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Brno Museum displays Roma photographer’s unique works

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Brno, March 24 (CTK) – The Museum of Roma Culture in Brno has opened a display of some 80 photographs taken by Roma artist Andrej Pesta (1921-2009), mapping the life of the Roma people in Czechoslovakia in the 1960s-1980s, the curators have told reporters.

The pictures are unique as they present a view of the Roma community from inside and not outside, which is the usual case, as their author came from it.

Pesta has so far been more known as a poet and an artist, but his lifelong photographic work has not been systematically described yet. He donated his photographic archive to the Museum of the Roma Culture in 2003, its representatives said.

“The preserved photographs are primarily a diary. Thanks to them, we have a different testimony about the Roma people than what we are used to in the Czech and Slovak photography,” said Tomas Pospech, one of the curators of the exhibition entitled “The Worlds of Andrej Pesta.”

Pesta took mainly pictures of his family and friends. As he worked in the then Gypsy-Roma Association, he could also map other Roma inhabitants of Brno and the places in south Moravia that do not exist any longer.

Pesta was to create captions to his negatives he donated to the museum, but he died in 2009. This is why the curators addressed his grandchildren and asked them to help describe his photographs and identify the people in them.

The curators divided Pesta’s photographs into several chapters or “worlds” and they called the exhibition accordingly. The strongest one was the autobiographic line eventually, they said.

Pesta was an active and vigorous man, Roma Culture Museum director Jana Horvathova said.

“He was preoccupied with oil painting, he also painted a number of decorative plates. He was engraving messages into cartridge cases, he had a workshop, made grilles and various innovations,” Horvathova said, adding that he even created his own coffeemaker.

Along with the exhibition to be held until September 30, the museum has published a monograph on Pesta’s photographic work. It also plans workshops and a lecture on the position of the Roma in documentary photography.

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