Bulgaria’s Unwanted and PICS Photography Festival

Work from the “Bulgaria’s Unwanted” project will be showing at the Pics festival 2012- a photo journey into the lives of Roma living in ghettos in Bulgaria. Photo Voice and GlobalNet 21 present PICS Festival, celebrating the power of photography as a tool for social change.  This one day festival aims to bring forth debates and discussions around the role of photography in societal changes. The public and practitioners alike are invited to  take part in exploring ways forward  and more successfully in addressing issues through the photographic medium. http://www.photovoice.org/events/article/pics-festival-2012.-photographic-images-changing-society

In PICS Festival I am showing a small selection of images from my on-going project on the marginalization of minorities within Europe. The project  I am presenting is  “Bulgaria’s Unwanted”  http://www.cinziadambrosi.com/photo-stories/roma-in-bulgaria.html based on the ghettoization  of the Roma population in Bulgaria.  I look forward to talk to you about this project and to discuss how this can move forward in achieving a greater awareness for the issue involved and thus ultimately establish greater inclusion.

PICS Festival 2012

Saturday 19th May 2012, 11am – 5pm

The Hub Westminster, 1st Floor, New Zealand House,
80 Haymarket, London SW1Y 4TE

Bulgaria’s Unwanted

Despite the presence of the Roma population in Europe, dating back centuries and regardless of their large number, the history of the Roma in Europe is marked by a lack of integration. The European Commission estimates that the Roma Population in Europe stands at more than 12 million, a considerable number in any regards.

One of the most visible signs of their segregation is their placement in societies, starting from their poor and inadequate homes. Most Roma are living in the periphery of towns and cities, often in ghettos, illegal camps or enclaves.

Bulgaria has the highest percentage of Roma population, which stands to 5%. However the Roma population is hardly visible outside the ghettos. In Sofia, the largest ghetto, Fakulteta Mahala is a world quite apart from the rest of the city, one in which ordinary Bulgarians do not enter, but fear and discriminate. Their schools are Roma schools or segregated schools as they are referred to by the Roma people because attended by exclusively Roma children. The Roma population living in these districts have no access to basic public services, whether health care, public transport, waste collection or sanitation, whilst unemployment, lack of education shun away any tangible improvement to their conditions. A living condition scarred to remain stagnant because most Roma do not have a resident permit even if they might be born in the country, and in general whether they are European citizens or not, they are deprived of the opportunities of others.

In February 2005, the “Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015” initiative was signed in Sofia, Bulgaria. This was a renewed effort by the Central and South-Eastern governments to work towards eliminating discrimination and making improvements to the socio-economic status of the Roma population within Europe.
Sadly, in Sofia where this initiative was to start off a new era of tolerance and acceptance for the Roma population, improvements hardly reached them.
As a matter of fact, events of the last years have shown an increased wave of discrimination towards the Roma population in Europe including the decision in some countries to expel them.
Although, the images shown in this photo essay “Bulgaria’s unwanted” are from the Fakulteta Mahala (Roma ghetto) in Sofia and from Kjustendil Roma ghetto, the living condition for the Roma are not exclusive to Bulgaria. Many if not most European cities have segregated areas where Roma live.

Ghettoisation in Europe

In Europe, we are witnessing a greater number of ghettoisation, created by social and ethnic reasons. Some of the recent governmental policies seem to support this non inclusive movement. For instance, in the UK, changes in social assistance is slowly moving families and young people that cannot afford rents to move in the outskirts of large cities such as London. Also, we have seen a greater intolerance towards so called minority populations such as the Roma, Irish Travellers and Pomaks to name a few. These population have been subjected to increasing marginalisation and today we see them in temporary and inadequate housing or being constantly evicted.
As a photographer and photojournalist, I have been working around projects that would serve as making the public aware of these issues. My projects, such as “Bulgaria’s Unwanted” was to address and create debates around ways that us as public could influence policies and policy makers in creating and incorporating a greater inclusion of marginalized and poverty stricken groups. Moreover, making us aware of a division that is becoming also a geophysical one. These lines of demarcations are in fact creating Ghettoisation.

Carmel Chiu Sutcliff  on the life in a Roma ghetto using action research for addressing ghettoisation in the Fakulteta Mahala in Bulgaria

Carmel is a PhD candidate in Planning and Building and her research interests include participatory planning GIS for promoting social justice, social inclusion and sustainability in ghettos and disadvantaged Roma neighbourhoods in Eastern European cities.  Her research is interesting on the academic level but also deep in the human aspect. Interestingly she is also utilizing GIS  (Geographic Information System) for presenting the strong connections with the formation of ghettos in the Roma population in Europe.  Below, is a small presentation “Life in a Roma ghetto using action research for addressing ghettoisation in the Fakulteta Mahala in Bulgaria ” of her current research work.  Some of the images have been taken by Cinzia D’Ambrosi.


Carmel  Chiu Sutcliffe

PhD Candidate Planning and Building

University of South Australia



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