pieces according to the model of the hat. If the hat is conical, cut three pieces, if it’s flat-topped, cut two pieces, the top and the peak. To make a hat you need more than one lambskin, so the craftsman focuses on sewing together the pieces, so that all parts are even. In order for the hat to fit the shape of the head, the craftsman uses various wooden blocks. The material is wetted and pulled over the block. Everything is done in the course of two hours. Some craftsmen make these hats in a specially furnished 15 sqm workshop equipped with electricity

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and heating, others share their own dwelling place with their craft. Formerly, hats were only sewn manually, with special, strong needles. Nowadays there are craftsmen who use the sewing machine. The price for the hats is established according to the type and quality of the fur that is used. Lambskins with long, thin, soft fringes are more expensive. Colour also plays an important part in the final price, presumably because of different approaches during the acquisition process: in the case of flat-topped men’s hats, ash is more expensive than black, while for women’s hats, dark colours and red shades have a higher price than white. Prices vary between 120 and 500 lei (27-113 Euro). Most of the times, craftsmen negotiate prices, lest they are left with stocks: ‘For instance we ask for 1.5 million lei and we end up selling for 700,000. For instance this hat over here… Depends on the market too. If it’s a pensioner and you can see it on his face… Depends on the money. Sometimes we have to cut prices for them.’

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Hat makers master different haggling techniques. If someone is willing to buy a hat early in the morning, the craftsman often lowers the price, thinking it will bring luck for the rest of the day. This is a widely adopted principle among all hat makers: ‘Sir, would you like to buy a hat? / Yes, I’d like one. How much is it? / One million / I’m a poor man, won’t you give it to me for 700? / 800 maybe? / Here, have it, show me the money, good luck. The first hand - that’s what they call it. A handsel. Morning handsel… And we sell them for 8, 900, one million…’ One craftsman once sold several hats to Pentecostal brothers in Canada, which gave him hopes for further export potential for his merchandise: ‘In , they still wear this. Three-four years ago in Dej I sold some hats to some reformed brothers. They were Romanians… They needed 5-6 hats. I gave him 5-6 ash hats and asked him: What are you gonna do with them? My brother, he said, back in Canada… extraordinary… the Canadians really asked me to bring them some hats. If you could go there with your craft you’d be OK!’

‘In spring we take the skins, they need tanning… they need to be chromed… if it’s not chromed. Once, hats were not… there was no chrome, it would get infested with moths. Now we chrome them, you need to add the lining, pull it over, stretch it, trim the lining, and then take it to the market.’ (Hat maker, Iara)

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The Story of Roma Craftsmen

Fiddlers In Romania, the art of fiddlers is first mentioned as a proper craft towards the end of the 18th century, along with the first fiddler guilds11. The etymology of the word ‘lăutar’ points to the lute (musical instrument of arab origin - al’ud). Initially, it only referred to string instrument players. Eventually, it was assigned to those who player a certain kind of popular music, and around the 1850s it starts to describe anyone who played ‘by ear’, with derogatory connotations as opposed to professional, cultivated musicians12. 11 12

Cosma, V., Lăutarii de ieri şi de azi, Editura Du Style, Bucharest, 1996, p.10 Idem.

FIDDLERS

Fiddlers represent a special category of services; they are ‘makers of emotions’, so their craft is practiced on-site, where it is consumed.


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As opposed to most of the other crafts, fiddlers have benefitted from being organized in networks and formal structures. In 1933, the ‘General Association of Romanian Gypsies’ was founded and it included ‘Musical Youth’, one of many fiddlers associations from back then, which wielded remarkable influence13. The Association’s objectives were manifest in the social and cultural fields, with the general purpose of ameliorating living standards, the status and the public profile of the Roma. The involvement of the musicians

The average repertoire of a fiddler ensemble is made of approximately 500 tunes.

in the Association is an indicator of their high socioeconomic status: already organized in formal structures, they could afford to dedicate themselves, besides practicing their craft, to the welfare of the ethnic group they belonged to. 12 Năstasă, L., Varga, A. (ed.), Minorităţi etnoculturale. Mărturii documentare. Ţiganii din România, 1919-1944, CRDE, Cluj, 2001, p. 51

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In Almașu, Sălaj county, elderly fiddlers have made a living working in state institutions. Once they were closed down or privatized, they were forced to start looking for other jobs, stable or occasional, as playing music ended up not being a stable source of income. The few Roma that are still playing today are doing so in tarafs usually made up of five members, not always from Almașu. Lăutari music is usually handed down orally, keeping the original melody, even though every musician’s own interpretation can be felt. Within the community in Zmeu, there are instrument players who play the accordion, cimbalom, violin, lute, double bass, drums and keyboards. There are no wind instruments nor soloist singers anymore. It appears that in the 1950s, up to 90% of the villagers were fiddlers, while nowadays estimates take their number down to a third. Professional brass bands in Zece Prăjini, Iași county, perform less locally than around the country or abroad. They are managed by two German producers who discovered them back in the 1990s. Fiddlers in Zmeu remember that initially girls used to be part of the taraf (ensemble) and danced or sung, but nowadays they only do it once in a while. Children start to play when they are 7-8 years old, and when they turn 16-17 they start making money out of the craft.

FIDDLERS

Roma craftsmen in Dolhasca, Suceava county, are blacksmiths and fiddlers; some of them practice both: ‘There are some who know both. Yes. Blacksmith and fiddler.’ Even if they master several crafts, their numbers are dwindling, because of low income.


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Fiddlers in Almașu claim they only perform traditional music. That, to them, means: ‘music is mixed, Gypsy and Hungarian, fifty-fifty’. There is an understanding among local fiddlers that in Almașu they never play manele14. When asked about manele, they seemed upset, saying they only perform this kind of music at wedding parties, upon request. They stated they don’t enjoy playing manele, but only their own, ‘authentic’, Moldavian folk music. One of the recent challenges that fiddlers have to face is the lack of musical instruments. Young men have nothing to rehearse on: ‘A while ago there were more musicians than now. Nowadays children started not to show up, due to the fact that there are no instruments. If they had a more valuable instrument, they might pick it up and learn, but as long as they don’t…’. Only the few who afforded to play abroad managed to buy themselves new instruments. The head of the taraf declares that the quality of the music is also altered because of this. 12 a mixture of Turkish, Greek and Middle Eastern elements, generally using modern (electronic) instruments and beats

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Fiddlers usually perform in ensembles, troupes, tarafs. What is specific to fiddlers in Zece Prăjini and to a larger extent to lautari in Moldavia, is the brass band tradition. Brass bands usually consist of more than ten, mostly wind instruments.

Even now, after the elderly, we enjoy great respect. Anywhere we go, people who have heard about our grandfathers know what kind of people we are. (I., Almașu)

Access of women in this craft is forbidden in some communities, albeit not everywhere. In Almașu or Zece Prăjini, women are encouraged to sing or go to music schools, although nobody expects them to be part of the taraf. This interdiction is mostly found in brass bands, which include no women whatsoever. Even when women get involved economically in the practice of music, they are seldom instrument players, rather using their voice to sing in certain ensembles.

