For the end of my MA summer term I decided to test out my research on travel by working on a subject I know best and address some stereotypes most people gravitate towards in connection with my native country. Make no mistakes, we all have stereotypes about all manner of things and places and so, while the stereotypes about Romania bother me quite a bit I am also able to understand that a lot of them are due to a lack of more profound education about our people, customs and traditions.
My research took me to websites that listed the top 10 or 20 stereotypes and sometimes purported to correct them, and to wonderful visuals about many other countries in the world and the stereotypes surrounding them. What I found interesting in the end is that our beliefs define us, they tell something about our own culture and upbringing so you can actually stereotypify (there, I made a new word) stereotypes by their places of origin.
If you are looking to re-trace my steps research wise and find the maps of Europe showing what we think about each other, have a look here and bear in mind that you may need to translate the page.
The biggest challenge I had to overcome in my project was to respond to stereotypes in a way which was not reliant on the use of other stereotypes. The whole point of an illustrator in a project such as this is that we remain neutral, which is hard enough to do when my definition of “Romanian” was looking to rebut the people we are perceived to be. How do you say “we are not gypsy” or “we are not the poor man of Europe” or “thieves” etc without showing the things you refer to? This page gave me the most amount of worry in terms of political correctness and maintaining neutrality. I have quite pretty drawings of gypsies, I think, but what was the use of them when they rebutted one stereotype by replacing it with another… and I also have images of Romanians at work, showing us in another stereotypical manner doing the jobs that no one else in the more developed countries wants to do…
My journey taught me that we need to educate ourselves all the time and correct ourselves by changing our attitudes and thinking in response to the newly assimilated information. It also taught me that instead of responding to a stereotype by saying “well, we are not that” we ought to try the "show and tell" method taught to children at the earlier stages of their education and development. My answer is “never mind what you are not. Show me what or who you are!”. I chose to put a positive spin on my project and show the reader / viewer that we have an interesting history and an even more interesting core of values and traditions and that actually, instead of being somehow isolated from the other European nations, through our history and values we are more connected to the others than they care to acknowledge. In fact, Romania has so much to offer that I am already planning the educational trips I will take my own children on, to teach them about their rich heritage, but for now I leave you with some visuals of my finished zine on Romania - click here to see me browsing through it in my IG video highlights.
If you want to see and read the zine in your own time please leave me a message and I will be in touch asap. I am about to open up my Etsy shop and will be taking and fulfilling orders.