Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

29 images Created 25 Feb 2010

These images are the first chapters of a tragic story about the endangered and persecuted Roma population living in Belgrade, Serbia. It begins with the community living under the Gazela Bridge before its destruction and partial relocation on August 31, 2009. The project then follows these residents to their new homes across Serbia, some in better and others in worse conditions than in the original settlement.

Gazela was an isolated community of over 200 Roma families living abjectly difficult lives. They made their living from the recycling of metals and refuse, and the landscape around their homes was filled with toxic mounds of rotting waste. Few children attend school and are fed into a cycle of poverty and otherness in Serbian society.

This was a ghetto, split on the banks of one of the region's most important rivers and on premium real estate eyed by elites. The local government, with funding from the European community, is working to open the land for reconstruction and development.

In return for their displacement, the people living there, depending on their legal status, would either be given a new container to live in, free transport back to their villages or, if they had no papers, an unceremonious trip to the curb and likely a home in another improvised camp.

Europe is in the midst of economic resettlement and a resurgence of nationalism and xenophobia. Roma populations are facing persecution and mass resettlement across the continent. Yet in their native lands, conditions are equally perilous. The Serbian relationship with its minorities is of paramount local and European importance, especially as the country approaches official European integration. The story of this Gazela settlement is a premonition of the challenges of minority and Roma rights that Europe faces today.

(c) Matt Lutton, 2011
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