Creative projects are the most feasible way of developing meaningful relations between the Roma community and the Bulgarians, believe Donka Kioseva and Melina Atanasova, the performers of fire formation Firestep and women’s rights activists.

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With their another collaborative project – a lyric video-poem in the framework of Month of Roma culture – they show how to overcome stereotypes between the two groups in Bulgaria. The performers created the two-minute video which has already got hundreds of views on Youtube.

In the video, Donka Kioseva the author of the poem telling her story in Roma language, highly cherished by the young generation of Roma culture. Simultaneously, the second voice by Melina the actress and director of the video repeats the text in Bulgarian. This language interplay is enhanced by lyrical music and the image of candles, which creates a dramatic effect – the key feature of Roma culture.

Both performers, graduates of Plovdiv University ‘Paisii Hilendarski’ with a degree in theatre and dramatic arts, recently joined Firestep, a Plovdiv fire formation. Together they participate in charity concerts for the Roma community and women rights initiatives.

Roma Culture in Bulgaria
Let the theatrical scene be the only place for arguments!

In October, Firestep wowed Plovdiv with the fire spectacle Samodiva presented during the street art 6fest specialized in fire art.

The Premiere of Samodiva at 6fest Street Art Festival (Plovdiv, 2019)

The performance was a new feministic vision of women obedience in the Bulgarian tradition. The struggle between female and male views was vividly expressed with impressive fire battles in Plovdiv art district Kapana (in English ‘trap’).

Roma Culture in Bulgaria
At the final rehearsal before 6fest Street Art (Kapana, Plovdiv, 2019)

Last year the actresses tackled the theme of feminism in the Roma tradition. The performance of Melina and Donka became part of the creative project IN-BETWEEN by Anais Horn, an Austrian artist who for two months lived with a Roma community in Plovdiv, made photo sessions with local girls and organized a photo exhibition. The artist triggered a social dialogue challenging the status-quo of Roma traditions that oblige women to get married early and deprive them of professional development.

In Firestep, Donka is one of the most experienced performers. She has been performing and writing scenarios since school. One of her pieces reached the semi-final of the prestigious TV-show Bulgaria’s Got Talent, it mocked the cliches related to Roma ethnos. The bold jokes of the Roma comic duo (Donka and her partner Andrey Stoyanov) impressed the jury.

donka kioseva at bulgaria got talent
Time for fun: Andrey Stoyanov and Donka Kioseva moke the cliches of their ethnos

Donka’s favourite hobby – reading near the beloved cat – allows her to regularly generate new ideas and creativity that she channels into new performances.

The actress highlights the importance of consistency for getting opportunities for self-expression and suggests Roma young people never give up quickly: ‘Regularity is a certain way to success’.

Melina is frequently the only Bulgarian that participates in events for the Roma community. ‘Every time I’m impressed by Roma friendliness and unity, – says Melina. – Their remarkable solidarity is what we, Bulgarians, need to learn from them. And, in turn, we should help young Roma women to get an education and follow their dreams’.

Melina Atanasova: We distance from people mainly in our heads…

Both Donka and Melina are sure that creativity helps to benefit from differences. Their communities face similar social problems and should approach them with collaborative creative projects – the most natural way of public engagement.

‘The most important thing I learned during my collaboration with Roma ethnos is that when we cross the boundary of stereotypes, it becomes clear that we distance from people mainly in our heads, – thinks Melina. – In reality, distinctions between us are not significant. And if you open your soul to difference, you better understand yourself’.

Melina Donka Bulgarian Roma Creative Collaboration Features the Month of Roma Culture in Bulgaria 2