‘Although those around me reminded me of their need to perceive me as a Roma creator, to define and label me as such, I did not agree to this. I said that I am a filmmaker, an author, and the fact that I am of Roma origin is, in fact, a private matter.’
Stációk (Stations) is a portrait of Tamás Péli (b. Budapest 1948, d. Budapest 1994), one of the most important Roma painters and politicians, who was a member of the Roma Cultural Association and later of the Hungarian National Assembly in the 1980s and early 1990s. Additionally, he was one of the Hungarian Romani intellectuals (along with the poets József Choli Daroczi and Károly Bari, the writer Menyhért Lakatos and journalist Ágnes Daczi, among others) who took an active role in establishing the Romani identity. In the documentary, the artist talks not only about his life and his artistic training (he graduated from the Royal Academy of Arts in Amsterdam), but most importantly about his role as an artist. He engages with the discourse, including the Romani intellectuals mentioned above, regarding the question of whether the ethnic background of an artist should be considered in the institution of art.
In the film, the camera appears only once and Péli’s face appears primarily in close-up, as if he were speaking directly to us. In this portrait documentary with an inspiring storyline, Péli is shown very close-up, indicating that the director is on friendly terms with the main character. We are introduced to some of his paintings in detail, with the camera moving across the surface at close range.
His self-reflective thoughts can be considered as an artistic manifesto on the complex question of self-identity (or identities), whether Romani, Hungarian or European. How they relate with to each other regard to the hegemonic positions within (art) society are being questioned by the fact that the subaltern speaks and tells his or her own narrative.
Péli concludes the following about his own position in the film: ‘…and in order to become a Roma painter, the existence of the Roma bricklayer should be acknowledged. This is a massive and difficult question … and I would like to be a Hungarian painter … The time will come but I will not get the final immigration license from my colleagues for another year or two … I am going to present a significant piece of art at the World Fair and this work of art … will not be made by Tamás Péli the Roma painter but Tamás Péli, a painter with a European mind and soul, that of the image designer who is concerned with the future of this country and his community’. His statements emphasise the importance of the film in terms of the Romani emancipation movement.
This extract from the documentary was also used for the Manifesto for the Occasion of Roma Artists Arrival to Hungary by the contemporary ‘SOSTAR GROUP’, an association of Roma and non-Roma artists and non-artists, both Hungarian and international, which was founded in 2013.
Although the film was produced by a local TV channel in Budapest, and was made in a popular style of television portrait documentary in the 1980s in Hungary, it has been shown at various film festivals and cultural events in the country. Moreover, the artist’s testimony in the film has frequently been quoted in discussions about an artist’s self-identity.