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In all the fiddler communities we have researched, we were told lautari prefer to form an ensemble together with family members or the next of kin. Even nowadays, if a request is made for two instrument players, the commissioned fiddler will take along someone from the family who can play. Sometimes the husband may be playing violin and the wife may accompany him singing or playing the keyboards and sometimes other family members might complement the music with traditional dances. There are also fiddlers who perform together with Romanian or Hungarian musicians: ‘I play in an ensemble. I keep in touch with the violin player and I go when they call me up. I play with anyone, no matter if they are Gypsy, Romanian or Hungarian.’ The head of the taraf is always the conductor. Traditionally this role has been assigned to violin players. Most of the times the violin player decides who is to be a member of the ensemble. It’s also him who is looked for to sign agreements. Some ensembles have more than one violin player. To avoid confusion, they take turns.

Music is not a job where I have to say… take the 13th scale. It’s driven by pleasure, by experience, by talent. We sense the person, we know the rules of the wedding party, what is expected from us. But when we start to play, we play it by ear, by feeling, by our skills and our souls.’ (Fiddler, Zmeu)

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Before 1990, most of the fiddlers in Zece Prăjini, as well as other villages, could officially and legally combine their craft with their employment, getting involved the institution’s orchestra: ‘I used to work in the pipes factory down in Roman. We had paid employment, that why we managed to get by… Now, not anymore… People who made weddings used to be aware of us… We were the ensemble from the pipes, around 40 of us.’ Fiddlers in Zece Prăjini are a potential model of successful adaptation to recent decades of economic changes. They say they currently play whatever they are requested, from folk music, brass band music and pop music to manele, with the exception of classical music, which ‘isn’t going to work with brass bands’. The Zece Prăjini success story happened mostly thanks to a fortunate event: the musicians were discovered by two german music producers who are still managing the band today: they book them concerts abroad,

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produce and distribute their CDs locally, but mostly internationally. While up to a few decades ago most of the lautari songs were sourced in old tunes, learnt from their parents, changes in the listener profiles and a more professional market approach made them learn and perform ‘in fashion’ tunes, either from others who already master them, or, in the case of

‘I used to be a conductor. I was the orchestra leader of the Machine Factory in Cluj’ (K., Almașu) ‘Back in the time, I was part of the Folk Ensemble in Zalău. I played with Ion Dolănescu.’ (I., Almașu)

the most famous brass bands, from CDs brought in by the German managers.

The most common venue for fiddlers are still wedding parties, but they cannot generate enough income. Once the market was flooded with small scale, low cost electronic music players, invitations to play at weddings became more and more scarce. Live performances were gradually replaced by CD players: ‘They called me to make a recording for a wedding and bring the CD with me’. Fiddlers are commissioned to offer their services at wedding parties, especially to accompany the bride’s walk from home to church. This kind of requests are more frequent than full wedding performances, but they are not at all satisfying for the fiddlers, both from a financial point of view and for their reputation as artists. Funerals are also an occasion when fiddlers are contacted. Within certain Roma groups, tradition demands that the departed are accompanied to their resting place by fiddlers who perform music fit for the occasion. ‘We’ve been performing since we were born. Father did it, grandpa did it and so on. Everybody is a musician over here, whether they like it or not!’ (drummer, Fanfara Ciocârlia, Zece Prăjini) ‘Gypsy without music, there’s no such thing! There are gypsies who practice various crafts, such as those who fix pots and pans, but over here music is the craft.’ (trombone player, Fanfara Ciocârlia, Zece Prăjini)

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The skills are handed down especially paternally, from father to son. Young boys learn how to play from their parents or close relatives. They are ‘born with the instrument in their hands, for in their house everybody plays an instrument - grandpa, dad, siblings.’ Not all the boys have a calling, but it’s claimed that the best fiddlers are those who start early. Another way to hand down the skills is when boys go out in the main street and tease each other to play various instruments. However, high prices of instruments and accessories have made their parents not give them their instruments anymore, for fear they might break them. Many lautari (as well as Romanians in general) believe the Roma have the song in their blood, but the ‘gene’ needs polishing, or the talent is gone. Fiddlers in Zmeu think that talent is having a ‘good ear’. This means you don’t need scores to learn a tune. You only need to hear it once and then you are able to reproduce it faithfully.

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Talent cannot be stolen. Either you have it or you don’t. Although they say talent is inborn, genetically inherited among them, fiddlers in Zece Prăjini don’t find it impossible that Romanians learn to perform like them, although they find it rather unlikely: ‘There are some Romanians who play better than Gypsies, but they lack that thing… I don’t know… the Gypsy style…’ Among some fiddlers it’s forbidden to let go of the instrument. In Almașu, the only interdiction mentioned by the fiddlers was handing the violin to someone. A fiddler never gives his violin away, not even when he’s had too much to drink after a party; no matter how drunk he is when he goes back home, it is said the fiddler never lets go of his violin. Actually, the interdiction refers to letting someone who is unskilled play the violin mockingly, aimlessly, breaking the rules of musical harmony. Unfortunately, the art of the fiddlers is slowly dying out. In Zmeu, the activity of the taraf goes on, but the lack of instruments and departure of many of its members to work in Italy hinder its normal development. Fiddlers in Zmeu are well known and sought after in their region, but in order to see the taraf as a lucrative business, a lot of effort needs to be invested in costumes, instruments and promotion. Although their region has long been regarded as breeding ground of musical talent, fiddlers in Almașu decry the fact that they lack a young generation of heirs to inherit their craft.

‘I’m telling you from the bottom of my heart. It makes me cry that I have no one to teach everything I’ve ever played. I’m considering adopting a child to teach him traditional Gypsy music. I’m not ashamed that I’m a Gypsy, it’s a pity that tradition is not preserved and respected.’ (A., Almașu)

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Ciprian Necula

How we were inspired by a craftsman called Nea Ion We have a craft of our own: to bring forth the craft in their life stories and multiply it!

