An Exhibition by Delaine Le Bas with Damian James Le Bas
The speech of the Tchingiané (Gypsies) is rude, sharp, strongly accentuated, and somewhat difficult to comprehend. Properly spoken it is harmonious enough, though rendered hoarse and almost distasteful by the wild tribes who employ it. In the 1920s the Irish linguist John Sampson undertook a study of the ancient Romani tongue — an Indian language spoken in Britain since mediaeval times. Together with recordings of conversations held in Wales in the 1950s, and hand-written letters from Victorian times, Sampson’s epic work, ‘The Dialect of the Gypsies of Wales’ is part of a body of evidence testifying that Britain has been a kaleidoscope of cultures for centuries. This installation gives a new and vivid artistic context to these treasures of culture and language, placing them in a vibrant and challenging mixed media installation. It features recreations of historical photographs depicting Cardiff’s original Gypsy ‘stopping places’ and is the latest in a series of works by Romany artist Delaine Le Bas that give pride of place to the Romani tongue. The ability to debut this installation in Wales is crucial. The understanding of language as an integral part of culture is widespread in Wales, and Wales is where the legacy of the trilingual Gypsies provides an admirable symbol of how diversity is an ancient, not just modern, British phenomenon.