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«Dieter W. Halwachs ROMA AND ROMANI IN AUSTRIA* The Austrian Roma and Austrian Romani can be seen as paradigmatic of the social and linguistic ...»

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2.4 Romani and the Culture Industry If we do not take pejorative criteria, based on prejudices, into account, like those of the (Ger­ man-speaking) members of the educated classes who grant the Roma and their language, if at all, only a certain folkloristic value, Romani as carrier of a profound oral tradition could un­ doubtedly be seen as a cultural language equal to that of other ethnic groups. This cultural dimension of Romani is heavily threatened by modern media. Marginalized fringe groups are to the biggest part excluded from media productions, but participate passively in these prod­ ucts – as consumers. In this way, the primary expression of the oral tradition, storytelling, is driven to the background. In connection with the monolingual (the language of the majority) educational system, the competence and use of Romani is losing its function as carrier of culture. The use of Romani as language of the media as described in the next chapter has only little importance and a symbolic character rather than a real informative, educational or entertaining function – which are the primary functions of media products.

2.4.1 Electronic Media and Print Media The electronic and print media should support the use of the languages of ethnic groups, as is indirectly guaranteed by the Austrian ethnic groups law and by two treaties by the Euro­ pean Council which were ratified by the Republic of Austria. The "Framework Concention

for the Protection of National Minorities" includes the following passage:

The Parties shall not hinder the creation and the use of printed media by persons be­ longing to national minorities. In the legal framework of sound radio and television broadcasting, they shall ensure, as far as possible,..., that persons belonging to na­ tional minorities are granted the possibility of creating and using their own media.

(section II/Article 9.3) (Source: http://www.humanrights.coe.int/Minorities/) The topic "Media and Minorities" is discussed in far greater detail in the "European Charter of Regional and Minority Languages". Article 11 of this Charter, ratified in 2001, obliges the Republic of Austria to ensure the use of the languages of the ethnic minorities on the radio, in TV and the press and to support – if possible – the construction and work of the ethnic groups‘ own channels and newspapers.6 2.4.1.1 Electronic Media The trigger for the use of Romani in the electronic media were not the laws and treaties mentioned above, but the liberalization of the media market and the ensuing possibility of private radio stations. That in turn caused the former holder of the monopoly, the state-run broadcasting company ORF, to get active.

In April 2000, Radio Mora, an organization which includes Croatian and Hungarian orga­ nizations and the organization Roma, started to broadcast programs in all languages of Bur­ genland’s ethnic groups within the offer of the private corporation "Antenne 4". Due to finan­ cial reasons – reduction, and later on a complete cut, of public sponsorship – work had to stop in November 2001. At the time, Burgenland-Romani is marginally present in the radio programs and – to an even lesser extent – in TV programs of the state-run regional Burgen­ land broadcasting company; this "measure" allows Romani if not the same, at least similar rights as Hungarian and Croatian, which have been present in programs for some time.

The starting point of all radio activities concerning Romani in Vienna is the organization Romano Centro. After a two-year break this medium-wave station run by the ORF at 1476 kHz started operating again in 1997 with a whole new task: from the very start it was Radio 1476‘s essential goal to create a stage for international meetings and integration. From April 1997 to June 1998 Radio Romano Centro broadcasted a 30-minute-bilingual program once a month, with various cultural and political topics concerning the Roma.7 With the end of Ra­ dio Romano Centro other radio stations took over the broadcasting time, which is still offered on Radio 1476 in varying quality as far as content and language is concerned.8 Romani in the electronic media is among others a result of the ORF’s reorganization of the domain responsible for the languages of ethnic groups; a reorganization made neces­ sary because of the ratification of the Charter for regional and minority languages.