In Ceacu, down in the dusty South of Romania, not far from Călărași, along with the prevailing local peasant population, lived three small Roma groups. Some were fiddlers, and, as their name says, they used to entertain villagers with their music and dances. Others worked in the fields - day labourers - employed by better-off peasants, as they did not own land. Finally, the last group were the blacksmiths, providers of useful tools and makers of the only traditional means of transportation (carts, chariots, etc.). Nothing special! A peasant community and its bigger or smaller gypsy neighbourhood (as the people say). This is where the person that inspired us was born - Mr. Ivanciu Ion, Roma blacksmith - no ordinary man! Our character, shall we call him Nea Ion, was born in 1934, the firstborn in a family blacksmiths - Nicolae and Gherghina - and was followed by three siblings. Ion grew up back in those hard times, with scarce resources, because his father, albeit a well-appreciated blacksmith, most of the time worked in exchange for food (money was rarely used, as Nea Ion remembered). When he was four or five, along with other children from the village, Ion organized nailing sessions. They hammered nails (made by his father) into the neigbours’ fences. In 1942, his father enrolled in the army and went to the battlefront to fight on behalf of Romania. Eventually, because of his war wounds, he passed away. Incidentally, Nea Ion’s grandpa had also been shot dead on the battlefield during the First World War. Nea Ion was only 14 years old when his father died, leaving him as the eldest male member of his young family. He was a schoolchild in Călărași and didn’t have any skills yet, as his father had decided he deserved another fate, to get educated rather than suffer the hardships of blacksmithing. He had no choice, so, without hesitation, Nea Ion went to a blacksmith in Călărași, Nea

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Adam, and enrolled as his apprentice. For three years, he listened to Adam’s directions, lived and ate with him and had to pay for it too. ‘If I messed up, he would slap me at once. In the beginning I would sweep the workshop floor, push the bellows and peek at the way he hammered out the iron, silently counted the time he kept the iron under fire. Eventually I started using the sledgehammer. Adam would move the iron bar with the tongs and pointed with a small hammer where I was to hit it with the sledgehammer. It had to be in sync. If I hit too early, I would hit his small hammer, and if I hit too late, he would hit mine. Oh well, it wasn’t easy, if I messed up he would hit me.’, remembered Nea Ion, without too much delight. But he worked hard, he was willing to learn, as he had three siblings and his mother who needed to be fed. His mother, I forgot to mention, was also a craftswoman. She knew how to make stoves, to fix and maintain them, but demand was so small it barely provided for survival. At one point the time came for Nea Ion to move back to his native village to work with his father’s tools, which, due to the political context, now belonged to the state. With the same determination, he worked for the villagers and for the cooperatives, easily becoming one of the most diligent and revered craftsmen in the village. Orders were constant, more and more abundant, and so he took his younger brother, Tudorel, to help him out in the workshop and teach him the craft. He remembered he was regretfully not a tolerant master himself either. He would chase his brother around with a wand off of the football pitch or the pool to bring him back to work and sometimes even hit him with it. After less than a year, after having proved he can make

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a living with his hammer, his mother had him married and took him a few villages farther, to Vărăşti, to a blacksmith workshop for a practical exam. No, he was not looking for a job, he was looking for a wife! He went inside the workshop and, supervised by an old blacksmith, Soare Pârvu, father to several daughters, Nea Ion passed the test. He had to make a cart axle, probably the most demanding test of the time, and, although we don’t know what Mr Soare Pârvu thought of it, Ion ended up marrying Maria. He must have made a hell of a good job if Mr Pârvu agreed to give him his daughter! He proved he was capable, he is well enough equipped to be able to support a family, he was reliable and first of all he was of the blacksmith kin! He took Maria back to his dusty, dull village, to Ceacu, where they prospered. They built a home by themselves, raised many fowl and worked hard. They were the first in the village to have a light bulb or a TV set. ‘Our place was like the cinema hall. All the village came over!’ Meanwhile, married and with three children, he was enrolled in the army. Finally, Nea Ion had an up to date profession, a beautiful family, a decent household, but knew he could do better. A hardworking blacksmith, he would lift hundreds of kilos every day. ‘I applied for the weighlifting club. I would beat everyone. I would lift the heaviest load. One day, in my yard, I was working on something and I saw a car from Bucharest pull over by my yard. I went out to greet them, to see what they were looking for. They were from the Steaua sports club. Ion, we’d like you to join us, they said. I was lifting weights as a hobby, but I was still a blacksmith. But when they said they would buy me a house in Bucharest and pay me an allowance, I started considering it. But when my wife heard about it, she started chasing those people out of the yard. So I stayed there, in the village blacksmith’s.’ However, eventually, weary of his dull and dusty birthplace that had nothing to offer, he decided to move out to the capital city, initially without a plan. He found a patch of land somewhere up in Dristor, he bought it, built another house quickly, with the help of Romanian neighbours - construction was not allowed anymore HOW WE WERE INSPIRED BY A CRAFTSMAN CALLED NEA ION


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in Bucharest - and started looking for a job. He got employed at the Republica factory, where he also worked with iron, but with different techniques. Meanwhile, Nea Ion learnt other skills: welder, flattening mill operator, caster, industrial tinsmith, car tinsmith, forger and many more, all having a common denominator: iron. After retirement, Nea Ion carried on working on his own, constantly adapting the knowledge he had inherited from Oldman Adam to what was in demand on the market. He practiced car tinsmithing outside the apartment block where the communists forcibly moved him in the mid-‘80s, tolerated both by the neighbours and the local authorities. He covered several orthodox churches in tin using a self-patented technique. He managed to retrace the shape of a Porsche after seeing only an A4-sized drawing. He did marvelously. Nea Ion passed away in 2011. He was my grandpa, the one who laid the premises for my university studies, through his craft, through his decision to leave the dust in Călărași behind for the opportunities in Bucharest, the one who gave me money for cream biscuits every morning as I left for school, the one who chased me around with pliers to tear off my earring, the one who was so proud of all his nephews who did what he had always wanted to do - finish school. He would be boastful about three things: his craft, his offspring’s achievements and the wine he made. Grandpa’s story inspired me to pitch my project, Romano ButiQ, to my business partner, Khalid Inayeh. I wrote it with Nea Ion in my mind. My colleagues at KCMC are working today to replicate grandpa’s experience, his constant adaptation to the Roma craft market and you’ve seen there are many such crafts. Today, following Nea Ion’s model, we are trying to rescue from dusty dullness over 1,000 Roma craftsmen. Thank you, grandpa!

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How do we support the craftsmen? Founding the Romano ButiQ cooperatives comes as an answer to the precarious socio-economic conditions of the Roma, particularly those living in traditional communities. Material, as well as educational deprivation, geographic isolation, lack of information technology - all of this has lead to social exclusion and poverty. The Romano ButiQ cooperatives offer a chance for real development to those who are willing to perpetuate the traditional Roma craft, bringing it forth into the present and to the general public. The prospect of work in a familiar context gives the Roma craftsmen an occasion to make a direct contribution toward personal and communal welfare. Along with the income resulted from legal work, the craftsmen change their social status and become economically independent, gaining access to free medical insurance and being able to enroll their children to school. We can claim these are the first steps towards breaking the vicious circle and leaving behind the socio-economic status that usually traps the Roma. Functioning as small social businesses that allow the craftsmen to produce and sell their objects, the cooperatives take energy from the craftsmen’s will to work, as well as from the growing demand for natural, handmade products made of raw materials such as wood, wicker, iron, copper or aluminum. At the same time, telling the story of true dedication and versatility among the Roma artisans will ultimately lead to the preservation of Roma tradition and identity and to a cultural diversity in a society free of stereotypes and discrimination. The cooperatives initially consist of a small number of members who work individually and possess the minimum necessary logistics for making handicrafts. The project eventually assists them by running the juridical procedures, managing production and counseling regarding order placement and sales. Among immediate advantages we count an increase in quality and production capacity, as well as in the number of persons working together in an organized labour-divided environment. One of the things that the Roma artisans lack in is an adequate overview of the type of handmade products that are currently in demand. This temporary out-of-sync state can be tackled by a process we call ‘re-valuing’.

