As I travel the world I wanted to experience events I would never be able to experience at home – one of them was the beginning of the Khamoro Festival in Prague…
What was the event?
The Khamoro Festival beginning in Prague on the 26th May. I attended the free opening party. The festival from the 26th of May until the 1st of June was going to be the largest global celebration of Roma culture. The event, as the website states, has been organised since 1999 and has been become a unique gathering in Prague. Lets delve into more about what I say and what the festival is all about….
What happened at the event?
Lets set the scene. The event was held in the most amazing surprise I have ever seen. Through a black gate I went into a four wall square, which was completely hidden by some abandoned buildings. The venue was a renovated area was called Kasarna Karlin. The venue was actually a very active cultural hub of galleries, an outdoor cinema, bar, café and areas used for art and sport. I was in awe at the history this place had oozing from each of the empty buildings surroundings. The website of the venue states it’s a place for people to meet within the “cultural oasis”. This was exactly what it become on the 26th of May when the place allowed a gathering of those from the Roma community and those interested in experiencing the festival like myself.
The set up for the festival included a large stage, which was going to host three bands that night. I actually went down in the morning to watch the stage go up. It was impressive. The crew, with their rigging gear, were up and down and before you know it the lighting rig was up. The stage didn’t look out of place in this cultural hub it actually brought the place alive. When I walked back in later in the evening I was in awe at the decorations and the signage and then just how it all worked when people began to arrive.
When people started to arrive that is when I was able to see what this festival was all about. In groups people came in and took over areas of the festival site on the picnic tables. It was a bit like terroristic behavior but that’s part of the community as such. Most people knew each other and then there was me. I was walking about taking down notes and taking photos. I was very much out of place. However, the festival was about the Roma community and celebrating everything that makes the culture. There was a lot of bling being worn while I was in my very worn out trainers. One thing that was observed was about gender split. I noticed that males were congregated together and the females were sitting at the picnic tables or surrounding a pram. Its this type of consumer behavior that I am in awe of watching. When the stage came alive at 7pm all focus was on cultural celebration. At the start an MC welcomed everyone with a gentleman invited onto the stage.
Anything else happen at the event?
I am not sure who he was but I have a feeling he was quite important. At the end of the speech they stood with a glass of wine and cheers everyone. I mean – this was the first thing I was quite like “wow…” ok cool. I loved it. It was part of the culture of this festival. The festival was not just about the stage production it was about the opportunity to gather as a community. It was about being part of the biggest celebration for the Roma Community – and it was just that. A beautiful celebration. A beautiful start to the festival.
The festival programme is diverse but its also about breaking down boundaries of what is the Roma Community. Photograph exhibitions, gypsy jazz, theatre and so on throughout the festival will be attended and enjoyed by many different people – but not the people only at the opening party. This felt like a community gathering which I had gatecrashed. But that’s good and fine – that’s what events are about. Bringing people together who know each other and bringing those who don’t know anything about the event together to enjoy and appreciate the beginning of a beautiful festival.
One thing to take away…
The Roma culture is an interesting culture and for me events are undoubtedly the way to proclaim, enjoy and continue to spread the word about culture. This festival is not just about walking into a four wall square but about everything that adds on to making it special and enjoyment…