Roma Rajni: RomaMoMA Library ft. Daniel Baker and Farija Mehmeti
Farija Mehmeti: Untitled, Roma Women series, 2012-ongoing.
With Roma Rajni: RomaMoMA Library featuring Daniel Baker and Farija Mehmeti, ERIAC brings together the painterly oeuvre of Farija Mehmeti and the RomaMoMA Library at the National Library of Kosovo. The RomaMoMA Library was created in 2021 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the First World Romani Congress. It is dynamic and nomadic, engaging with local contexts wherever it travels. Comprising some 150 books on contemporary Roma literary, artistic and cultural heritage, the library’s growing collection showcases this rich Roma legacy, while critically interrogating the violence and oppression faced by the Roma in Europe. On this occasion, the library is activated through Adjacent, the mobile knowledge device conceived for RomaMoMA by artist Daniel Baker, and the exhibition of 39 portraits by Kosovar painter Farija Mehmeti. Mehmeti displays a multifaceted mosaic of imaginary characters to contemplate and honour the everyday heroism and struggle for existence of ordinary Roma women. The artist’s portrayals of powerful brown women wearing traditional Romani fabrics and jewellery in front of vibrant backgrounds transcend traditional forms of biased representation of Roma women, and reclaim the defining moment of identity and storytelling, too often assigned by non-Roma, as historicised and perpetuated by dominant culture. In depicting these everyday female heroes, Mehmeti cultivates both a sense of the past herstories, as well as a foresight for the future. Her portraits are vehicles to remember and unearth suppressed Roma forms of knowledge — on strategies for reproductive health, the preservation of mental health, and healing practices in general, as well as Roma wisdom on nature and the cosmos. As memories and embodied experience of these reservoirs of knowledge, the portraits also serve as a reminder for the elders in the community who hold it and pass it on to succeeding generations. With her vibrant and brilliant visual vocabulary, Farija Mehmeti thus enables a view through time in honouring the past, and offering ways of continuing to imagine the interdependencies and inseparability of existence in community, while providing a passage into the shaping of new futures.
This project is implemented within the framework of Manifesta 14 Western Balkans project, and is co-funded by the European Union.