Santino Spinelli, a Rom from the Abruzzi region of Italy, is a musician, poet, teacher and essayist. Spinelli gained a degree in modern foreign languages and literature from the University of Bologna. He taught Romani studies at the universities of Trieste and Chieti and was a member of the Pedagogic Group for the Education of Gypsy Children in Europe.
Spinelli’s academic activities focus on researching Romani literature and culture and especially the Romani musical tradition. He is the founder of the music ensemble called the ‘Alexian Group’ and has recorded several albums. He is also the author of a number of works for the theatre.
Spinelli founded the cultural association ‘Thèm Romanó’, based in Lanciano (Chieti), in 1991. In 2001 he was elected as a member of the parliament of the International Romani Union (IRU), a non-profit, non-governmental organisation representing the Romani community and recognised by the UN.
Spinelli’s collections of academic essays include Prinčkaranğ / Conosciamoci [Getting to know each other] (1994), Baro Romano Drom [The Long Romani Road] (2003) and Rom, genti libere [Roma, Free Peoples] (2012).
In 1994 Spinelli established an international Romani art and literature competition – ‘Amico Rom’ [Gypsy Friend] – which has led to the publication of five anthologies. He is the author of two collections of poems, Gilí Romaní (1988) and Romanipè / Ziganità (1993). Stylistically, he succeeds in conveying powerful images through the skilful use of rhymes and assonances. Through the use of subtle rhetorical strategies, he seeks to recreate the traditional gilí romaní (Romani song).
Spinelli defines his verses as ‘poetry of communication’. For him, it is the poet’s duty to apply his deep understanding of the difficult relationship between Roma and non-Roma to finding a ‘meeting point between public opinion and the Romani world’ (Spinelli, 1993, p. 4).
The text of Spinelli’s poem ‘Auschwitz’ has been engraved in German and English on a circular surface and in two Romani dialects on a stone that forms part of the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma Victims of National Socialism in Berlin.
The poem ‘Auschwitz’ in English: https://www.stiftung-denkmal.de/en/memorials/sinti-and-roma-memorial/poem-by-santino-spinelli.html [= https://perma.cc/C85Z-WD5N]
Das Gedicht »Auschwitz« in Deutsch: https://www.stiftung-denkmal.de/denkmaeler/denkmal-fuer-die-ermordeten-sinti-und-roma/gedicht-von-santino-spinelli.html [=https://perma.cc/4LSC-BBQT]
O poemo »Auschwitz« pe Řomani śib: http://gedenkorte.sintiundroma.de/abbildungen/136/Bild0002.JPG [= https://perma.cc/EYT6-CBB5]
Spinelli, Santino. Gilí Romaní / Canto Zingaro. Rome: Lacio Drom, 1988.
Spinelli, Santino. Romanipè / Ziganità. Chieti: Solfanelli, 1993.
Spinelli, Santino, ed., Šunge luluda / Fiori profumati. Pescara: Italica, 1994.
Spinelli, Santino. Prinčkaràng / Conosciamoci. Pescara: Italica. 1994.
Spinelli, Santino, ed. Baxtalo Drom / Felice Cammino. 3 vols. Pescara: Tracce, 1995–1997.
Spinelli, Santino. Baro Romano Drom: The Long Road of Rom, Sinti, Kale, Manouches and Romanichals. Rome: Meltemi, 2003.
Toninato, Paola. Romani Writing: Literacy, Literature and Identity Politics. New York and Abingdon: Routledge, 2014.