Apart from these half-hour radio programs, the Roma, their culture and thus also Romani are once in a while the topic of ethnic group-specific, German-speaking radio and TV pro­ grams. The programs that are on and those that are planned taken together can, however, account only for about 360 minutes of Romani use in the radio per month, and sparing use on TV, even if all possibilities are used to the maximum. This frequency of presence in Aus­ tria’s electronic media confirms the – above-mentioned- primarily symbolic function of Ro­ mani – conveying information is, in the vast majority of cases, left to the programs in the lan­ guage of the majority.

The use of Romani in Austrian film productions plays only a secondary role, but is still worth mentioning in view of the generally sparing use and function of Romani in a public-cul­ tural context. Two productions have to be emphasized: the 1995 Amen So Amen Sam, a 26minutes portrait of the Burgenland-Roma produced by Hans Panner for the organization Roma, and the feature film Ceija Stojka, a 84-minutes portrait of the well-known Austrian Romni by Karin Berger. But also in these films, Romani has – among others because of the German subtitles – only a symbolic-emblematic function and is used rather to illustrate the autonomous culture.





2.4.1.2 Print media In Austria, no newspapers, weekly or monthly journals are published in Romani.

The only periodical which uses Romani exclusively is the children’s Mri Tikni Mini Multi, which has been published six times a year by the association Roma Service in cooperation with the organization of Burgenland-Croatian teachers, Zora, since December 1997. It is a 24-page journal with traditional content, for decades typical of that kind of publication: short stories, riddles, and other word games.

The oldest journal, now also well-known and appreciated beyond the bounds of Austria, Romano-Centro, has been published by the Viennese organization of the same name as bilingual quarterly journal since June 1993. The individual contributions are offered both in German and Kalderaš-Romani, and fairies, stories and songs of other Roma groups are pre­ sented in the variety of that group. Apart from these cultural contributions and short informa­ tion on Roma-specific events in and around Austria, this journal also offers longer articles on the present situation of the Roma in various European countries, topical political commen­ taries by the editors and articles and commentaries by visiting personalities, for instance Va­ clav Havel and other more or less well-known personalities. The journal Romano Centro is addressed to both the Roma and Gadže.

The second quarterly journal, Romani Patrin, published since January 1998 by the orga­ nization Roma, is addressed primarily to the Burgenland-Roma. The content is partly similar to that of the model Romano Centro: topical and general articles on the situation of Roma in other European countries, fairies, narratives and songs of other Roma groups which are also presented in the individual group’s variety. Additionally, Romani Patrin offers a focus on spe­ cial articles on the historical and present-day situation of the Burgenland-Roma and on vari­ ous activities within the ethnic group and the organization Roma. Since January 2004, Ro­ mani Patrin has been reduced almost completely to accounts of the Burgenland-Roma and the organization itself. Taking the look behind Burgenland-Romani is a new quarterly journal, dROMa, by the organization Roma Service.

Another quarterly journal Romano Kipo, published by the Viennese "Kulturverein Öster­ reichischer Roma" uses Romani in a classical emblematic function, namely exclusively in the title.9 The articles of this journal deal mainly with Austrian topics, the activities of the organi­ zation and its main representative, who is at the time head of the Roma "Volksgruppen­ beirat" (ethnic group advisory council), which was to a great extent responsible for the official recognition of Roma as an ethnic group in 1993.

If the Austrian Romani print media are taken together, it has to be said that the situation is similar to that of the electronic media, and this situation will most probably not change in the recent future.

2.4.2 Other Cultural Activities The starting point of cultural activities are mainly the already mentioned organizations – the "Kulturverein Österreichischer Roma", the organization Roma Service, the organization Roma and the organization Romano Centro – but additionally the organization Ketani in Linz has to be mentioned. The spectrum of events of these organizations ranges from historical exhibitions about the Roma’s history (mainly about the holocaust) to music and theater plays and pilgrimages, celebrations and balls.

