An exhibition celebrating the history of the Gypsy and Traveller communities in Cardiff was given its official launch today, with organisers hoping it will tackle stereotypes and build a better understanding of Gypsy culture.
“Pots n Pans: A Cardiff Gypsy and Traveller Way of Life” opened at the Cardiff Story Museum earlier this month. Organised by the Romani Cultural and Arts Company, it uses the museum’s city showcase space to display photographs, objects and stories about what it’s like living on Cardiff’s two Gypsy sites in Shirenewton and Rover Way.
Today children from Moorland Primary School – including children from Rover Way – visited Cardiff Story for the exhibition launch, with Gypsy story telling sessions and art workshops.
Children were also given a tour of the exhibition, where they saw the stories of people who had grown up in Gypsy and Traveller communities, including the director of the Romani Cultural and Arts Company Isaac Blake, who lived at the Shirenewton site until he was 24.
He said: “Growing up on the site there was a great sense of community, all the mothers looked out for each other’s children and there were always children to play with.
“I moved to London to study at the Trinity Laban Dance University, but I was always keen to return to Cardiff and the Shirenewton site. As director of the Romani and Cultural Arts Company I now use dance to engage with children and young people on site.”
At the launch today, he added:
“The exhibition is to break down some of the stereotypes about Gypsies and Travellers.”
There are currently around 1,500 Gypsies and Travellers in Cardiff, half of whom are Welsh Gypsies, and the other half Irish travellers.
In the section of the exhibition dedicated to cooking practices and food – which includes pots made by children from the Shirenewton site – people gave their memories from years gone by of eating rabbit and hare stew, pheasant and hedge hogs.
“To cook the hedgehogs we would shave off all the prickles with a knife and scrape it. We would then skewer the hedgehogs and cook them on the fire,” said one.
Other favourites on included pigs tails, wood pigeon and home cured bacon.
Teleri Grey, the great-great-great-great-great granddaughter of Wales’ first known Gyspies, Abram and Sarah Wood, was also a the launch and led a story-telling session with the children.
Teleri, 68, said the lives of Gypsy and Traveller communities had changed drastically since Abram Wood came to Wales around 1740. With Gypsies and Travellers no longer able to stop where they like, Teleri said it was time councils began to think about providing “stop-over” sites as well as permanent bases for communities who want to continue travelling.
She added that the Cardiff exhibition was important in helping people to get an understanding of their culture.
“We have got to raise awareness, and work with everybody to be friendly with everybody else, living with our different cultures in our small world,” she said.
The “Pots n Pans” exhibition will run until August 28.
From tomorrow until June 30 there will be a second exhibition at the Cardiff Story museum by international Romany artist Delaine Le Bas. Both exhibitions coincide with Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month.