HOTEL Gelem: an artistic intervention with Roma families and visitors against racism and exclusion


While the majority of people are looking for adventurous and exotic travel during their holidays, the permanent obligation to remain mobile and to improvise is a harsh reality for people living in precarious conditions. HOTEL Gelem invites you to participate in such real-life situations, inventing new forms of exchange, illustration and reflection on a phenomenon which should have ended with the Second World War. HOTEL Gelem shows you places where romantic transfiguration coïncides with racial persecution, overcoming walls in the middle of Europe which dramatically divide our society.


"Gelem, Gelem" is the hymn of the Romani. Gelem means "I went, I travelled down long roads”. This melancholy song refers to the expulsion and murder of Romani in Croatia during the Second World War, which was sadly for many Roma a reality. Europe prospers today, with its borders disappearing, mobility and globalisation increasing, yet a dramatic number of Roma families are obliged to live in precarity. They face exclusion on the job-seeking level, and also with regard to housing and education. Many countries in Eastern Europe experienced after their liberation a wave of nationalism. And we see racism and right-wing violence spreading once again, affecting the vulnerable group of Roma. In fact, antiziganism is a special form of racism and one of Europe’s biggest challenges.


Families who were driven out of their homelands through violence and poverty tried to survive in France or Italy where they were again marginalised and victimized. They share the same fate with the Roma families who fled from the ethnic persecution in Yugoslavia to Germany at the beginning of the war in 1991, and who suffer nowadays from expulsion to the miserable slums in Kosovo. To overcome the continuing deprecation and exclusion, the general public needs more information about their historical, political and social context. Thus different forms of observation and insights are proposed. Personal contact and direct experiences can help overcome the social barriers and the persistant forms of stigmatisation that endure. HOTEL Gelem is such a bridge, which helps reverse the clichés of the 'Roma traveller' and the 'sedentary majorities'. The Hotel Gelem art project is an intervention which enables real change.


In different locations specific versions of HOTEL Gelem are initiated and realised collectively, managed and supported by self-help groups, Roma activists, neighbourhood support, artists and Roma families. The project has for its goal to stabilise Roma communities in a neighbourhood environment that are looking for supporters and visitors who want to become personally involved in the fight against prejudice; ready to live a personal experience and contribute to their complex living environment. Over the past months, dozens of visitors have been invited to visit Roma families in refugee camps and informal settlements initiating friendships and joint projects. If you wish to live for a certain time with the families, reservations can be made on For each visit a personal invitation from the participating family is necessary.


HOTEL Gelem should not be a short-term art event, but enable sustainable encounters above social, societal, cultural and national boundaries and divides. Since the project’s beginning, the living conditions for the families involved have steadily improved. In addition, the artistic intervention has opened up new perspectives for all who are involved. Here we see an example of how one’s self image is conditioned by surrounding conditions and perceptions, promoting a view of the world which can then recognize the other with openness.


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Information about the locations and the project at