“A heritage that is alive and kicking” - Tributes pour in for Welsh Romany language project
“It is unique and Welsh Gypsies deserve this”
Prominent Gypsy, Roma and Traveller campaigners, writers and supporters have paid tribute to a project that aims to keep the Welsh Romani language alive for future generations.
Funded by the John Roberts Heritage Fund/Cronfa Dreftadaeth Telynor Cymru/Welshengerie Noyelus Kova, Shikawa Romanus – Learning Romany - consists of 22 modules of Welsh Romani as spoken in everyday life. The program includes history and cultural aspects of Romani life with music, stories, music and poetry created by contemporary Romani artists.
As word spread about the project, tributes and endorsements began to pour in. Frances Roberts Reilly described them as "glowing" and incredibly supportive and encouraging.
“There is no doubt that it will reach out to the larger population of Welsh Romany Travellers as well as inspiring Roma from other cultures and countries,” said Romany poet Raine Geohegan in her tribute.
“It is unique and Welsh Gypsies deserve this,” said Isaac Blake, Director of the Romani Cultural and Arts Company.
“The status of Romani language should be improved and in order to promote and preserve the language,” wrote Mihaela Zatreanu, ERIAC Barvalipe Academy.
With Shikawa Romanus, I felt like I was sitting round the fire learning from my elders, in a totally natural and laid back way,” said Damian Le Bas, author, journalist and filmmaker.
“This is nothing short of terrific and you are to be massively commended. Yes, a superb project and one which can only do good,” said Bob Dawson, historian, campaigner and author.
“What you get a very real sense of from the recordings is a spirit, tradition and heritage that is alive and kicking,” wrote Professor Colin Clark.
Frances Roberts Reilly, President of the John Roberts Heritage Fund and Robert (Bob) Lovell Kamulo – award winning singer/songwriter have created live recordings of a language that was thought dead. They plan an e-book as a companion to the recordings, edited by Joel Therrien PhD. The fund has engaged Kutchibok Design in Cardiff, a Rom owned and operated business for logo and website design for a website where listeners can register, download and study the material.
“This project is a perfect fit for the first John Roberts Heritage Fund investment,” says Frances, adding, “he was the first to write down what had been an oral tradition in our culture for centuries. “However,” says Bob, “While it is true he wrote it down for these Victorians who recorded our chib – language - in doing so they misused the language and in ways it was never meant to be spoken in everyday life.” Frances agrees, “The way forward lies in keeping alive what is left of our Roma/Gypsy language, ethnicity, identity, belonging and culture for future generations, while honouring John Roberts, a proud Welsh Rom.”
The John Roberts Heritage Fund is a private philanthropic initiative for the public good. For that reason, the production of Shikawa Romanus is free. There is no fee for anyone who wants access. There are no hidden costs, nor additional charges. It will always remain free.
Everyone contributing to the production, including Bob Lovell and Frances Roberts Reilly have done so voluntarily. Some necessary expenses were incurred in the production of Shikawa Romanus, but for professional services only; that is studio time and graphic design.
The values of the John Roberts Heritage Fund stand firmly against any commercialization of our GRT heritage, language and culture. As Bob Lovell rightly says, “Our Roma/Gypsy heritage is not for sale.”
The website, which will be going live soon, can be accessed and registered with here: Shikawa Romanus – Learning Romany
The tributes in full:
I am delighted that both Frances Roberts Reilly and Robert (Bob) Lovell have stepped forward to pioneer this ground-breaking initiative, the Shikawa Romanus/Learning Romani Project. There is no doubt that it will reach out to the larger population of Welsh Romany Travellers as well as inspiring Roma from other cultures and countries. It will redress the inbalance and misuse of the Welsh Romani language, which must be kept alive for future generations.
I wholeheartedly support this wonderful project and applaud all those who have come together to make it possible.
Raine Geoghegan, MA, Dip RWTA, Poet, Writer, Performance Coach and Educator.
