Officially declared in the 1990’s, April 8th is International Romani Day! A day to celebrate the beautiful and rather mysterious culture of the Romani people and raise awareness of the issues still faced today. International Romani day also highlights discrimination direct this community and calls for the human rights of all to be respected and observed.
So who are the Romanies?
Originally it was thought that Romanies were of Egyptian descent hence where the word ‘Gypsies‘ comes from. However, research into linguistics and DNA testing has shown otherwise. The Romani language is spoken by millions of people throughout the world. Its origins derive from an ancient Indo-Aryan branch known as Sanskrit. This language existed in the Indus Valley in the Indian Sub Continent over 1000 years ago.
DNA research has also traced the ancestry of the Romanies back to Northern India. It is widely theorized that a wave of invasions in India led to the displacement of the Romanies. Romanies arrived in Europe from northern India in the 1400’s. Today there are an estimated 12 million Romanies in Europe making it one of the largest Ethnic Minorities in Europe. This ethnic minority is made up of separate groups known commonly as “tribes” Most of the Gypsies in German-occupied Europe belonged to the Sinti and Roma tribes. In Spain, you have the Kale or Gitano/as and in England the Romanichals. There are many other tribes.
The Romani Language
The following people are said to have had Romani heritage:
- Michael Caine (1933)
- Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977)
- Yul Brynner (1920-1985)
- Elvis Presley (1935-1977)
- Bob Hoskins (1942-2014)
- Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
- Rita Hayworth (1918-1987)
If you would like to find out more about the Romani Language and culture check out:
Lewis, M. Paul, ed. (2009). “Ethnologue: Languages of the World” (online) (16th ed.). Dallas, TX: SIL. Retrieved 15 September 2010.
Ian Hancock‘s 1987 estimate for ‘all Gypsies in the world’ was 6 to 11 million.