THE community of Govanhill on the south side of Glasgow, will host an exceptional and important arts event today and tomorrow. Created for Gypsy, Roma, Traveller History Month, and titled astar e iag (feed the flame), the programme aims to “elevate the everyday of Roma life and culture, and celebrate intergenerational Romani resistance.”

Coming only a month after the Roma Holocaust memorial in Glasgow’s Queen’s Park was vandalised, astar e iag will focus on the cultural and political resistance of Roma people to the often violent, sometimes genocidal, racism they have faced, and continue to face, in Europe. Hosted above the community arts space known as The Deep End, the show is another example of the ever-stronger foundations being laid down by the Roma community in Glasgow.

It is also a timely reminder of the need for the Roma community and wider Scottish society to focus on Roma history and continued resistance.

The Romani peoples (Roma and Sinti), who originated in northern India, have been in Europe for thousands of years.

READ MORE: Desecration of Roma Holocaust memorial should shock every person in Scotland

Due to the nature of the Nazi Holocaust of “Gypsies” (as the Nazis called all Romani and Traveller people), numbers are uncertain. However, historians estimate that perhaps as many as half-a-million Roma people were murdered (about half of the population in Europe at that time). In Europe today the Roma continue to face dreadful marginalisation, neglect and persecution. In some countries, violence, and indeed death, at the hands of far right terror gangs and the police, is depressingly common.

Visitors to the show will be able to watch a short film, encounter a sound installation, and consider objects from the new community archive which – like the entire astar e iag programme – is the work of community organisation Romano Lav (Roma Voice).

They will also be able to view an exhibition of photographs that connect the history of the Roma people in Europe to the present-day Roma community in Glasgow.

The show’s site-specific sound sculptures have been created by pupils from the local Annette Street Primary School, who worked with local artist Lorenzo Tebano. The children were encouraged to reflect on the relationship between nature and the built environment.

The National: Roma exhibition.

When the children had made “fantastical models” inspired by the sounds of nature, the models were scaled up to make playable instruments. The “sound sculptures” visitors will hear in the show are an outcome of this project.

The photography exhibition has been produced by local Roma youth in workshops facilitated by artists Morwenna Kearsley and Alex Popa. Funded by the Scottish Government’s Equality and Human Rights Fund, the photo series has the stated intention of “celebrating inspirational Roma people from history alongside self-portraits made in and around Govanhill.”

The series includes evocative photographs from the Roma community in Poland in the 1970s. Focussing on the heritage of Romani dance, these pictures (which are in both colour and black and white) are notable for their showcasing of the ornate beauty of traditional Romani costumes.

Recent photographic works include tremendous portraits of young people from Scotland’s Roma community and joyful pictures of the primary school children engaged in the sound sculptures project.

The astar e iag events are also a celebration of Roma resistance and of the solidarity being built between Roma people and the wider community in Glasgow and across Scotland. The programme takes its inspiration from the late, great French-Roma anti-fascist and Resistance fighter Raymond Gureme, who made a notable visit to Glasgow in 2019.

READ MORE: Part-documentary, part metaphor, a haunting voice from the Roma people’s past

The exhibition quotes from Gureme’s famous speech to Roma youth on Roma Genocide Memorial Day at Auschwitz-Birkenau on August 2, 2016. “My testimony is for young people”, he said. “Don’t leave your future in the hands of bloody fools! You must resist. You must resist the discrimination, racism, and violent evictions to which the Roma and Travellers are falling victim across all of Europe. We, the old ones, have lit the flame.

“Now, it is up to young people to feed it, make it grow, and so that we become stronger. Young people, stand up! Stay standing, and never fall to your knees!”

The astar e iag show can be seen at 43 Nithsdale Street, Govanhill, today and tomorrow from 12 noon-4pm, and entry is free.