“I am proud to be associated with this project and to support this idea. It is unique and Welsh Gypsies deserve this.”
Isaac Blake, Director of the Romani Cultural and Arts Company.
Romani language is an identity marker of the Roma people, it is the key to the Roma people’s history and represents an important cultural artefact.
The status of Romani language should be improved and in order to promote and preserve the language, all initiatives that as have as main aim to document / research the different dialects of Romani language are highly appreciated and morally supported by ERIAC.
As a Barvalipe Academy member I highly appreciate your work and I consider it of utmost importance for the preservation of our language, we will very much appreciate to share with us the results of your work to be able to distribute it to ERIAC network. As we lack resources to support such projects, please be ensured of all our moral support.
Representative on Council of Europe as a Chief Executive Officer at the European Roma and Travellers Forum. Member of ERIAC - European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture, a transnational organization for the recognition and promotion of Roma Arts and Roma Culture.
Mihaela Zatreanu, ERIAC Barvalipe Academy.
This is nothing short of terrific and you are to be massively commended. Yes, a superb project and one which can only do good. I shall treasure it.
Author of over 20 books on Romany Gypsies, educationalist, genealogist and president of the Romany and Traveller Family History Society; a member of the National Association of Teachers of Travellers; a member of the Romani Association of Australia (honorary); member of Romany Roots and other related organizations; a former member of the British and of the American Gypsy Lore Societies; former member the Romani Union (honorary) and the Essex based Gypsy Council (GCECWCR).
Robert Dawson, author, historian and campaigner.
Damian Le Bas:
I so enjoyed listening to these recordings. The mixture of insight into Koka Bob Lovell's Welsh Romani dialect, the friendly and cheerful tone, and the use of music and poetry make this a very different experience to a lot of language CDs.
With Shikawa Romanus, I felt like I was sitting round the fire learning from my elders, in a totally natural and laid back way. Listening to Koka Bob at times you could be forgiven for thinking a traditional Native American man was talking, and his words of wisdom from a very old nomadic tradition are just as precious. When it comes to things like the old cleanliness rules and traditions about daily life and death, you will learn so much from listening to these recordings.
It was especially interesting for me, coming from an English Romany family, to learn about the similarities and differences between our dialects. At times, I would find myself saying things simultaneously along with Bob because we'd say them exactly the same way, other times we'd say things a bit differently. I found this fascinating, as I'm sure many other Gypsy people would.
Shikawa Romanus gives you a very rare and precious insight into the Welsh Romany community, their language and history, and I for one am so grateful it has been made. Many thanks to everyone involved in the production of this project, ta bute kushti bok tumendi sa tiri buti!
Damian Le Bas, writer, filmmaker and journalist. Award winning author of The Stopping Places: A Journey Through Gypsy Britain.
I am humbled and honoured to write a positive letter of support about the recordings of Bob Lovell’s Welsh Romani dialect. What a kushti treat they are.
These engaging and upbeat recordings by Bob are a treasure to hear; the words, expressions, verse, music all contribute to something quite unique and special. You can’t help but smile and nod your head as you listen in. The tone resonates, the sentiments are shared.
What you get a very real sense of from the recordings is a spirit, tradition and heritage that is alive and kicking. It is not something just for the museums and galleries. To be sure, the knowledge that is being shared here is a real community asset. The recordings are an archive of ‘lived experience’ and wisdom that acts as a roadmap to a myriad of cultures that connects all folki across the Isles.
In closing, I would just like to state that the Shikawa Romanus recordings provide us with a unique opportunity to learn a bit more about the Welsh Romani community and a fascinating language, history and culture that is often neglected or marginalised. In the current climate, this situation needs to change and I can’t think of a better way to set the record straight: straight from the mouth of the grai.
I wish everyone associated with the production good luck and fortune on the drom.
Colin Clark, PhD, Professor of Sociology and Social Policy, University of the West of Scotland.