The only organization with exclusively cultural focus is the organization Romanodrom – Rotatheater. Apart from performances by the Rota-ensemble, whose model is the Roma en­ semble Pralipe, there are occasional theater projects of the organization Roma – such as "I kali tschasarkija/The black Empress" – rehearsed together with the writer Peter Wagner – and of guest performances by foreign Roma ensembles like the Slovakian Romathan, the above-mentioned ensemble Pralipe, or the Sinti puppeteers from the Southern Germany area which are now and again invited by the organization Ketani.

One of the foci of cultural activity is – how could it be different, in view of the majority population’s cliches - music, every organization supporting at least one group, which results in CD productions etc.10 In this context, Ruža Nikolic-Lakatos and her family, Pera Petrović and his ensemble, the Samer-Band and the young group Romano Rath from Burgenland have to be mentioned. With the exception of the Samer-Band, these groups sing exclusively in Romani. The Lovara singer Ruža Nikolic-Lakatos and her band, made up of her husband and her sons, are similarly well-known in the whole of Austria as Harry Stojka, who is known not only for his Roma-specific productions. He has recorded several CDs with Romani texts together with his father, Mongo Stojka and other family members. Harry Stojka and his Cousin Karl Ratzer are internationally renowned (jazz) guitarists. Furthermore, Zipflo Wein­ rich’s "Sinti-Swing-Formation" and the singer Tony Wegas, who, however, recorded only one single song with Romani lyrics, have to be mentioned.11 Apart from Ilja Jovanivić‘s (2000) poems and a few narratives and poems in Romano Centro and Romani Patrin there is no literary text production in Austria. The autobiographies of Ceija Stojka (1988, 1992), Karl Stojka (Stojka/Pohanka 1994), Mongo Stojka (2000) and Mišo Nikolić (1997, 2000), written in German, are important for the Austrian Roma, because these contemporary documents contributed to the Austrian Roma’s understanding of them­ selves. A similar function is perhaps fulfilled by the both monolingual - Romani – and bilin­ gual – Romani/German – collection of texts in Burgenland-Romani (Ambrosch et al. 2000, Halwachs et al. 2000) and Lovara Romani (Cech et al. 2000, 2001), accompanied by CDs with fairy tales and songs (Fennesz-Juhasz/Heinschink 2002, Fennesz-Juhasz/Wogg 2002), by the Romani-Projekt.12 The number of bilingual readings rose because of these publica­ tions and contributed to making Romani better known and to raising public awareness for an autonomous Romani culture.

The significance of Romani in the context of various exhibitions on culture, history, and the present-day situation of the Roma is similar. The target groups of such exhibitions are primarily pupils and interested Gadže, so Romani is subordinated to German as means of conveying information and again functions only as symbol of the Romani culture.

The use of Romani in a religious context is symbolic only. In masses and pilgrimages – among others to Mariazell – made especially for the Roma, Burgenland-Romani and, to some degree, Lovara-Romani is used in songs, plays and intercessions; this is an expres­ sion of the Roma groups‘ affiliation to the Catholic church, and of the Church’s high regard of the Roma; in Burgenland there is, among others, a priest specially for all Roma concerns.

Efforts for translating the bible into Romani which are common in other countries have not

been made in Austria yet – this is probably a result of the Catholic Church’s lack of interest:

Catholic Roma speak German anyway.

2.4.3 Assessment of the Cultural Situation The present-day situation of Austrian Romani is precarious. Its primary cultural function, the oral tradition, is losing importance: passing on fairies, stories and songs, which indirectly pass on the traditional social structure and its rules, by word of mouth is driven to the back­ ground because of the Roma’s passive participation in the modern information society and because of the monolingual (majority language) school system. Active participation in the modern culture industry is made impossible by a marginalization that lasted over centuries and also prevented a cultural development similar to that of the majority population. Addition­

ally, the Austrian Roma do not constitute a lucrative target group for the culture industry:

firstly, because of their small number, and secondly because they are multilingual and can thus also be reached by productions in the majority language.



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