David Schwartz (RO) - I Declare at My Own Risk. Raising self-esteem and facilitating self-representation.

The presentation will focus on three aspects: the historical, social and political context of the Roma community in Romania; the process of developing a theatre monologue from personal facts and stories; and the political impact of personal-history-based solo-performance, both on the Roma minority and on the non-Roma majority.

The first part will discuss the discrimination and prejudice the Roma communities faced on Romanian territory since their arrival in the Middle Ages, including five hundred years of slavery, deportation and extermination in the fascist period, pogroms at the beginning of the post-communist regime and anti-Roma policies in present day Romania.

The second part will focus on the working experience for I Declare at My Own Risk, solo-performance written and performed by Alina Şerban, a young Romanian Roma actress and activist, based on her own life experiences, dealing with poverty, discrimination and self-abhorrence. The difficulties and contradictions of working with such vulnerable and personal material will be exposed.

In the third part we will talk about the meaning and influence of such a performance - the power of example of Alina’s political statement for other members of impoverished communities. It is important to emphasize the fact that in Romanian culture Roma people very rarely, if ever, talked about themselves and their community. In this context, I Declare at my Own Risk project can be understood as an act of restoring the right to self-representation.