Jovica Radosavljević, leader and choreographer of Rromani Folk Ensemble Darda, says that he is a rich man. A large number of volunteers gathered at the Rroma Resource Centre, once called Rromani Folk Ensemble Darda, the first registered Rromani Folk Ensemble in the area of Eastern Croatia, work on a daily bases in order to foster the culture and traditions of the Rroma from Baranya in the first place but others as well.
“When Rromani Folk Ensemble Darda was founded in 2002, I wished to be part of the folklore group, since I was a member of Branko Radičević Folk Ensemble for ten years. However, the then leader offered me to take over the folklore group, which quickly proved to be no easy job. There is no written information about the Rroma or my Munteni Rromani tribe, and I had to visit the older generation of Rroma and explore the customs, tradition as well as songs and dances, because so much had already been lost and forgotten until then.”
What Jovica emphasized is that Rromani Folk Ensemble Darda is specific in Croatia because not only the Munteni Rromani tribe dances are being choreographed.
“We do not dance like others. When we present ourselves through the choreographies of Lovar Rroma, my folklore dancers appear authentic – girls, for example, wear floor length skirts, which is not the case with the girls of Munteni Rroma. Differences exist and need to be respected. Croatian folk costumes from Baranya and Slavonia are not the same, either.”
Modest financial funds allocated through different tenders, Radosavljević points out, represent a barrier to authenticity because the original folk costumes are expensive.
“I am grateful to the Government’s Office for Human Rights and Rights of National Minorities for co-financing four sets of Rromani folk costumes. The fact that people do not understand folk amateurism nowadays upsets me because it is important not to approach it stereotypically – Rromani woman in a colourful skirt, barefoot and with a flower in her hair. Also, it is not the same weather the choreography belongs to Muslim Rroma or Christian Rroma because there are big differences between them, and as such they have to be cultivated. It’s about the whole range of diversity. “
In addition to the Rromani folklore group made up of six active members, the Rroma Resource Centre also has a mixed folklore group Darđani, where about thirty Croats, Serbs, Hungarians and Rroma practice Bunjevac dances together.
“When we were just beginning, the young Rroma did not have their gathering place besides the one provided by Rromani Folk Ensemble Darda. Back then we did not have any folk costumes, so we used our grandparents’ clothing. In 2004 we performed at the Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall; we were highly commended and received 30 thousand HRK incentives. We then made fifteen sets of male and female folk costumes of Munteni Rroma, and bought the Hohner accordion.”
Given that they wanted authentic costumes, there was an open discussion with older ladies and grandmothers about how it should look like. Everyone contributed their idea, but the costumes were finally made modelled on the skirts and shirts of the late grandmother Kata who wore them as a young woman.
“Young people find traditional folk costumes interesting and they love to wear it. Girls are a little bit reluctant when it comes to wearing a headscarf but it changes slowly.”