Pani Kekkavva (Kettle) Rose 2019, 160 cm x 59 cm x 0.5 cm by Cas Holmes

“The works I produced for Gypsy Maker4 are influenced by the time that I have had to reflect on my Romany heritage. I am interested in the commonalities we all share as people, the need for a place of our own, and for family and food. With migration, and changes in our working lives with increasing opportunities to travel, our certainty about who we are and where we fit in is unsure. Pani Kekkavva (Kettle) Rose represents my fraternal Grandmother, Mary Cunningham and her family. She always had Roses in her garden. She was born in Newport, Wales at one of the traditional Romany ‘Stopping Places’”. Cas Holmes

Cas Holmes’ artwork Pani Kekkavva (Kettle) Rose draws together a number of elements that are widely evident within Romani visuality. These include the depiction of flora, the innovative use textiles and the photographic image. My research into the Gypsy aesthetic looks at the ways in which particular preoccupations and modes of making within Romani visual culture narrate the experience and the concerns of wider international Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

Representations of flora and fauna and the paraphernalia of rural life denote an affinity with seasonal phenomena, cyclicality and wildlife to draw associations with nature and freedom. These qualities remain important within the Romani self image and are the result, it could be said, of a history of nomadic lifestyles which either by choice of by economic necessity have underpinned the experience of the majority of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller groups worldwide. The roses depicted within Holmes’ artwork point toward the continued resonance of such iconography with Romani visual culture and also serve to emphasis the use of such symbols with the décor of Romani homes.

Domestic life is frequently reflected within Romani artistic practice which often displays through its iconography and/or manufacture elements which mark the infrastructures of family life and community. Not only does the use of stitch and textile within this artwork denote the domestic artistic practices common within Romani households, but the image of the kettle draws us again to the importance of community and familial bonds which remain so important within Gypsy, Roma and Traveller worldviews.

The skilfully oblique representations of the photographic image that Holmes employs within this artwork tell of our hunger for pictures of our community. At the same time they echo a fascination with the photographic image for its depiction of the people and landscapes that support Romani family histories and cultural narratives. Such narrative pictorial accounts also perform another vital function—by revealing existing and also generating new visual histories they not only expose Gypsy, Roma and Traveller exclusions from established national and international narratives but also move to establish our own alternative record. Dr Daniel Baker

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