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With this in mind, we team up with researchers and object designers who contribute with ideas, patterns and blueprints for modern products with actual market value. Opportunely, our craftsmen are fully capable and willing to bring these new ideas to shape using their skills, their tools and the raw material they have used for ages. The existence of a legal framework makes it possible that the craftsmen sell their products through distributors or at specialized fairs, which increases the chances that the fruit of their work is well-known, bought and appreciated once again. Two years after we started this project, we have laid the foundations of 30 craft cooperatives across the ďŹ ve development regions where the project is implemented. The following pages give you a brief account of the cooperatives we have already founded in the North-East and South-West development regions, for a more concrete account of the needs and shortcomings of Roma craftsmen and the solutions that answer them as part of the Romano Cher project. Make your own contribution to the well-being of the craftsmen communities and buy their carefully crafted objects.

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An introduction to Romano ButiQ Cooperatives ROMANO BUTIQ COOPERATIVES

In progress Weavers Ironsmiths Silversmiths Woodcarvers Cast pot makers Besom makers Fiddlers Tinsmiths Tailors

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THE ‘ROMANO BUTIQ’ WEAVERS COOPERATIVE MIRONEASA, IAŞI COUNTY The cooperative in Mironeasa currently consists of 5 founding members from the community: Vasile, Viorel and Daniel Anușca, Cornel Petrechiu ă and Dan Parfeni. In Mironeasa, most of the Roma villagers have worked in wood and wicker since forever. Unfortunately they were forced to regard the craft as a seasonal activity; it was not the main activity that generated constant income and a decent living. Consequently, some of them were forced to start looking for alternatives for survival, so they went to Spain or Italy, Southern Romania or other areas with high farming potential. The products they used to make were rudimentary, because they were only manufacturing household or agricultural tools (wooden spoons and troughs, wicker baskets for corn, etc.). They never had the chance to take the craft to an advanced level of complexity. As there aren’t any traders in the area, neighbours, local markets or fairs were the only ways they could sell their products. Cornel and Vasile once had a short lived, fruitless collaboration with a cooperative from Zamoștea, Suceava county. As yet, they don’t own any well-equipped workshops where they can produce considerable amounts of woven objects. Meanwhile, none of the five founding members has their own workshop. What they do have instead are old tools and highly skilled hands inherited from their parents and grandparents. Most of the craftsmen in Mironeasa are dirt poor, live on welfare and have many children to raise (Vasile 13, Viorel 11). In spite of all shortcomings, they would like to one day own all the necessary resources to run a proper business of handmade wicker objects. Their know-how, transmitted generation by generation, their desire and their potential for development represent real opportunities. ROMANO BUTIQ COOPERATIVES


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THE ‘ROMANO BUTIQ’ WOODCARVERS COOPERATIVE ŢOLICI, NEAMŢ COUNTY

olici, the home of great woodcarving masters, started to host one of our crafts cooperatives in June 2012. The legal denomination of this small enterprise is 1st degree handcraft cooperative and it deals with manufacturing and selling wood objects. Having the concept of social economy as starting point, the Romano ButiQ cooperative in olici actively gets involved in the community by running and financing an apprenticeship programme for under-privileged children and teenagers. Vladimir Negoi ă, aka Vasile, is 32 and has worked with wood all his life. He was raised by his grandparents. He remembers how his grandmother used to carve 30-40 wooden spoons a day, going to ibucani forest in winter, through wild boar territory, so she can raise him and his four brothers and sisters. „For 14 years I sold stools near the Nădlac border control. I used to come home two or three times a month to get some more stools, and then I was back on my way. It was a beautiful time, but it had its drawbacks – I was not spending time with my family”, says Vasile. In his new position as founding member of the Romano ButiQ cooperative, Vasile wants to give something to his four children, by handing down the woodcarving skills, as he learned from his elders. The most interesting product that he has worked on is an oak wood trough, 110 cm long and 60 cm wide, which was made for a family in Germany to be used as a cradle for new-borns.

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THE ‘ROMANO BUTIQ’ CRAFTSMEN COOPERATIVE MOŢCA, IAŞI COUNTY

Mo ca represents a concrete example of commitment and intervention in deprived, socially marginalized communities. The cooperative has five members and was among the first to be created in the North-Eastern development region, in August 2011. The biggest challenge, as in the case of many other cooperatives, was that the craftsmen had to try to adapt their techniques in order to answer to present-day market challenges. Aurel Crăciun (or Nea Aurel), the most elderly member of a silversmith family and founding member of the cooperative in Mo ca, told us that, since he has been part of Romano ButiQ, his portfolio has diversified a great deal. He takes pride in the fact that no modern design is too much of a challenge for his hands. Classic jewelry is now complemented by earrings or necklaces in the shape of spoons and forks, bicycles or smiley faces, while forks or teaspoons turn into bracelets. Aurel says his main benefit since Romano ButiQ has been the occasion to experiment with new designs and ideas and that the work of Roma silversmiths in general is enjoying more and more visibility at fairs and festivals all over the country. Among the other members of the cooperative in Mo ca we mention Gelu Cobzariu, fiddler (lăutar) and Costică Mărchidan, ironsmith - living proof that our cooperatives can include members from various fields of work.

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THE ‘ROMANO BUTIQ’ FIDDLERS COOPERATIVE ZECE PRĂJINI, IAȘI COUNTY

Music, talent and artistry. These are the main virtues of the Romano ButiQ cooperative in Zece Prăjini, which for now brings together five people willing to showcase their unique musical talent to new audiences: brass band music arranged to ‘house’ beats. Their compositions are adapted to new trends and to an exigent public no longer satisfied with the classic brass band sound, being in constant search for originality. It’s not too easy nor difficult to make this happen when you come from a village where the sound of brass fills up the air day in day out. The biggest challenge so far has been the recording of two songs in a professional studio. The musicians were not used to this kind of pressure so it took a while before they managed to obtain the final product. The band is still in its early days and the conditions are not the most favourable: they need regular access to a recording studio and matching promotional support. For the moment, one can only watch them perform after driving on a long, rough, unsealed road. The distance from Iași to Zece Prăjini: 80 km. However, the founding of this cooperative has brought hope for its members who can now hope to lay the foundations a successful business and to create a renown beyond that rough road, along with the already famous Fanafara Ciocârlia, Mahala Rai Banda or Taraf de Haidouks.

