OMARA (MARA OLÁH, born 3 September 1945, Monor, Hungary) is a painter living and working in Monor. A self-taught artist, she started painting at the age of 43 following her mother’s death. Using art as a therapeutic tool to overcome and come to terms with humiliation, the grief felt over losing her mother, the anguish of alienation from her daughter and the physical pain of her cancer, her paintings show the major traumas of her life. In 1991 she took one of her paintings – exploring her experience of her eye surgery – to the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest, and has been encouraged by the Gallery’s professionals, since then she continued to paint and started to exhibit her work.

Since 1992 her pictures feature inscriptions, as a result of a misunderstanding surrounding one of her works at an exhibition in Szeged: a painting representing a real occurrence, Mara on all fours looking for her glass eye in the grass, was presented as »Mara Resting,« while a double portrait of Omara and her sister was put on display as »Lesbians.«

Her series of blue pictures, the first appearing in 1997, show the difficulties, racism and discrimination she faced throughout her life. In her autobiography she says: »Blue was always the colour of my daughter, blue was her best dress when she was a little girl, she wanted her room to be painted blue when she grew up, it was her favourite. […] In 1997 I had a dream which told me I should paint the picture I was to give to my daughter on her name day in blue. I could hardly wait to lay my hands on the paint and the boards. I had ice blue and white at home. And what did I paint? Myself with my hand on my heart, bowing deeply, thanking God for creating this in my dream. My daughter is the person I love most in the world, and this way I could make my girl’s dream come true.« Painted in various tones of blue and complemented with textual explanations, the blue pictures are confessions about the artist’s most important personal experiences, her relationship with her daughter, her ordeals as a Roma and a woman.

The inscriptions not only verbalise the pictures’ narratives, but they also reflect on their significance regarding the present and the future (e.g. her work »Mara and the Policeman«). The texts featuring in her paintings have a key role to play: this language is in itself productive, performative and constitutive. It is an act that defines and marks what does it mean to be a Roma woman to Omara, similarly to the feminist ideas of Judith Butler and John L. Austin: they are statements that do not communicate facts, they are not true or false, but Omara performs actions through them.

Omara’s practice is a politically conscious, activist art and aims to represent Roma interests, challenging norms and conformity, and the system which created the rules. She does not confine herself within visual arts: she speak out through actions and statements she makes on television, in printed and electronic journals. She also regularly visits prisons to talk to the inmates about the life of the Roma on the »outside«.

In 1993 she opened Hungary’s very first private art gallery in her home in Kispest, and in 1997 she self-published her autobiography »OMara festőművész« [Painter Omara] in Szolnok. Most recently she has been painting miniature paintings in a delicate, light, decorative style. Omara continues to work and exhibits widely across Hungary, Europe and in the USA.


Naïve Museum, Kecskemét

Hungarian naiva – organised by ethnographer Pál Bánszky, American Embassy, Budapest
Cultural Centre of District XI, Budapest

Hunnia Art Cinema, Budapest
Hotel Venus, Conference Hall, Budapest

Secondary school, Tiszavasvár, supported by the Tiszadob Children’s Village, an institution raising mainly Roma orphans
Tököl Prison, Tököl

Szolnok Prison, Szolnok
Graffity Art Cinema, Budapest

Hungarian Cultural Institute, Paris
Kultiplex Cultural Centre and Cinema, Budapest

1996 – 2005
Temporary exhibitions at the Omnibusz, Oriental Hotel, Budapest

Budapest Spring Festival, Budapest

Csak Nagyítóval Lehet Megnézni Az Egyszemlátó Omara Ékszereit – Liget Gallery, Budapest


Vizivárosi Gallery, Budapest

Cultural Centre, Hollókő
Rátkai Club, Budapest
Local Municipality Museum, Veszprém
Cultural Centre, Kaposvár
Jurisics Palace, Kôszeg

Omara opens the first Roma art gallery in her home in the suburbs of Budapest, Kispest
Kossuth Klub, Budapest

Hotel Gellert, Budapest

III Art Exhibition for Autodidact Roma Artists – Museum of Etnography, Budapest

Roma Religious Pictures – Hungarian Roma Parliament, Budapest
Paintings of the Tiszadob Artist Community – Hungarian Roma Parliament, Budapest
Orientalism in Contemporary Roma Art – Hungarian Roma Parliament, Budapest
Contemporary Roma Women’s Art I – Hungarian Roma Parliament, Budapest
Castle Gallery, Budapest
Lobby of the Budapest University of Economic Sciences

Basic Instinct, Contemporary Roma Art in Hungary – Hungarian Cultural Institute, Berlin
The Hidden Holocaust – Mûcsarnok/Kunsthalle, Budapest

Common Space – Issues of Ethnical Minority and Cultural Identity in the Carpathian Basin,
Ernst Museum, Budapest

Mi arcunk – Balázs János Gallery, Budapest
Lost Paradise – Roma Pavilon, Venice Biennal

Gender check – Mumok, Vienna

Suhar! – mai modern női roma művészet – Hunagarian Cultural Institute, New York, USA

Beszélő paletták – Hungarian Roma Fine Arts Exhibition – Department for Social Inclusion Capacities, Ministry of Human Capacities, Budapest

Omara festômûvész [Painter Omara]. Self-published, Szolnok: Repro Stúdió, 1997
Timea Junghaus: Az egyszemlátó Omara ékszerei, Exhibition Opening Speech, Liget Gallery, 2011
Tímea Junghaus in »Paradise Lost« catalogue, 2007 (Ed. Tímea Junghaus and Katalin Székely)