Lost Histories: The Gypsies of 1909

JoEllen Brydon

November 15 - December 24, 2013

Lost Histories: The Gypsies of 1909

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JoEllen Brydon is an award winning Canadian artist with an extensive body of work which includes representation in the collections of the Art Bank of Canada and the Canadian Museum of Civilization as well as many private collections on both sides of the Atlantic. Brydon has developed a strong presence in the art community in Ireland.

Throughout her career Brydon has worked on paintings and projects that explore buried stories and/or forgotten local histories. The oral tradition remains strong and provides an ongoing source of information in many communities in Canada and abroad. Through her work she preserves these stories, which might otherwise be lost, and elevates them from the level of myth to cultural product. 

Brydon’s large-scale installation Lost Histories; The Gypsies of 1909, documents an historic event involving a group of Roma who visited a small city in Ontario just after the turn of the century. It is based on a story about a brief convergence of two cultures and the reactions and interactions that took place. In the summer of 1909 a “band of Gypsies” were reported by the Bobcaygeon Times as causing a disturbance”. Constables from the town of Peterborough walked out and met the group that was now approaching the city and arrested the entire company of about sixty Roma with fifteen wagons. They detained the men in jail, while the women and children camped in the courtyard resulting in notable interactions with the citizens of the town. This group was in fact known as Kalderash Roma of the Mineshti clan. They were part of a larger migration from Southern and Eastern Europe to North America in the late 1800s. This is an historic example of many similar occurrences that happened in cities throughout North America and are still happening in Europe today.

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