Ivana Nikolic, Dancer & Activist

The Romani Cultural and Arts Company 24th profile will be of Ivana Nikolic, Dancer, activist, philosophy and educational sciences student at the University of Turin.

I was born on February 3rd 1991. In the same year my country Jugoslavia started to fall down: the origin of the break was in 1989, the year of my brother’s birth for my family, but for the rest of the world the end of the communist regimes in the Eastern Europe. It meant the fall of the Tito’s socialist regime in Jugoslavia and the return of ethnic nationalism between Serbs, Bosnians, Croats and Montenegrins. The war of everybody against everybody started. 

My family and I were part of this war: my father is Serb and Orthodox, my mother is Bosnian and Muslim, I was born in Novi Sad and I’m Serb, my brother was born in Bania-Luka and he is Bosnian. My father was the first one to leave the country, because he was refractory to war and so he was considered deserter. He has never told us how he was able to go across Croatia and reach Germany. My mother, me and my brother stayed in Vukovar, hidden in the cellars of Jovanka’s house, the woman that we used to remember as our “fairy godmother”. After many years, while I was reading Anna Frank’s Diary, I could understand the fear and the distress my mother and Jovanka must have felt.

In 1992 the situation of the country became unsustainable because of the war between Serbia and Bosnia and so between Bosnian-Serbs and Bosnian-Muslims. The situation was so serious that we were not safe anymore in the cellars. For this reason my mother decided to leave and take a bus to Germany in order to join my father: she was alone with two kids, she didn’t have any money, just one bag with one pitta and one milk package inside. She was very brave. She couldn’t to pay for the bus ticket, so she gave her passport to the driver agreeing that in Germany my father would pay the trip. But it didn’t happen. 

Man can become a beast, like those who took part in rapes, mass killings and violent acts in Srebrenica and Sarajevo.  They can also be kind and supportive like our travel companion. 

In Germany my mother could get political asylum as a Bosnian fleeing from the war and we stayed there for three years. It was a difficult period for my mother because she didn’t hear anything about her family in Bosnia. However my parents always tried to provide me and my brother with a peaceful environment: they taught us everything they knew, they played with us and told us stories, keeping us away from their sufferance.

In 1994 my mother finally learned that her family left Bosnia and was in an Italian camp in Turin. In 1995 the last part of our family adventure started: my grandparents decided to come to Germany by car and take us to Italy. No one had documents and we had to cross many borders, but a clandestine travel was not enough to stop people who survive a fratricidal war. My brother and I hid ourselves under our grandmother’s large skirt and my parents travelled inside the baggage carrier: like this, we reached Turin. 

After that, we faced other difficulties, but we had the opportunity to attend school, to have a real house, to receive acceptance and motivation that helped me grow up and become an adult. 

Over the years I have come to understand how important education is, because it’s the first step to participation and emancipating ourselves. In particular, as one young Roma girl said: I think that everyone has to be socially active and to focus on our own education and development in order to achieve. That’s why we need to raise our peers’ awareness of the importance of working to obtain respect and destroy prejudices or stereotypes, while holding our own cultural and ethnic identity. 

Social and artistic experience

When I was 15, I started to work as volunteer in different organisations that worked with children, young people, the disabled and the immigrants in the area of my neighbourhood. I grew up in Mirafiori Sud, where a large part of young people have problems with family, drugs, unemployment and mafia. Thanks to my determination, from September to November 2014, I opened one after school activity to give my support to young people. However, after some months, I had to stop because of some threats and violent demonstrations against Roma people. I didn’t give up and I organised; with the help of the district, the Mirafiori Foundation and Asai, an intervention to support an educational programme for the young people of the neighbourhood. In January 2015 my proposal was accepted and we set out an educational program for boys and girls, and it is still active. 

In 2014 I made “Attenti a NoN ripetere”, a memory campaign supported by young people who fight discrimination and share the importance of social integration, and worked on involving different associations, including the Resistance Museum and the Jewish community of Turin. The aim of the campaign was to remind people of the atrocities of history in order to avoid repeating them (even through activities and workshops about the memory for young people), to develop the active citizenship and put the focus on the importance of equal memories between Shoah, Porjamos and Holocaust. 

