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January 20, 2022



Czech capital to see new Center for the Roma and Sinti, meant to serve the general public

10.9.2020 7:04
The architectural design of the reconstruction of a villa in Prague by Adam Rujbr Architects, s.r.o. for use as the future Center for the Roma and Sinti in Prague, Czech Republic. (PHOTO:  Museum of Romani Culture)
The architectural design of the reconstruction of a villa in Prague by Adam Rujbr Architects, s.r.o. for use as the future Center for the Roma and Sinti in Prague, Czech Republic. (PHOTO: Museum of Romani Culture)

A new Center for the Roma and Sinti is going to be established in Prague. The Museum of Romani Culture is building the facility in the Dejvice neighborhood, where it will be housed in a First Republic-era villa.

The center will offer concerts, exhibitions by Romani artists, film screenings and lectures. The program will focus not just on the history of the Roma, but also on the current position of this minority and on coexistence with the majority society.

The leadership of the museum gave a presentation yesterday on the future institution in Prague. It is currently scheduled to open on 1 March 2023.

"The center will offer room for Romani people from all over the republic and from different groups to gather. However, it is not just for Romani people, it is for the general public. We are counting on holding intercultural events here, debates about contemporary coexistence. That is one of the important aspects of the project. We are promising to enter into dialogue with the public here. We are promising a shift in relationships," museum director Jana Horváthová told the Czech News Agency.

Ambassador of Norway to the Czech Republic Robert Kvile told the Czech News Agency that he believes the center will function as an "educational arena and meeting place" and that it will contribute to inclusion and the prevention of hate speech. Čeněk Růžička, chair of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust, said: "What I see in this society is a sense of superiority towards Romani people, it bothers me terribly. I'm afraid antigypsyism will become an ideology here. We need institutions that will showcase traditional Romani culture."

The leadership of the museum is counting on both homegrown visitors and tourists from abroad coming to the new center. From there they could even go on to visit the new Lety u Písku Memorial to the Holocaust of the Roma and Sinti in Southern Bohemia, which is under construction.

The establishment of the center in Prague is part of a four-year project that began in March and will last until the end of February 2024. It is being financed by Norway Grants.

Opening the center should cost roughly CZK 44.6 million [EUR 1.7 million] total. Of that, CZK 28 million [EUR 1 million] is meant to be used to reconstruct the villa and all its appointments.

According to the head of the center, Olga Vlčková, a condition of the financial support from Norway was that the project also have five years of sustainability. The building in the Dejvice quarter was constructed from 1936-1937 by textile industrialist Leo František Perutz, who was murdered in the Auschwitz death camp in 1944.

The villa was originally designed by the architects Victor Fürth and Arnošt Mühlstein. In recent years it has been empty and filmmakers have used it from time to time.

Last year the museum acquired the villa from the state. "The building, despite its age, is in a rather good state of repair. Original elements have been conserved, including some of the built-in furniture. We want to maintain all of these elements in order to preserve its original atmosphere," said Vít Benda of Adam Rujbr Architects, which has designed the center's reconstruction.

An addition to the building will house a café, a hall with room for 50 people, and a reception desk. On the first floor there will be club rooms, a conference room, another hall and offices.

The attic space will be used as a gallery. The building will be accessible to wheelchair users.

The garden area will also be adapted for opening to the public. Based on the current schedule, construction work will begin this autumn and will take two years, ending in the fall of 2022.

The first event produced by the Center for the Roma and Sinti ahead of its official opening will be an exhibition of selected artworks held in the collections of the Museum of Romani Culture that are by Romani artists. That exhibition should begin in June 2022 at the Ethnographic Museum of the National Museum in the Kinský Summer Palace (Letohrádek Kinských).

The Center for the Roma and Sinti should open to the public on 1 March 2023 with a complete program schedule, including educational activities. As for the Museum of Romani Culture, it first began operating in Brno in 1991 as a civic association.

The museum has been a state-sponsored organization of the Czech Culture Ministry since 2005. In addition to the museum in Brno and the center in Prague, it also administers and is building the memorials at the site of the Protectorate-era concentration camps for Romani people at Hodonín u Kunštátu in Moravia and Lety u Písku in Bohemia.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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