Living in two worlds

leva_vernissage2006.11.27 – 2007.01.29

At times we all feel that we are living in two different worlds.
Are you always the same person at home as you are in school, at work or at a family gathering?
Youngsters today are able to mix different lifestyles quite freely.
Sometimes it seems most important to be a hip-hopper or rocker, sometimes a student or unemployed, a person from the country or from the city. And for some it sometimes seems important to be a Jew, Rom or Sami.

The exhibition Living in Two Worlds presents ideas, views and reflections from some of the young Jews, Roma and Sami living in Sweden today. From their own experiences they talk about how one can live both/and, so to speak, at the same time. The exhibition has been produced by and with the youngsters that it deals with. They have met on various occasions over the space of almost two years to try to answer the question as to what life is like for young people in Sweden today who have access to two different worlds.

Of course the exhibition cannot describe the situation of every Jew, Rom or Sami youngster in Sweden today. But it gives examples of what life can be like. Some of them are wholly positive and some of them less so.

The institutions underwriting the exhibition have only been involved in so far as they have created opportunities for the groups to meet and to create the exhibition and organize for it to tour Sweden.

Malmö Museums, Riksutställningar – Swedish Travelling Exhibitions, the Jewish Museum in Stockholm, the Sami Information Centre

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The Roma

Nursery school and training pants, Boolibompa on the TV and strange green sausages for school dinner. Celebrate Midsummer and eat pickled herrings. Go shopping at Christmastime and finally leaving school with a white graduation cap and hoarse from cheering on the back of a lorry.

I was born and have grown up in Sweden. I think I am a fairly typical “Swedish youngster” if such a thing exists. I want to get a good job, go abroad on holidays and be surrounded by my family and friends.

But when I was growing up there were certain things about my family that were not so common perhaps. In my family, for example, one was not allowed to throw away any bread. And my mother can neither swim nor ride a bike because my grandparents thought that this was too dangerous. One can drown in the sea or fall off one’s bike and hurt oneself. It was years before I was allowed to go home from school by myself. Everyone was so frightened that something terrible would happen.

My maternal grandfather has a number tattooed into one arm. My humorous and generous grandfather is what they term at school as “a survivor of the Holocaust”. When I was small I did not really understand that some things were different in our family. Why my mother had no cousins. Or why we did not have any furniture or jewellery that had been handed down. When I was older I began to realize how it all made sense. One should never throw bread away because one can never know whether there will be any bread tomorrow. We have not inherited any furniture or other items because the Nazis took everything. And my mother has no cousins because all my grandparent’s relations were murdered.

For many people the Holocaust is something that happened a long time ago. But for me it is alive today. It is part of my everyday life. I often think of all the people who disappeared. All the people who were murdered because someone (Hitler) had decided that they were not worthy to live. Not worthy because they were Jews. I think of all the young people who were never able to attend school or graduate. I think of the people who were discarded. And I reflect on the fact that if I had been born a little earlier and in some other country in Europe, in France for example, I would have been one of the people who were thrown away. They could have taken everything from me just as easily as blowing out a candle. I would have been discarded and many would have felt that I was not worthy of living because I am Jewish.

I think that Sweden is a good country. I feel pretty secure here but there are times when I am frightened. Frightened that hate will rule, that prejudice will dim people’s minds and that darkness will descend on us again. When I see people with shaved skulls or hear someone talking rubbish about immigrants in the restroom I get upset; perhaps a little more upset than other people because I know what such ideas can lead to when one starts to think that some people are worth more than others.

Rachel

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The Roman home

I feel most Swedish when I am abroad and see something that reminds one of Sweden, for example a TV programme, sports, music or just a poster. It feels a bit ”aha home”. And when we visit relations abroad they generally say ”here come the Swedes”, And they ask questions and wonder what life is like in Sweden and I feel like a Swede.

I feel most like a Rom when I am with other Roma and the family. Particularly on special occasions like weddings and baptisms and suchlike. But even at funerals. Or if one hears something about Roma on the TV or radio. One pricks up one’s ears a bit.

My husband and I are very different. According to him I am more ”Swedish”. Because I am interested in school and work and want to plan for the future. But at the same time I try to be a good Rom wife.

When I talk to friends who are not Roma I feel like a Rom. We often have different views about the family. Especially about one’s role in the family, about family closeness. Giving priority to the family rather than the individual. Family cohesion. Respecting older people. How one shares the tasks and responsibilities.

At school I sometimes wonder whether I will be able to finish my studies. I miss so many years. There are many other things that I need to find time for. But I try to combine the best of both worlds. I see this as a unique advantage rather than an obstacle.
If I had a choice I should not change anything.

Maria

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The Sami

Poems

I know
what you know
I know that
our world is cramped

I do
what you do
both of us know that
our world is cramped

dusk begets a lovely girl
radiant and white as hoar-frost
I dream that we hook up and journey in fable
I am happy
for she is lovely and white as hoar-frost

there are many hovering round her
a love-song, a yoik resounds from heaven
for she is lovely and white as hoar-frost

thoughts flow freely
pure good thoughts
run away

now comes again
clear cold
fast-flowing water
in a mountain stream

Simon

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Pictures from the exhibition

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Leva i två världar

leva i två världar

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