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THE ‘ROMANO BUTIQ’ CRAFTSMEN COOPERATIVE DOLHASCA, SUCEAVA COUNTY

The cooperative in Dolhasca has managed to bring together 10 founding members in June 2012. Its administrator, Mr. Constantin Tănase, is a well praised and highly skilled blacksmith, who, together with his associates, wants to update the traditional ways of his craft, thus transforming it in an occupation that will generate constant income and a decent living for his family, as well as for much of the community. Situated 60 km from Suceava and 20 km from Fălticeni, the Romano ButiQ cooperative in Dolhasca is an example of how an impressive mix of will and skill can bring undisputed value to the community. The wrought iron objects that take shape from the hands and tools of the ironsmiths in Dolhasca can be easily considered as valuable, unique artifacts. It sometimes takes 4 or 5 ironsmiths and two weeks of work to complete an iron gate or a piece of wrought iron furniture.

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THE ‘ROMANO BUTIQ’ WEAVERS COOPERATIVE NEGREŞTI, IAŞI COUNTY

The second weavers cooperative situated in the North-East development region and one of the six weavers cooperatives founded so far in the Romano Cher project, the Romano ButiQ cooperative in Negrești was established in July 2012, having for the moment 7 founding members. Living standards are very low in Negrești, so the idea of founding a cooperative is perceived by the community as palpable support which can bear fruit in the near future. There are countless hardships. Harvesting wicker after frost, cutting it off, sorting, boiling, peeling and splitting up the twigs are mandatory steps to be carefully followed by each weaver, before the actual weaving even begins. In spite of all, attention to details and passion for the craft, complemented by their openness to new ideas and shapes, offers the weavers a chance to prove to the world that talent and effort can bring both profits and personal fulfillment: preserving tradition and handing it down in the family and community.

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THE ‘JAZZ ROMANO’ COOPERATIVE IAŞI

Or ‘Jazz Romano’ the band. This cooperative is different from the others. It was set up in May 2012 and its purpose is to reveal the boundless, indisputable skills of the Roma fiddlers (lăutari). This time we are dealing with persons who were born and raised in isolated traditional communities but managed to overcome their condition and polish their gift in specialized universities. The five founding members of Jazz Romano are young (under 30), holding majors in musical sciences. They come from Roma lăutari families and their childhood was marked by traditional rhythms and tunes. Formal education, experience and their famed musical intuition helped them break all sorts of boundaries, while preserving their valued inherited tradition. Their ambition is to mix up authentic romani music with funk or jazz influences. Apparently, Jazz Romano is the first Romanian band willing to lure audience with this blend of styles. The recognition of their talent came faster than they expected when Alex, Silviu, Catalin and their colleagues managed to impress the audience and the jury of the prestigious Sibiu International Jazz Festival and won the Grand Prize. For these young musicians, success is not complete without their engagement in social projects with a real impact in the Roma communities. A first step in this direction was made in Vânători, Neam county: they helped the locals to finally obtain an identity card of their own.

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THE ‘ART OF WOODCARVING’ COOPERATIVE BĂBENI, VÂLCEA COUNTY

On July 17th, 2012, a new Romano ButiQ woodcarvers cooperative was set up in Băbeni. The number of craftsmen in the area is impressive, but there are slightly tense relations among them. People are poor, but willing to work hard and showcase their time tried talent to the world. The cooperative in Băbeni extends a helping hand to the whole community and lays the foundation for a social enterprise meant to bring new value to traditional crafts and bring wood carving masters closer to the general public. As the name says, the ‘Art of Woodcarving’ cooperative in Băbeni brought together highly artful craftsmen who have managed, by perfecting their production techniques, to take woodcarving to the next level.

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THE ‘ROMANO BUTIQ’ IRONSMITHS COOPERATIVE ŞIMIAN, CARAŞ-SEVERIN COUNTY

The craft cooperative in Șimian was founded on July 30th, 2012 and brought together craftsmen whose common practice is blacksmithing. Craftsmen originate from various places, but their headquarters are based in Șimian. In this area, traditional crafts are not a current, up to date occupation anymore. Only four families are still actively involved in keeping tradition alive. The members of the cooperative have forged strong relations that have contributed to their will to hand down their talent and keep the flame of Roma tradition alive. Without making profits and lacking a clear perspective, many have given up their traditional craft and chose to focus their efforts towards more lucrative occupations. Blacksmithing is less and less practiced in the area, and there are less and less craftsmen. However, they have managed to maintain old tradition on the floating line and also make it known to others. Since they can be considered true blacksmithing artists, artisans in Șimian have decided that their cooperative be named ‘Scorpion’. Their aim is to bewitch the passers-by with the products they created with passion, hard work and reverence for their heritage.

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THE ‘NEW FASHION’ COOPERATIVE CRAIOVA, DOLJ COUNTY The ‘New Fashion’ cooperative in Craiova was founded on October 11th, 2012 and opens up new perspectives for the traditional Roma crafts. A family business, the cooperative wishes to revitalize traditional Roma clothing, bringing fresh flavour to Romanian fashion. Influences, colours and the romani style enrich any piece of clothing and, once integrated, become unique, authentic and up to date. The Pastraca family try to do exactly this: integrate the traditional Roma attire and typical romani elements into local fashion trends. Thus, preserving tradition and typical Roma aspects represents an assumed role for the ‘New Fashion’ cooperative.

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THE ‘ROMANO BUTIQ’ CRAFTSMEN COOPERATIVE SIBIU, SIBIU COUNTY Our cooperative in Sibiu was established on October 10th, 2012 and brought together craftsmen who work with copper, but also women who practice dressmaking and tailoring traditional Roma outfits and puppet costumes. Diversity is the word that best describes the cooperative in Sibiu, a place where various Roma crafts are being practiced, where needle and thread, hammer and anvil co-exist and try to keep the Roma tradition going. The members of the Romano ButiQ cooperative in Sibiu have toiled away for generations lest they forget their origins and in order to show others that their craft maintains both sentimental values and potential for profit.

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The story of the Roma In Romania, the Roma don’t enjoy a good reputation. The media overflows with articles in which the Roma play the most negative parts possible, or they are ridiculed or presented in stereotyped ways. One of the most frequent stereotypes in the media - but also in the comments sections - in that the Roma are supposedly lazy. Meanwhile, Roma craftsmen toil away - we saw this in our field trips. Some of our colleagues, less accustomed with Roma communities, also noticed it: ‘These people work really hard!’ Historic documents mention how long the Roma have been toiling in much too large numbers to detail them here. We will only make reference to Mihail Kogalniceanu15, who, in a discourse he addressed to the Romanian Academy in 1851 said: ‘There were the court gypsies - a lot of them; they were bringing a lot of income to the state coffers; then there were the monastery and public institution gypsies, whose services answered the daily needs of these communities; finally, there were the private, noblemen gypsies, who were servants in noblemen’s households - cooks, coachmen, grooms, housekeepers, chamber maids, kitchen maids, seamstresses.’ 15 19th century Romanian liberal statesman, lawyer, historian and publicist; responsible for drafting legislation to abolish Roma slavery

