Katarzyna Pollok’s Sara in a Snailhouse appears on the cover of the Autumn 2012 issue of Signs (volume 38, number 1), which features a comparative perspectives symposium on Romani feminisms, edited by Ethel Brooks.
Sara is the name of a saint worshipped by Roma in the south of France. She is supposed to have come with the Three Marys as their maid from Israel after the death of Jesus Christ. I took the story to show that we Roma have forever been regarded as coming from somewhere else, that we have always needed shelter, that we have always lived our vibrant culture, that we are still in hiding, and that we have always had our roots: India.
In my artistic expression I travel across boundaries. This also means that I do not adhere to any fixed style or genre of art but “nomadize” through all the forms, traditions, icons, and images I come across in my life. My art is also both the means and the outcome of my personal struggle for Roma identity. We Romani painters still have to generate something unique and undetachable from our Romani identity, just as we have developed in our music. My goal has always been to achieve something in a new, cosmopolitan, universal scheme, but it remains a long road. The Indian roots, the Holocaust, and our trauma, the hiding, the longing for justice and protection are some ever-returning topics in my work.
Katarzyna Pollok was born in Kiev in 1961, grew up in Poland, and left that country in 1983 during military rule. She has worked as an artist in Berlin-Kreuzberg ever since – often interrupted by long journeys around the world, in particular to India and Israel. She has never been to art school but has been active in the Polish underground in punk bands, street theater, and with the living theater. She is the cofounder of Berlin’s first vegetarian restaurant and first multicultural alternative radio station. She held her first exhibition 1988.