The year was 2011. Sait Sehersijan is a Roma, born in Macedonia and had been living in Belgium for 11 years at that time. He was worried. He looked upon the position of the Roma in Europe with increasing concern: France and some Italian cities obliged Eastern European Roma to return to their country. A shockwave went through the continent. The European Parliament showed its indignation: the deportation of Roma went directly against the Rights of European Citizens. The media were also picking up on the event.
But Saït didn’t stop there: he contacted Madam Fortuna from Antwerp to set up a project with the Roma community. Together they set to work: we need to work together in Europe. That’s where the search started.
Madam Fortuna goes on an expedition, and soon discovers a few major stumbling blocks, as well as assets. The social conditions of the Roma in Europe are not uplifting. This largest ethnic group in Europe – 12 million souls – is also the most stigmatised. However, it’s not all doom and gloom: the Roma are praised for their excellent artistic heritage. Just think of the Catalan Rumba, the Gipsy Jazz, the Gipsy Balkan and their great influence on the Flamenco traditions. A project with the Roma is right up Madam Fortuna’ alley.
Saït took Madam Fortuna’s crew on a tour of the Balkans in 2012. He guided the employees to Roma actors, musicians, activists, NGOs, but also the ghettos. Insights grew, plans were hatched. What was the crucial aspect? The European Caravan had to be international and sustainable. Basic ingredients: art as the drive of a positive story, with encounters and an equal collaboration between Roma and non-Roma.
Fifty musicians, ten different nationalities, and Roma on stage: the result was beautiful! In 2013, the first fruits of a collaboration between Antwerp, Brussels and Ghent (Belgium) were reaped. This success tasted like more, and yes, more projects came. Meanwhile, the international network is growing. The European Caravan enjoys structural European support, thanks to JINT (Erasmus +). And we’ve only just begun. Saït is still on board, and he sure likes what he’s seeing. Discover all the projects of The European Caravan