Roma Rising Project

Drăgan, Mihaela

Romania

“There are so many women who have inspired me, so many valiant women. Perhaps Angela Davis and Maya Angelou most prominently among them. My objective has always been to develop a theatre company to highlight the courage of Romani women in the face of centuries of racism.”

Three years ago, Mihaela Drăgan began a one-woman show Del Duma exploring the lives of four distinctly different women facing limitations within a traditional Roma community. In 2014, Mihaela founded Giuvlipen (feminism), a collaboration of Romani women actors. As a playwright and performer, Mihaela addresses discrimination against, and hyper-sexualization of Roma women by the majority society. Her play, Gadjo Dildo, confronts traditional Romani gender roles through the eyes of a Romani Lesbian. La Harneală examines the effect on Romani women of evictions of Roma families by Romanian authorities. Kali Sara evokes Saint Sara, the protector of Romani women, to spotlight ongoing prejudice and acts of violence against women. Mihaela Drăgan has performed in Bucharest, Budapest and Vienna. Her plays have been translated into several languages. She has spoken on behalf of Romani women to both Roma and non-Roma audiences. On May 22, 2016, Mihaela Drăgan gave a Ted Talk in Cluj Napoca, Romania.

Mihaela Drăgan is Lautari, a descendant of musicians and singers. She was raised by her grandparents in the region of Cândești in south central Romania. She has asked herself why no mention is made in history books or in university lectures of the five hundred year history of Roma slavery in Romania or of the horrors suffered by Roma during the Holocaust, from the deportations to Transnistria to the camps. Mihaela can understand why the Roma themselves might not want to talk about these horrific experiences. “There is a belief that when one talks of death, one calls death to oneself.“ The purposeful ignorance of the majority society to these events however feeds stereotypes generations in the making.

Lautari entertainers were often slaves. In Mihaela’s opinion, Manele is a modern outgrowth of traditional Lautari music. “Manele music expresses the outrage of our people in ways which are acceptable to society – a manner of striking back without inviting retaliation.” The same may be said of the performances of Mihaela Drăgan.