05 September 2010

Les Gitans de St. Jacques

FREELENS Galerie, in Hamburg, Germany is exhibiting photographs by Jesco Denzel about Gitans in St. Jacques, a quarter (or neighbourhood) in Perpignan, France. From Christoph Twickel, writing in Der Spiegel

Perpignan, population 120,000, is hardly a must-see on the European tourist circuit. At most, travellers might change trains here on the way from Paris to Barcelona. But the town is home to one of the few quarters in France where Gitans -- as Roma are called in French -- have found a permanent home.


They have been there for almost two centuries. In the 15th century, Gypsies arrived on the Iberian peninsula from India via a part of Greece known at the time as "little Egypt." The Spanish referred to the newcomers as "Egiptanos," which eventually became shortened to "Gitanos" -- and in France to "Gitans." Following the French Revolution, Roma began settling on the Mediterranean coast including, in around 1920, in the St. Jacques quarter of Perpignan.

Although the Gitans in St. Jacques are not directly connected to the Roma who are currently being deported from the country by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, discrimination and integration have long been defining issues in their lives. They are all citizens of France, but poverty and illiteracy have been their constant companions. Photographer Denzel noted that the Gitans in St. Jacques prefer to stay among themselves, in part because of the rejection with which they have been confronted by French society.

Read more.

from Der Spiegel (1 of 21) by Jesco Denzel

A fascinating insight into the world of Gitans in France. The exhibition is also timely, but a pity that it is in Hamburg and not Paris.

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