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The story of the Roma

A few historic landmarks of the Roma The Roma migrated from North-Western India starting with the 9th century. Those who headed towards the Byzantine Empire passed through Persia and ancient Armenia. Romani words were borrowed from the languages spoken in these territories. In Walachia, the Roma are mentioned for the first time in official documents in 1385, in Transylvania in 1400 and in Moldavia in 142816. Historic research has elicited the theory according to which the Roma reached European territory along with the Mongol raids led by Genghis Khan in the 13th century, followed by Tamerlane’s armies. It’s a known fact that the Tartars brought with them Asian groups which they used as slaves. Military camps often accommodated blacksmiths and horseshoe ferriers who served the conquering armies. Another theory states that the Roma reached Romanian territory in the 14th century, from the South of the Danube, leaving it unclear if they were already slaves or free men. What’s certain is that once in Walachia, they were enslaved. Dimitrie Cantemir17 stated, in the 18th century, that there was no boyar in Moldavia without slaves, thus validating the fact that this commonplace practice was well-established and widespread. The reason why the Roma were kept in slavery seems to be strictly economic: workforce demand, especially in fields such as blacksmithing, determined the boyars to confine the Roma into slavery. 16 17

Achim, V., Ţiganii în istoria României, Editura Enciclopedică, Bucharest, 1998, p.18. Information in this section is sourced in this study (1673–1723) twice Prince of Moldavia, prolific man of letters, philosopher, historian, composer, musicologist, linguist, ethnographer and geographer

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Following the revolutionary wave in the mid-19th century, which brought about the modernization of Europe, the abolitionist movement reached Walachia and Moldavia, albeit somewhat delayed. Highlighting the economic and fiscal interest of the well-off or even of the state (the Roma were leased or sold, representing an important income generating commodity), Kogălniceanu explains the fact that the emancipation in the Romanian Principalities happened with a delay and with greater efforts than in the rest of Europe. Thus, Moldavia adopted the first emancipation act in January 1844 and Walachia in 1845. These laws only referred to certain categories of slaves, namely state slaves and monastery slaves. The final, complete abolition of Roma slavery was passed into law in 1855 in Walachia and in 1856 in Moldavia. Nevertheless, actual emancipation was a process that lasted over two decades and a half, accompanied by compensation measures for the former slave owners, but no compensation for the slaves themselves.

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The term ‘Roma’ ma comes mes from Sanskrit and means ‘man’, being the only appellative used in the Romani ni language. The term ‘gipsy’ ((ţigan) originates in the Greek ‘athinganoi’, which means ans ‘untouchable’, the name attributed to the Roma by Christian peoples during their migration from India, as a result of their particular, pagan culture. During uring slavery, the word ‘gypsy’ ended up being synonymous with ‘slave’. That is why the Roma elites in the beginning of the 20th century demanded, anded, in 1919, that Romanians ccease to ‘hurtfully’ address them as ‘gypsies’, and use the correct ethno ethnonym ‘Roma’ instead.

By the Union Act of 1918, a Roma elite had already been formed. They met up at the celebrated gathering at Ibașfalău (currently Dumbrăveni, Sibiu county), in April 1919. It is here that the Roma elite affirmed the commitment off all the ethnics to be faithful citizens of their new motherland; it was also here that for the first time they claimed the hurtful appellative ‘gypsy’ be dropped in favour of the ethnonym ‘Roma’, already commonly used inside the group. Incidentally, one of the first official Roma organizations was called ‘The General Union of the Roma in Romania’. Founded in 1933, its honourary president was the famous musician Grigoraș Dinicu. One of the organization’s greatest achievements is the publishing of a newspaper called ‘Voice of the Roma’ (from 1934 to 1941). The Second World War brought with it what the Roma elite called ‘O samudaripen’ - ‘the genocide’ in the Romani language, a less well known aspect of Roma history, albeit one that left a deep impact among the Roma and whose consequences are still visible today: mass deportations of over 25,000 Roma, including women, children and elderly, in the Trans-Dniestr region. Among the deported were family members of the Roma soldiers who fought in the Romanian armed forces. The survivors of the Trans-Dniestr concentration camps (less than half of the total number of the deported) came back home scarred for life. Some have never told their nightmarish story, unable to overcome their trauma. Others have since hidden their Roma identity, lest the same fate befalls them once again. In 1971 the first World Romani Congress took place near London. The date of this congress became the International Day of the Roma - April 8th. On the same occasion the Roma anthem (Djelem Djelem) and the Roma flag (a red cartwheel on a blue and green background) were adopted.

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The Roma flag, proposed at the World Romani Congress in 1971


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The story of the Roma

Roma craftsmen and the Romanian economy The fact that the Roma name themselves most often according to the craft they used to practice - or are still practicing - is living proof of its importance in their lives and of the fact that practicing the craft goes beyond the economic field straight into the more intimate area of identity assertion.

In the Ottoman Empire, in the fiscal register of 1522-1523, the Roma had, besides ‘traditional’ professions, occupations such as: physicians, policemen, surgeons, elite soldiers, butchers, prison guards or cheese makers.

Ever since the Middle Ages, Roma craftsmen have played a major role in the economy of the Romanian Principalities, taking up a niche which was not readily occupied by the Romanian workforce. Their importance grew once the first big agrarian domains appeared18, where they were the makers of all necessary tools and household objects. The division of the Roma in craftsmen branches has been compared to ‘natural guilds’19. However, there is nothing ‘natural’ about their identity as craftsmen. It’s rather a result of the occupational niches that the Roma have filled since the Middle Ages. 18

Panaitescu, as quoted in Achim, V., iganii în istoria României, Editura Enciclopedică, Bucharest, 1998, p. 47 Chelcea, I., iganii din România. Monografie etnografică, București, 1944, p.102

19

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We can separate Roma crafts into two categories - the ones that have existed since slavery and the ones that came after the emancipation. In the first category, among the nomadic Roma (court slaves, who, in exchange for a tax benefited from a relative freedom of movement and practiced their own crafts), we remind the woodcarvers, also called gold panners or gold diggers (originally metal finders who changed profile, after gold digging disappeared, and became wood carvers or weavers), coppersmiths, bear tamers, comb makers, goldsmiths, sievers, tinsmiths, horse traders, bell makers, florists and shoe polishers20. The settled Roma from the same period (the ‘boyar’ slaves) were the farm workers who raised and tended the animals, those who ploughed the land and the house servants (ironsmiths, fiddlers, brick makers, water bearers, bakers, coachmen, cobblers for men and kitchen maids, laundresses, seamstresses and housemaids for women). After the emancipation, some of the Roma from the villages moved out to towns, which brought about new occupations, along with the old, traditional ones that had existed before the emancipation: coachmen, tinsmiths, knife sharpeners, glaziers, tailors, quill makers, service men, bricklayers, lime brush makers and vendors. 20

Grigore, D., Sarău, G., Istorie şi tradiţii rome, Organizaţia Salvaţi Copiii, Bucharest, 2006, pp. 22-25

