(Image via Flickr)
A Romani couple in Auckland are threatening legal action against a travelling fair, which they say is appropriating their culture for commercial gain.
Speaking to the New Zealand Herald, Robert Kamulo Lovell, 68, a gypsy of Romani descent, said people could not become a gypsy by choice. He said The Original Gypsy Fair—a travelling market of house buses and stalls—was using images of his blood relatives without permission to promote their wares.
We are born gypsies and cannot become one by lifestyle choice," Lovell said. "To us Romani people, this misuse of name gypsy by non-gypsies who are not Romani is insulting.
"It is a gross misrepresentation of who we are as a race of people, and very misleading to the general public."
The Romani are an ethnic group originally from the Indian subcontinent, now spread across Europe. They have historically been targets of repression and discrimination, including under the Nazi regime, which historians estimate executed between 220,000 and 500,000 Roma—up to half of the entire European Roma population. Today, Amnesty International reports Roma still face discrimination and prejudice, including segregation of schools, police harassment, and forced evictions.
Lovell and his wife told the Herald they had been looking into an injunction to stop the fair using the photographs and 'gypsy' name, but the legal costs were too high.
A Facebook post about the dispute on The Original Gypsy Fair group page has attracted hundreds of comments. "I have been called a gypsy ever since I left home for first time and have moved at least 40 times since, no one owns that bloody word," one commenter wrote.
"He does have a point..they are actually a race of which is dying thru belittlement. There are many facets to what he is trying to get across. Don't get me wrong..I love that Kiwis for a long time have taken on board this lifestyle it's great, but I think at some point you have to take care of the true meaning," another responded.
The couple told the Herald they had emailed and tried contacting the fair owners, but had not received a reply.