A summer of Roma feasts and festivals

Summer in Slovakia is a time when outdoor events prevail, and this holds true for the festivals of Roma culture that have mushroomed across the country in recent times. The event closest to capital, Divé Maky’s Bashavel (i.e. Roma Feast) shrunk from last year’s massive event to a small, even intimate show this year due to the withdrawal of its main sponsors. The event enjoyed good weather, however, which came just after an unseasonal cool spell, and those performers who participated displayed a lot of joy and enthusiasm, making the whole feast a sight worth seeing.

Summer in Slovakia is a time when outdoor events prevail, and this holds true for the festivals of Roma culture that have mushroomed across the country in recent times. The event closest to capital, Divé Maky’s Bashavel (i.e. Roma Feast) shrunk from last year’s massive event to a small, even intimate show this year due to the withdrawal of its main sponsors. The event enjoyed good weather, however, which came just after an unseasonal cool spell, and those performers who participated displayed a lot of joy and enthusiasm, making the whole feast a sight worth seeing.

The Bashavel took place on August 13, on a small stage in Senec, at the Sunny Lakes resort. It was organised for the third time by the Divé Maky / Wild Poppies association that strives to support talented Roma children and youths. The annual feast represents the culmination of year-round work and shows the results of the association’s Summer Academy, a weeklong training session for children by professionals. Originally meant to take place at Červený Kameň Castle on a much bigger scale (as had happened in the previous two years), it ended up being a much more modest affair at a different venue.

In the afternoon, the small amphitheatre was half empty but by the evening the performers enjoyed a full house. Guests included the Merci group from Brno (in the Czech Republic), Street Element from the Klások Prešov association, the Divé Maky theatre, the GPS gospel band of Divé Maky, Dance Masacre (SPIN, CreDance, Partia) and Bohémiens. Apart a performance of The Prince and the Pauper, the Divé Maky trainees also danced, played music, sang, and drummed on improvised percussion instruments made of plastic bottles and other waste items. As usual, beautiful paintings as well as trademark red hand-painted umbrellas in “Wild Poppies” style – created by the children – were on sale.

Although far less ostentatious than in previous years, and without any big crowd-pullers among the guests, the event had a pleasant, though low-key atmosphere and offered an enjoyable way to spend a lazy, sunny August Saturday afternoon. The only thing that the organisers could be criticised for is the late announcement of changes to the venue and participating performers, and a lack of promotion and information at the site.

Two other Roma festivals took place further east: BalvalFest in Kokava nad Rimavicou (Poltár District), organised by Vladimír Sendrei from the Láčho Drom civic association, which on August 20 presented Nótár Mary (from Hungary), Romano Drom, Imperium (from the Czech Republic) and Kale Bale (from Poland); and the International Gypsy Fest in Trebišov, organised between August 14 and 20 by Roma Production and supported by the European Commission, which offered exhibitions and performers from Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and Ukraine.

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