“Look, here we are with all our great problems, and misery, and all sorts of bad things, but – please accept us.”
As I introduced last month, I will be sharing one mural each month from the Fresco Village Project in Bódvalenke, to highlight Roma stories and culture and bring more attention to this wonderful project! Check out my post about the project for more information here.
This month’s mural is called The Legend of Bódvalenke, and shows depictions of some of the residents of the village when the project was beginning to take shape.
Eszter Pásztor described the story behind the mural:
“At the time when we started this project…there were a few houses [at the other end of the village] that were built in contravention of all regulations – on marshland. That was because the mayor at the time didn’t want to have the Roma…build their houses next to his place. So he managed to get building permits for them for this totally unsuitable land. And the situation was horrible – the water table was so high that you couldn’t even build an outhouse because the [water] would just wash all that dirt up. And the houses were about to collapse, and, particularly in the summer, the smell was horrible. So we knew the first thing to do was to demolish those houses and buy other ones and relocate those families. And that was still under the socialist government,” *she laughs* “so they gave us the funding for it. That was one of their last actions while still in power.”
“And when the guy who painted this was working here, that was the time when we made the most important decisions, like: who can participate in the program, whose house we were going to buy, who’s going to be whose neighbor? Which meant that there was incredible tension in the house. And he somehow let all that tension through him and he threw it up on the wall.”
“The central figure is an Indian demigod, with strong associations of Jesus Christ, with the entire village of Bódvalenke behind him. There is the great manipulator**, there is the cruel wife of one of the moneylenders**, there are the guys who kill everything off with their sharp tongues (*long tongued-figures to the upper left of the main figure*), there are the ones who don’t want to know anything (*three figures above the right arm*), there is the painter himself with the horn of plenty above him, off which only children drop (*far left side*). That woman there** is a mother of four, actually working as a prostitute, who used to get on the bus in the morning, go out to the main road…and when she has made enough money to feed her family, then she will…do her shopping, get back on the bus and come home. Like any other working woman. Maybe she was a bit broken by the experience. And down here (*bottom edge of mural*), you see all the oppressed, suppressed, all those in pain or misery, those who are helpless, who are forlorn.”
“And to me, this whole picture says that, look, here we are with all our great problems and misery and all sorts of bad things but – please accept us. You may know Picasso’s famous painting the Guernica. This doesn’t look like it but by association I’d say that this was the Roma Guernica.”
** = exact location in mural unknown