We’ve all heard or read a bunch of things about Romani in our lives, but there’s very little that we really know about their culture and their lives. We know they’re a nomadic folk, sure, but that’s pretty much where it ends for most people. They don’t have a good reputation either, so I guess most people don’t want to get to know them.
That seems like the perfect excuse to set some things straight and take a look at some cool facts about the Romani, so we can paint ourselves a much more realistic picture of this group of people.
While they are a people with a history of mass migration and exodus, this wasn’t always by choice. Much like today, they’ve met with resistance and scrutiny everywhere they went. This pretty much forced them to leave the place where they’d nested themselves sooner or later. Their nomadic lifestyle might be tied as much to survival as it is to being free-spirited.
While the Romani have no formal belief, they’ll often assimilate to the religion of the country they’re currently staying in. Their own beliefs are treated separately from that and following the dominant religion in the country they’re in can also be seen as a survival mechanism here.
With all the migrations and moving around the globe, we don’t really know how many Romani there are. Not to mention the fact that there are very good reasons why someone would want to keep their Romani origins hidden from the world. Only The New York Times ever dared guess how many Romani there were, and they reached a number of 11 million. It could be much higher or lower however, it’s anyone’s guess at this point.
I know, we’ve all seen My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and none of us would associate any of that with the term modesty, but that’s not how they always behave. Romani are modest people in daily life and their form of belly dancing even uses no hip movements at all because that would be deemed too immodest.
Well, we’re not sure where the Romani come from. It’s generally assumed that they came somewhere from India and then split into three branches of which the Romani is one, but some professors assume that instead of one big migration splitting the people in three, there were actually three smaller migration waves.
Where the Romani are often called gypsies, this word is actually an ethnic slur. Well, it’s an ethnic slur to the Romani. It’s been a word that has been used to single them out and create an imagery tied to the Romani. The word “gypsy” in itself is also derived from words that refer to criminal activity.
When talking of the Romani, many people seem to mention their habits of claiming houses that aren’t theirs or resorting to criminal activity, but we never mention what the Romani people have given us. Many known and lesser-known artists have Romani backgrounds. Some examples: Carmen Amaya, the greatest flamenco dancer of all time. Author Mikey Walsh. And because you can’t win them all: Ke$ha.