May 20, 2017

3058 ROMANIA - The Romani people in Romania

3058 Romani man from Transylvania
at the end of the 19th century
(then Transylvania was part of
Austro-Hungarian Empire)

The Romani, or Roma, are a traditionally nomadic ethnic group, living mostly in Europe (mainly in the Balkans, in some Central European states, in Spain, France, Russia and Ukraine) and the Americas and originating from the northern regions of the Indian subcontinent, apparently from the region that is currently occupied by the Indian states of Rajasthan, Haryana, and Punjab. They are widely known among English-speaking people by the exonym Gypsies, considered pejorative.

It seems that the Romani left northern India, possibly in waves, sometime between the 6th and 11th century to work in Middle Eastern courts of their own volition, or as slaves. Some nomadic groups moved west into the Byzantine Empire (where were first mentioned, as Atsingani, during the 9th century), and from there in Europe. 1385 marks the first recorded transaction for a Romani slave in Wallachia. In Wallachia, Transylvania and Moldavia, Romanies were enslaved for five centuries, until abolition in 1856.

As in India, the profession was usually inherited and practiced in the family, so the most Romani subgroups were formed around the occupations from which they earned their living, not a few of them practiced exclusively by the members of that subgroup. In the Romanian countries, among these subgroups were Rudarii (woodworkers), Zlătarii (gold smiths), Ursarii (bear handlers), Florarii (flower sellers), Lăutarii (singers), Căldărarii (tinsmith), Geambaşii (sellers of horses), and Spoitorii (the ones who tin cookware).

Having a way of life substantially different from that of the Romanians and completely different moral principles, the liberated slaves continued to live outside the communities of the locals, either settling on the edge of the settlements or practicing a nomadic life. Some have retained their traditional occupations, but others have preferred to live from stealing or begging. The state was very little interested in their social integration and, in essence, the situation has not changed until nowadays, although now they have a representative in the Chamber of Deputies and enjoy the same rights as any Romanian citizen.

The Romani believe that the human body is pure from the waist upwards and impure from the waist down. That's why the side of the waist down should be permanently covered, the knees and the soles being considered the most indecent body parts. Therefore, women wear long, multi-layered skirts, pleated and sewn to a ribbon, which wrap around the body. The skirt contains up to 500 folds, arranged so that they are 5 pleats from left to right, then one groove and 5 pleats from right to left.

The distance between the groove of the pleat and the lace from the bottom edge of the skirt and apron signifies the woman's social status. Are used brightly colorful materials, red being the preferred color, because it symbolizes luck. Blue and black are not used, because the first means trouble, and the last mourning. Blouse never matches from a coloristic point of view with skirt, but even on the contrary. The hair is worn long and braided in tails, and the married women cover it with a headscarf.

Typically, Romani love opulence, and the wealthy ones display obstinately their prosperity. Women wear many gold jewelry, mainly large earrings, and headdresses decorated with golden coins. Men don't have a specific garb to be respected, but often wear wide brim hats, comfortable trousers, with wide cutting and cuffs, and vest (all black), shirt (usually white), and long whiskers. The accessories are also from gold: the chain with medallion, massive rings, and watch with chain.

About the stamp
The stamp is part of the series Love Nature! Ceahlău National Park, about which I wrote here.

Romani people - Wikipedia
Romani society and culture - Wikipedia
Neamuri Ţigăneşti (rom) - National Geographic
Romani Dress Stew - Tzigania Project
Câte pliuri crezi că are fusta unei ţigănci? Ce reprezintă... (rom) - Adevărul Tg Mureş

Sender: Călin Sas (direct swap)
Sent from Sibiu (Sibiu / Romania), on 12.05.2017
Photo:Kamilla Asboth / ca. 1882-1897

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