‘Everyone Everyon identified themselves according ccording to their craft. cra Bricklayers had their trowels, everyone else had their own tools, so there was no one in the country, especially in Walachia, where God sent nt some diligent men to work, it was the only way to survival. Boyars owned the land, they owned the food, and we had our tools. They needed us and we needed them. We made an alliance so that we live on. […] For instance - potter, cartwright, skinner, weaver - anyone who had a craft was named after it. People would say: go to that weaver, take it to that potter.’ (V.L., Băbeni) Bă

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Field researchers in the 1990’s concluded that the Roma population was exposed to a high level of poverty risk. Direct causes for that situation were to be found in the period previous to 1990, when the Roma had been subjected to several long term processes, among which restraining their ethnic identity, assimilation policies, proletarianization and suppression of traditional occupations21. Crafts were regulated under Decree 153/1970 which mentioned prison sentences for ‘social parasitism’, which included productive activities not in line with the socialist state ideology. In spite of all, some craftsmen went on practicing their craft, running the risk of fines or bribing the police, probably out of resistance to change and especially to the concept of working for someone else. At the end of the ‘80s, almost 50% of the Roma were employed in agriculture, in agricultural cooperatives or state owned farms22. However, proletarianization was not an in-depth process. It was not associated with

21

Pons, E., Ţiganii din România - o minoritate în tranziţie, Editura Compania, Bucharest, 1999, p. 34-35 Pons, E., idem, p. 34 23 Pons, E., idem, p. 42-43 24 Reyniers, A., Quelques jalons pour comprendre l’economie tsigane, in Etudes Tsiganes, VI/2, 1998, pp. 8-27 25 Pons, E., ibid., pp. 41-42 26 Kiss, T., Fosztó, L., Fleck, G. (coord.), Incluziune şi excluziune. Studii de caz asupra comunităţilor de romi din România, ISPMN, Kriterion, 2009, p.14 27 Reyniers, A., ibid., p.12 28 Ringold, D., Roma and the Transition in Central and Eastern Europe: Trends and Challenges, World Bank, 2000, pp. 11-14 29 Stănculescu, M. S., Berevoescu, I., Sărac lipit, caut altă viaţă! Fenomenul sărăciei extreme şi al zonelor sărace în România, Nemira, Bucharest, 2001, pp 403-404 22

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an equally intensive educational policy, and, more to the point, since the Roma were often employed in unskilled, second-rate labour23, their new working conditions were generally precarious24. Some researchers maintain that proletarianization of the Roma has had some positive consequences as far as social ascending is concerned, managing to ultimately

Lăutăria ută a fost atestată sec documentar încă din secolul al X-lea, în Persia, iar lucrul cu metalul reiese ca ocupaţie a romilor

give birth to a Roma middle class25. Nevertheless,

încă din secolul al XIV-lea, în

there have been no changes in the ethnic perception

insula Corfu din Grecia.

of the Roma; Sam Beck, an American researcher, author of many field researches in Transylvania in the 1980s, noted that in Romania, the Roma are treated as a class, but regarded as a race26. Fiddlers were first documented in the 10th century, in Persia, and forging metals was mentioned in relation with the Roma in Corfu, Greece, in the 14th century. Transition to a market economy resulted in massive dismissals that marked Romanian society as a whole, but especially affected the Roma. Most of them practiced unskilled labour, disposable in the new system27. Long term unemployment reached alarming levels among the Roma, who, as a result of economic exclusion, were doomed to profound poverty in the largest numbers. Consequently, ‘100% unemployment rate in Roma populated areas is not at all uncommon’28. Accordingly, poverty is constantly associated with the Roma, even when the ones in question are not or fail to declare themselves Roma. Poor regions in Romania are labeled as Roma inhabited, even when under a third of the population is actually Roma29.

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There are crafts raft that havee failed the test of time ti and disappeared, finding no utility. For instance, nstance, Comb makers used bone bon to make combs. Bear tamers used to roam villages enticing ticing bears to dance to their music. This ritual ritu not only had artistic purposes, it was also magical: a it is said ill people needed to be ‘trodden on’ by the bears in order to get well. Tinsmiths were those who went from one village to the next and applied a thin layer of tin on pans to protect them from the toxic metal. Quill makers used to gather and trade quills used in high end fashion or making ladies hats. Horse traders used to sell horses. hor

In the context of marginalization and exclusion, it must be remembered that the Roma have their own resources, and that now, more than ever before, they can find real opportunities in the market economy context. We dispose of few clear statistical data regarding the actual total number of Roma craftsmen, much less separate data about each of the crafts or the regions where they are found. In 1993, it was estimated that 3.8% of the Roma were still practicing traditional crafts30. Most of them were men (7.3%) and only 0.6% were women. The findings can be explained by the fact that the communist system had consistently discouraged the practice of traditional crafts, and those who carried on practicing them, illegally, exposed to risks, most probably failed to declare them only a few years after the regime change. In 2004, it was estimated that 3.2% of the Roma were still practicing traditional crafts31. Clearly, this piece of data is to be interpreted with the assumption that many craftsmen may have failed to declare their true profession fearing eventual fiscal reprisal. Even today many craftsmen work without actual legal economic activity authorization.

30

Zamfir, E., Zamfir, C., coord., Ţiganii, între ignorare şi îngrijorare, Ed. Alternative, Bucharest, 1993, pp 101-103 and 162-164 Cace, S., Vlădescu, C., Starea de sănătate a populaţiei roma şi accesul la serviciile de sănătate, Editura Expert, Bucharest, 2004, p.18 32 Liégeois, J.P., Roms en Europe, Editions du Conseil de l’Europe, Strasbourg, 2007, p.81 31

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It’s also remarkable that the names of the crafts are similarly generating confusion. Most of the times, two different names are alternatively used for people who make the same kind of objects using the same methods (ie ‘cazangii’ or ‘ceaunari’ for pot makers and ‘jghebari‘ or ‘tinichigii’ for tinsmiths). Incidentally, some authors completely fail to accurately list traditional Roma crafts, arguing that actual occupations are erratic, can be simultaneously practiced by the same craftsmen or changed throughout time according to perceived economic opportunities32. Coincidentally, this fluctuation also resulted from our own research: we encountered woodcarvers communities that throughout time exchanged wood for clay, becoming brick makers in the course of only one generation. It’s the case of those in Pietrișu, who before the ‘60s carved wood on their own, but after the founding of agricultural cooperatives they found a more lucrative niche as state employees. Besides professional reconversion, many craftsmen today continue to make products specific to more than one craft, according to market demand and access to raw material. Today they may carve a wooden platter, like you find in restaurants that cater traditional food, tomorrow someone will order a cartful of bricks and they will get on with it.

