For centuries, the Roma people of central Europe were hunted. Not in a metaphorical sense, but actually, physically hunted; chased down in groups organised by the armies and police of Germany and Holland. It was done out of bigotry and hatred, and in the name of public entertainment.
Krzysztof Gil is a polish Roma artist, and the history of his people is a dark cloud that will not lift. In the centre of this small but excellent show is a shelter made of wood, sticks, fur and bone glue. It’s a traditional itinerant Roma structure, a movable home for his people. You hear garbled sounds screeching from within and steel yourself to pull aside the partition and enter.
Inside, the tent is near pitch black. It stinks of burning, the floor is soft with dirt. An amulet hangs from the ceiling, warding away evil spirits, as a tiny light slowly rotates, illuminating chalk drawings on the walls. Figures in ruffs – olde worlde hunters – disembowel carcasses: a deer, a bird and a Roma. It’s oppressive and overwhelming, plunging you into darkness and filling all your senses with abject horror. This is the death of a people, this is one chunk of society thinking another is beneath it. Power, violence, fear, hatred and death are all contained within these ramshackle walls.
If you can walk out unmoved and unsickened by history, you’ve got a stronger stomach than me. And if you can walk out without seeing this as a warning about the populist politics of today then you might just need to take another look.