In the artistic area, I work in Turin to organise artistic-cultural events and educational activities aimed at promoting integration and awareness of cultural differences using music and dance, the tools and languages that I consider universal. 

In 2015/2016 I founded one Roma dance company called Ternype Dance, with the aim to promote dance and social art: the company purpose is to pass on the beauty of Roma art which finds its highest expression in dance, and in this way destroy prejudice. The birth of this company is part of my personal purpose of developing further the social art concept, connecting my educational and artistic skills. 

With the company I took part to many events, shows and national or international festivals, including: 

  • January 2015: Festa dei popoli (Arsenale della Pace, Turin)

 Amaro Dive- meeting of Turin Bishop with the roma community of the city (Torino)

  • June 2014-2015: Peace Parade with the cooperation of Asai e Sermig
  • December 2015: Anthropometric- How to measure the word Man for the International Human Rights Day ( European project supported by Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli and UPRE ROMA) by Diana Palovic (Auditorium S. Fedele, Milano)
  • May 2016: Project EU Caravan Next with Zid Theater (Torino)

20 years celebration of Asai- Intercultural animation association  ( Torino) 

  • October 2016: Stay human, Stories of daily humanity (Mezzago) 
  • March 2017: Due passi di danza,  show for “Marzo delle donne”(Torino)
  • May 2017: Festival della cultura dal basso (Torino)
  • Celebration of Multiethnic Republic for Convergenza delle culture-Conexiòn ( Torino) 
  • August 2017: So Keres Europa – Phiren Amenca Changemakers movement (Varna, Bulgaria) 
  • November 2017: Public celebration in favour of Ius Soli and Ius Culturae organized by Comitato Torino- Mano nella mano contro il razzismo (Torino)
  • February 2018: International Festival Etnica-NCPRI Project- coordinated by Strana Idea (Bunker, Torino) 
    • Workshops :
  • June-July 2015-2017:  open classes with  Asai (Torino)
  • August 2016: free workshop with POD Theater ( Belgrade, Serbia)
  • May 2017: free workshop for  Festival della cultura dal basso ( Spaziononc’è, Torino) 
  • August 2017: workshop for So Keres Europa? (Varna, Bulgaria) 
  • October 2017: Free offer workshop with Franz Reinerio for Liberi Danzatori ( Casa del quartiere, Torino) 
  • Februray 2018: Free workshop for young people in ETNICA, with Asai and Vides Main.
  • May 2018: Festival Here, to put the focus of people from Turin on the situation of Cavallerizza Reale, Unesco heritage in a state of neglect by the city council that provides to sell it to private individuals. (Torino) 

Prizes and awards: 

March 8th 2010: a prize received from the Republic President Napolitano with the association where I was working as volunteer because of our social commitment. 

November 14th 2015: prize Cild received with my group of Roma and non Roma people, for freedom and civil rights in the category “Voce collettiva”.

January 27th 2016: recognition by the Senate  for my memory campaign “Attenti a NoN Ripetere”.

2016: Recognition by the European Commission as Italian and Roma ambassadress, because of my fight against any kind of discrimination. 

Collaboration in the media seminars for the Campaign “for Roma, with Roma”, with the involvement of different countries (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Romania and Slovakia)

Since 2011 I’m part of“ Ternype” International Roma Youth Network”,  network of youth associations and Roma and not Roma young people, that gives space to young people in order to become active citizens through the empowerment, the mobilisation, the self-organisation and the participation, and against the extremism, the anti-gypsyism, the racism, the stigma and the discrimination in Europe.

Since 2016 I’m part of the Scientific Committee of  REYN Romani Early Years Network: the most important aim is to fight the social exclusion and the historical disadvantage faced by the Roma community realising a learning community for professionals ECD Early Childhood Development and pedagogues, in which the members work together to develop skills and good practices.  


– Documentary movie Opre Roma by Paolo Bonfanti 

– From June 2018 I’m going to start the shooting of a new movie.