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Instead of a conclusion Our project is in many ways an ice breaker, and in the present Romanian society context it’s a daring challenge. How do you manage to convince the large audiences, constantly bombarded with mostly negative media messages against the Roma, that the Roma ‘actually work hard’ - sometimes harder and more difficult jobs than most of us? How do you raise the trust and respect of others in the craftsmen’s work? How do you change perception about a minority usually surrounded by countless stereotypes? The above questions have motivated us to find innovative answers to a problem which, in spite of countless campaigns in recent years, still persists in our society. In order to incline the balance towards real change, we considered the best argument would be the concrete example of those we have written about, those who we presented in previous pages, who we work with and in whom we chose to put our trust. Because we have witnessed their hard work, their daily toil, their results, their pride and their satisfaction for paid work. Because we have seen how much effort they invest in sending their offspring to college, to the university - remember the silversmith’s pride in his law student daughters. We recalled, with historical arguments, that the Roma have contributed to Romania’s welfare ever since they came here, by means of their unpaid work, the crafts they knew how to practice. Think of how many horses shoed by Roma blacksmiths carried bricks made by Roma brick makers to build this country’s agricultural infrastructure. Think of the amount of rugs woven by the Roma that have saved crops from frost all around the country. Think of the number of baskets that have been used to harvest crops in cooperatives. We have told the story of how the craftsmen managed to adapt and how we see in them a model of survival, in spite of all economic hardships, as well as a rare example of how to hand tradition down from father to son, from mother to daughter. We have a lot to learn from the craftsmen. INSTEAD OF A CONCLUSION


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Bibliography Achim, V., Ţiganii în istoria României, Editura Enciclopedică, Bucharest, 1998 Burtea, V., Neamurile de romi şi modul lor de viaţă, from Sociologie românească, 2-3, 1994 Cace, S., Vlădescu, C., Starea de sănătate a populaţiei roma şi accesul la serviciile de sănătate, Editura Expert, Bucharest, 2004 Chelcea, I., Ţiganii din România. Monografie etnografică, Bucharest, 1944 Cosma, V., Lăutarii de ieri şi de azi, Editura Du Style, Bucharest, 1996 Duminică, G., Preda, M., Accesul romilor pe piaţa muncii, Editura Cărţii de Agribusiness, Bucharest, 2003 Grigore, D., Sarău, G., Istorie şi tradiţii rome, Organizaţia Salvaţi Copiii, Bucharest, 2006 Kiss, T., Fosztó, L., Fleck, G. (coord.), Incluziune şi excluziune. Studii de caz asupra comunităţilor de romi din România, ISPMN, Kriterion, 2009 Liégeois, J.P., Roms en Europe, Editions du Conseil de l’Europe, Strasbourg, 2007 Năstasă, L., Varga, A. (ed.), Minorităţi etnoculturale. Mărturii documentare. Ţiganii din România, 1919-1944, CRDE, Cluj, 2001 Olivera, M., Les Roms comme „minorité ethnique”? Un questionnement roumain, in Etudes Tsiganes, 39-40 (3e trim. 2009), pp. 128-150 Pons, E., Ţiganii din România - o minoritate în tranziţie, Editura Compania, Bucharest, 1999 Reyniers, A., Quelques jalons pour comprendre l’economie tsigane, in Etudes Tsiganes, VI/2, 1998, pp. 8-27 Ringold, D., Roma and the Transition in Central and Eastern Europe: Trends and Challenges, World Bank, 2000 Stănculescu, M. S., Berevoescu, I., Sărac lipit, caut altă viaţă! Fenomenul sărăciei extreme şi al zonelor sărace în România, Nemira, Bucharest, 2001 Stoichita, V.A., Fabricants d’emotion. Musique et malice dans un village tsigane de Roumanie, Nanterre, Publications de la Société d’ethnologie, 2008 Zamfir, E., Zamfir, C., coord., Ţiganii, între ignorare şi îngrijorare, Ed. Alternative, Bucharest, 1993

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Acknowledgements This study would not have been possible without the help of the craftsmen themselves. Generous in showing us their daily toil and how they masterfully craft the handmade objects, in telling us about the hardships they face in their hard work, in sharing with us the fortunate and the less fortunate, they granted us temporary access in their lives. We thank them and we are grateful for the fragments of life we witnessed. Materials that we based this study on were gathered and edited within ECHOSOC (Foundation for Recovery, Integration and Social Promotion) by a number of field researchers, to whom we address our gratitude. We would also like to thank the photographers who helped illustrate the stories of the Roma craftsmen, so that their lives reach closer to the readers. We thank our partners at Agen ia Împreună and our colleagues Marian Dobre and Mircea Nancă for their significant contributions to the editing of this study. Additionally, we thank Professor Vintilă Mihăilescu for his alluring and encouraging words. The study was done under the auspices of the ‘Romano Cher - House of the Roma’, co-financed from the European Social Fund through the Sectorial Operational Programme Human Resources Development 2007-2013 (56327), ‘Investing in People’. The main objective of the project is bringing the traditional Roma craftsmen back on the market and in the active community life. PHOTO INDEX Sorin Onișor: pp. 11, 12, 17, 28, 29, 34, 48, 53, 55 (above), 57, 60 (left), 69, 90, 107, 109, 115 Gabriel Bălănescu: pp. 13 (right), 14, 15 (above right), 16 (above), 18, 19, 21, 25, 46, 78, 81, 82, 84, 86, 114, 117 Lorand Vakarcs: pp. 58, 59, 61, 93, 111, 112, 120, Back cover Cătălin Corneanu: pp. 4, 7, 35, 37 (left) Nicu Dumitru: pp. 26 (left), 27 (right), 37 (right), 89 Mircea Nancă: pp. 13 (left), 79 Orlando Neagoe: pp. 15 (left and below), 16 (below), 118 Paul Ţanicui: pp. 22 Eduard Enea: pp. 31, 32 Ștefan Mușat: pp. 49, 71, 80, 83 Mădălin Nicolaescu: pp. 50, 54 Andrei Lupu: pp. 74, 76

MULŢUMIRI


CONTACT

EUROPEAN UNION

GOVERNMENT OF ROMANIA MINISTRY OF LABOUR, FAMILY SOCIAL PROTECTION AND ELDERLY AMPOSDRU

European Social Fund

ORLANDO NEAGOE (Romano ButiQ Coordinator) Mobil: 0722.518.156 Email: orlando@kcmc.ro

GOVERNMENT OF ROMANIA MINISTRY OF LABOUR, FAMILY SOCIAL PROTECTION AND ELDERLY OIRPOSDRU CENTRAL REGION

Address: Phone: Fax: Email:

Str. Lt. Av. Marcel Andreescu Nr. 15, 011645 021 539 08 83/4 0372 87 58 38 office@kcmc.ro

Sectorial Operational Programme Human Resources Development 2007-2013 (56327), ‘Investing in People’

Romano Cher - House of the Roma Editor: K Consulting Management and Coordination Data publicării: April 2013 The content of this material does not necessarily represent the official position of the European Union or the Government of Romania

Romano ButiQ - a study of roma crafts  
Romano ButiQ - a study of roma crafts  
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