28 September, 2020

Epeka Gallery was established in 2013 at Koroška cesta 8, in the very centre of Maribor. Despite its central location, Koroška cesta was for a long time one of the most neglected parts of the city, marked by both abandoned spaces and many buildings on the verge of collapse.

Throughout its seven years of operation, the gallery has made a significant contribution to the revitalisation of this part of the city through numerous cultural events, providing both local and wider audiences with the opportunity to attend cutting-edge cultural events, ranging from visual art, to intermedia art, to music performances and educational programmes.

In line with the fundamental orientation of tha Association EPEKA, Soc. Ent., the core of the gallery’s work has always been to support top artists who are themselves members of vulnerable groups or who address them in an artistically and contextually sophisticated way. A key exhibition for Epeka Gallery was that of Selma Selman, an artist with Roma roots; it was the first solo exhibition of a Roma artist in our country. Because of the importance of the artist’s work, we also published a comprehensive catalogue. Gradually, in conjunction with a broader set of activities organised by the Association EPEKA, Soc. Ent., we have established the first Roma gallery in the EU based on the principles of social entrepreneurship. We employ Roma women and men in the activities of the gallery and involve them as volunteers and creators in the production of the artistic programme. This has given the Roma community in Maribor, Slovenia’s city with the largest urban Roma population, a space in the city centre that serves as a platform for the promotion of Roma art and culture and for the organisation of educational events and symposia. Through the gallery’s activities, the Roma of Maribor have gained a space where they can showcase their cultural creativity, while also being involved in the processes of organising other cultural events.

In line with this mission, for the first time Romani women are organising a solo exhibition at the Epeka Gallery, where they will take you inside a part of their everyday and less everyday lives. If you have ever wondered what traditional Roma clothes look like, how their jewellery sparkles and what traditional Roma food tastes like, these questions will be answered in the exhibition “TE PINĆARDIJA” (“LET’S GET TO KNOW YOU”), which is part of the project “With Culture to Inclusion”. The project aims to empower Roma women with knowledge, information and skills that will support their cultural activities and enable them to organise a public art event that will present some of the key elements of the Roma cultural tradition to a wider audience in a picturesque and visually appealing way. At the same time, the exhibition will be a starting point for further projects and events that will reflect on Roma culture and open up a window into the everyday life of non-Roma that is otherwise inaccessible to them.

The gallery also hosts a Roma library and an informal chess club for Roma women, which is probably the only one of its kind in the world. The gallery’s core mission is thus, on the one hand, to promote the cultural creativity of the Roma community and, on the other, to promote the active participation of Roma women and men in public events. By involving the Roma community in the very core of the Gallery’s activities and in public events, we encourage interactions between social groups that do not normally have contact, thus gradually reducing segregation and breaking down the ingrained prejudices held by many members of the majority population. Unfortunately, the gallery will have to move out of the city centre due to the municipality’s changed orientations. So we will most likely establish the “last gallery in the city” and look for new premises on the outer fringes of the Municipality of Maribor, i.e. on the margins, where we obviously belong.

The exhibition will be on view until 9 October, every weekday 10am to 3pm and by appointment. Entrance is free.

The project “With culture towards inclusion” is funded by the Ministry of Culture and the European Social Fund.

The Association EPEKA, Soc. Ent., is supported by: