Monday, August 31, 2009

Madonna on her ‘Sticky and Sweet’ World tour shines a light on Europe’s dark secret.

Alina Wolfe Murray, (AP), 27/08/2009, writes:

“BUCHAREST, Romania - At first, fans politely applauded the Roma performers sharing a stage with Madonna. Then the pop star condemned widespread discrimination against Roma, or Gypsies and the cheers gave way to jeers.
The sharp mood change that swept the crowd of 60,000, who had packed a park for Wednesday night’s concert, underscores how prejudice against Gypsies remains deeply entrenched across Eastern Europe.”

In a [Roma Daily News] Press statement, 28/08/2009:

“The three members of the Russian Romany music Kolpakov Trio, Sasha K. Arkadiy G and Vadim K mentioned, in a press conference organized by Romani CRISS on August 28 at Uzinexport in Bucharest, [that] the audience’s reaction to Madonna’s impulsive statement against discrimination was the most hostile they ever met during their tour with Madonna, but also within their whole career.”

There is reason for this. Since their arrival in Europe, more than 600 years ago, the persecution of the Gypsies/Roma has been the most brutal and persistent of any minority in Europe. Nowhere has this been more brutal and long-lasting than in Romania, where they were traded as slaves until 1865, when slavery, not prejudice and marginalization, was finally abolished. By contrast In Russia, where the Kolpakov Trio originated, Gypsies were respected, loved and celebrated as great artists by the aristocracy and even by most of their peasants. It is only when Nikita Khrushchev forbade nomadism in 1956 that conditions rapidly deteriorated for Russian Gypsies. That is why I chose this period as a backdrop for my novel DOSHA.

Madonna has been praised by Hindus and Jews for her Roma comments. Those who love freedom and democracy should hail her as an Ambassadress, carrying the torch for those values. The Gypsies/Roma have been part of Western Culture for all those centuries. Integrating them fully, including their right to be different, just as other cultures within the New Europe, is a litmus test for the EU’s new democracies.

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