Monday, 4 November 2013

Tony Smith | Pèlerinage Des Gitanes

Photo © Tony Smith-All Rights Reserved

Here's another photographic essay in an audio-slideshow format documenting the gypsy pilgrimage, an annual event held in Saintes Maries de la Mer, a small village in the heart of the Camargue, South of France. Tony's photography, his narration plus the unusual music of the gypsies during the festival are certain to interest viewers in a lesser known religious festival held in the very heart of Europe...and which has its roots in the Middle East and South Asia.

This time it's by Tony Smith, a Welsh born photographer who specializes in photographing ethnic, cultural and religious festivals and environmental portraiture.

On May 24 of each year, more than 10,000 travelers (including Roma, gypsies etc) come from all over Europe to Saintes Maries de la Mer to venerate their patron saint Sara the Black (also known as Sara la Kali), and take the opportunity of having their children baptized during the festival.

In my previous post about this particular pilgrimage/festival, I mentioned that I was struck by the similarities between this gypsy religious festival and those of West Bengal's Durga Puja and the odalans (temple anniversaries) in Bali.  It's also curious to learn that the nickname given to the gypsies' patron saint is Sara la Kali. Kali is the Hindu goddess associated with empowerment, time and change., and the name Kali comes from kāla, which means black.

This is most interesting as the Romani originated from India and arrived in Europe by the 14th century, and the Kali name given to their patron saint could have its origin as theirs.

Tony provides more information on the festival in his own words (with some redaction):

"The main pilgrimage is held in May every year. This is when the town is besieged by thousands of Gitanes from France, some Gitanos from Spain and other Roma from once Eastern Europe, Hungary, Romania, etc. The people of the area, in national costume, also participate in the processions though it is not their event. The same can be said for the gardians, the Camargue cowboys who seem to police the event by leading the processions. The music (accompanying the slideshow) is an evolved mix, and coming out of Eastern Europe will no doubt have some Yiddish violin in there somewhere. For anyone thinking of going who might be worried about security, don't be. It's primarily a religious festival and I have not seen a single incident there."

Tony attended my 2011 Kolkata's Cult of Durga Photo Expedition/Workshopwhich was principally aimed at documenting the annual West Bengali religious event over the course of almost 2 weeks.