Luminiţa Cioabă (Maria Mihai Cioabă) is a Kaldarash Romni born in 1957 in Târgu Cărbuneşti, Romania. At the time of her birth, her family was still leading a semi-nomadic life. Luminiţa’s father and grandfather were respected Roma who held the traditional title of bulibaşa (wise men and leaders who negotiated between their own community and the authorities). In 1963 the Cioabă family settled in the Transylvanian town of Sibiu, where her father, Ion Cioabă – or Piţule – was known as the ‘King of Gypsies’. At that time, the then young Nicolae Gheorghe was Piţule’s personal secretary.

Luminiţa Cioabă likes to compare her life path and her becoming a poetess to the destiny of Bronisława Wajs - Papusza; like the first famous Romani poetess, Luminiţa belonged to a nomadic community, had no formal education as a child and was married at the age of fifteen to a man whom she later divorced; moreover, her own family never encouraged her in her early endeavours to receive an education and become a writer. Luminiţa believes that she was born to be a writer and predestined to become a poetess, despite all the obstacles she encountered.

Cioabă is the author of several books of poetry (see selected poems) and a multilingual collection of short stories. She is also the editor of various non-fiction publications devoted to the memoir narratives and oral histories of Roma who survived the Romani deportations in Transdniestria as well as screenwriter and director of documentaries devoted to her own Kaldarash community’s history and culture. Lately she has focused her efforts on religious activities (including the translation of the Bible into her dialect) and seeking recognition of the Romani Holocaust in Romania.

Born into a Romani group with a long tradition of storytelling, Luminiţa has written prose works that are based on narratives and motifs from the oral heritage of her native community. Her poetic universe, on the other hand, reveals her own complex sensitivity. Similar to Papusza’s poetic world, Luminiţa’s poems often refer to the special Romani perception of, and connection with, the natural and supernatural without falling into the trap of clichés that romanticise and exoticise Roma.

Luminiţa writes masterfully in both Romani and Romanian. She publishes her works in multilingual editions.

Selected bibliography

Mihai Cioabă, Luminiţa. 1994. O Angluno la Phuveako. Rădăcina pamîntului. Die Wurzel der Erde. Earth’s root: poezii. Traducerea în limba germană: Beatrice Ungar; traducerea în limba engleză: Mircea Ivănescu. Sibiu: Editura Neo Drom.
Mihai Cioabă, Luminiţa. 1997. Negustorul de Ploaie / O Manuš kai Bitinel Brîšind. Sibiu: Editura Neo Drom.

Mihai Cioabă, Luminiţa. 1997. Poemurea dă arateara thai ades / Poezii de ieri şi azi / Gedichte von gestern und heute / Poems of yesterday and today. Sibiu: Editura Neo Drom.

Mihai Cioabă, Luminiţa. 2002. O Čem o Hasardo / Ţara perduta / The Lost Country / Das Verlorene Land. Sibiu: Editura Etape.

Mihai Cioabă, Luminiţa. 2006. Deportarea în Transnistria. Mărturii. Sibiu: Editura Neo Drom.

Mihai Cioabă, Luminiţa. 2010. Romane asva / Lacrimi rome. Sibiu: Fundaţia Social-Culturală a Romilor “Ion Cioabă”.