Some time during the late night hours of 11 August and the early morning hours of 12 August, the exhibition entitled „Selection Procedure for Czech-Roma Flag“ in the outdoor space of the Artwall gallery was damaged. The project, by Slovak artist Tomáš Rafa, presents seven designs for a Czech-Roma flag. It is his critical response to the fact that Romani people are not considered Czech by the majority society and therefore find themselves in forced isolation in the Czech Republic.
„The anonymous attack on the Czech-Roma flag project is a one-sided, aggressive expression of opinion. Because this attack was anonymous, it is not possible to critique its content. I accept it as a statement about the project, but I regret that it is not possible to engage in dialogue in this case,“ Rafa said in response to the incident.
The curators of the exhibition said it would become an indicator of the atmosphere in society. Czech society is undergoing a protracted economic crisis, one manifestation of which is heightened hateful responses to Czech Roma. The position of Romani people in the Czech lands has long been deteriorating and there is a lack of genuine political will to address the problem of racism. On the contrary, racist posturing by politicians has long been publicly tolerated.
The exhibition came onto the scene at a moment when emotions on both sides are tense. One of its aims is to show that discussion about the identity of the state and the relationship of the majority society toward minorities is not only possible, but necessary.
The project includes public discussions with Tomáš Rafa, who met, for example, with representatives of local Romani citizens in Krupka (near Teplice). Shortly after the Prague exhibition opened, the artist also implemented his most recent project, the painting of a segregating wall in a Romani settlement in the village of Velká Ida in Slovakia in collaboration with Romani volunteers. Part of that event was a concert by a Romani rap group from Krupka. For several years Rafa has been drawing attention to the topic of segregating walls in Slovakia. This most recent project was his fourth artistic production on that topic.
The Czech-Roma flag project is a symbol of the mutual coexistence of Czech and Romani people. It shows that Romani people are also Czechs and are at home in the Czech lands. The hatred the project is sparking among some citizens indicates the depth of a problem we must all resolve together.