Portraits from Vodoley

If you’ve been to the Mezrab in the past weeks I’m sure you’ve noticed the art pieces up on our walls. They’re paintings made by Tim Brignall (UK), currently residing in the Netherlands. We’re very proud to exhibit his work, have a look at what he says about the pieces himself:

tim brignall

In the April 2015 I moved into my newly bought studio/house in a village called Vodoley, outside the city of Veliko Tarnovo in north central Bulgaria. The village’s population is made up almost completely by a large Roma community. It’s a common feature of Bulgarian villages that Roma communities will stick together in one village alongside other villages that are largely inhabited by ethnic Bulgarians. It is a socially created segregation and not one that is politically enforced. Many ethnic Bulgarians would both prefer not to live in a Roma village and also prefer not to have Roma in their village. Roma communities are often made up of a group of a few very large extended families so and will often dominate the village in which they settle, this will often lead to many non-Roma inhabitants moving away but also prevent any more moving in. Villages with a large Roma community will often have far lower property prices and will be viewed by many ethnic Bulgarians as no-go areas.

My intention in moving to Vodoley was not to study the Roma community. That said, my attention was drawn to these communities by my estate agents insistence that I should avoid living in one, even if it was at the cost of his commission.

The people I have tried to capture in these portraits are some of the people who welcomed me and helped me to learn how to appreciate life in the village. Rather than feeling segregated from the community I came to feel incredibly involved (sometimes more than I wanted). I was taught how to grow vegetables, helped collect grain with a horse and cart and helped with various extravagant (and sometimes under-planned) building projects.

My aim with these portraits was to capture their personalities and the level of intimacy that I was offered within the community, but also to try and highlight the individual people that I met, who are part of a community which is so often discussed either collectively or as a statistic.

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