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Photographs by Maria Draghici, Roxana Morosanu and
Photographs by Maria Draghici, Roxana Morosanu and Ciprian Stoian

Rozalb de Mura at laBOMBA

Romanian art and fashion collective Rozalb de Mura recently took part in a Bucharest-based project launched by community art centre laBOMBA tacking issues of social confrontation and integration.

Rahova-Uranus is considered as one of the most eclectic areas in Bucharest, still bearing the scars of a tormented history. Behind the immense shadow of the Palace of Parliament, also known as People’s Palace, there are the derelict remains of former prosperous neighbourhoods erased to make space for the construction of Nicolae Ceauşescu’s infamous dream. Beautiful houses and a local beer factory have now turned into rundown buildings, while the area also boasts the biggest flower market in the city and ARK, a recently renovated 19th century industrial building hosting offices, concerts and events.

It was here that Community Art Centre laBOMBA invited art and fashion collective Rozalb de Mura to organise a project focused on urban situations of social confrontation, exploring the life of the Gypsy community living in this neighbourhood. The event featured electro-jazz band Biluna jamming with the children from Rahova-Uranus and a fashion show with 12 looks made by Rozalb de Mura using discarded clothes provided by the community members during a one-week residency in the area. The looks showcased were testament to the cultural clash and collaboration between the conceptual world of Rozalb de Mura and the work of the most active women in the community and also tackled issues of beauty, femininity and identity. As the fashion show turned into a party with a soundtrack courtesy of DJ Cristina, the Gypsy community, people from the flower market, hipsters, musicians and local kids, celebrated late into the night in the name of equality, inclusion and integration.

Dazed Digital: How did you get involved in this project?
Rozalb de Mura: For their first anniversary, Community Art Centre laBOMBA - founded by artist Maria Draghici, director Irina Gâdiută and choreographer Paul Dunca - invited Rozalb de Mura to creatively tutor the “Parada Femeilor Evacuate” (Parade of Evicted Women), a special event dedicated to the people living in Rahova-Uranus, a disadvantaged area of Bucharest. The laBOMBA team believes that art is a powerful way to highlight and tackle real problems of the people living in the community, so they organised this event to raise issues about the community being threatened with eviction from their derelict houses. The Roma women from Rahova-Uranus turned into the stars of a fashion show in which they showcased outfits made with recycled, decontextualised and recontextualised parts taken from their own clothes under Olah Gyarfas’s creative supervision. The Parade of Evicted Women was also part of laBOMBA’s contribution to bb4, the Bucharest Biennale.

DD: Before the event took place you spent a one-week residency in the area, what kind of activities did you carry out with the local community?
Rozalb de Mura: laBOMBA has a tiny small tailoring atelier for sewing pyjamas and bed sheets. We worked there selecting clothes we got from the community and re-thinking them in order to create a mini-collection. It was the most sincere solution that we could come up with in a totally volunteer-based event that also followed the bb4 theme chosen by curator Felix Vogel, “Handlung. On Producing Possibilities”. Fashion students helped to quickly finish the 14 outfits. A lot of Romanian and foreign artists and curators were really amazed when they discovered laBOMBA, and also came to visit us during the residency and there was obviously a continuous riot of children running about!

DD: What did you enjoy best about this experience?
Rozalb de Mura: Working with the women of the Rahova-Uranus community was an amazing experience. We learnt what discrimination means, heard their stories, tried to imagine how it is to live with the constant fear of eviction and observed the tensed relationship with the authorities. Yet we also admired their way of living life with such gusto and passion and the somehow authoritarian yet fun procedure of raising a myriad of kids, studying their survival skills in this rough world.

DD: What was the most difficult aspect of this project?
Rozalb de Mura: For laBOMBA it was a bit of a struggle to get sponsorship for lighting, sound, make-up and hairstyling. Nevertheless, in the end, generosity triumphed and everything looked professional! And, yes, we barely survived the heavy chain smoking of the women there…that was insane!

DD: Do you feel that such projects can help people opening up to and understand these communities
perceived in negative ways?
Rozalb de Mura: This was a small, yet real project. There was almost no money involved, but it brought us all immense joy and benefited both the sides working on this project. It’s something that never happens on those ambitious, theoretical, Europe-financed, government-related, stiff-lipped projects involving the Roma communities. Things would be different if there could be more initiatives like this one to integrate Romas in society through programs that would indeed resonate with their spirit.

DD: What projects do you have for the future?
Rozalb de Mura: We have a few projects lined up: there’s a research residency at IASPIS in Stockholm with Swedish artist Lisa Torell, a performance at Pianissimo Gallery in Milan at the invitation of artist Ioana Nemes, and a recent commission to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of curator Alina Serban’s Centre for Visual Introspection Gallery in Bucharest.