Museum of Ethnography
H-1146, Budapest, Dózsa György út 35.
Phone: +36 1 474 2100
Istennel talállak, testvérem! – Cigány történetek
Devlesa arakhavtu, phrala! – Romane historiji
I find thee with God, my brother! – Gypsy stories
The new temporary exhibition at the Museum of Ethnography titled " I FIND THEE WITH GOD, MY BROTHER! - G Y P S Y S T O R I E S " focuses on the photographs and lesser-explored manuscripts and tape recordings of the legendary researcher known as the "Blonde Gypsy," Kamill Erdős (1924–1962), who operated incognito within Roma communities. The exhibition is a true curiosity. It presents for the first time the results of Erdős’s simultaneously progressive and subjective research conducted among the Roma population in Hungary during the 20th century, preserved in the collection of the Erkel Ferenc Museum in Gyula. The exhibition also demonstrates how a seemingly concluded research can continue to live on. After over half a century, ethnographers from both museums managed to locate the surviving members of the former communities and honor the memory of those who have passed away.
Who was Kamill Erdős? A folklorist, or, as it was expressed in his own time, a "spy" or perhaps a "Roma count"? Kamill Erdős, who died young, began to take an interest in the Roma population of Békés County and Hungary in the 1950s. During his lifetime, he published only three studies in Hungarian, and slightly more in English and French. However, his legacy, consisting of photographs, tape recordings, and manuscripts, preserved at the Erkel Ferenc Museum, remains highly esteemed in Hungarian ethnographic research, despite having remained largely unexplored.
Photo by László Incze
While being fluent in French, English, and German, Kamill Erdős was sought after by international scientific organizations. However, during summers, he grew a mustache, acquired a green ribboned hat, and invented a fictional tribe, presenting himself as a Polish Roma count or sometimes a half-Roma from the region of Felvidék (Upper Hungary). In this guise, he embarked on a journey to explore and observe the lives of Roma people, starting in Békés County and then expanding to the Great Hungarian Plain and other regions of Northern Hungary.
His unique research methodology was aided by his proficiency in various versions of the Roma/Romani language and his profound understanding of the internal laws of this culture. Consequently, he managed to document authentic ethnographic material during a time when Roma communities, due to centuries of exclusion, remained closed, suspicious of outsiders, and fearful of photography.
The exhibition attempts to give voice to this unparalleled legacy through various means. The curators intertwine photographs with studies, manuscripts, and audio recordings, reconstructing Erdős ‘s research methods and striving to comprehend the distinctive kinship he felt towards people on the fringes of society. Moreover, the ethnographers aimed to return the legacy to the communities Erdős once visited, and to trace the individuals who appear in these photographs. The research uncovered sensitive stories such as those of the still-living Teréz Kanalas, the memories of long-deceased fathers and grandfathers, and the consequences of the Roma Holocaust experienced by Kamill Erdős. As a result, previously unseen dynamics of relationships between Roma-Roma, Roma-non-Roma, and researchers interested in Roma culture became perceptible in unprecedented ways.
The main title of the exhibition, " I FIND THEE WITH GOD, MY BROTHER! / Devlesa arakhavtu, phrala!" is a customary greeting Erdős used when corresponding with his Roma friends or when entering unknown Roma communities. While the exhibition showcases various topics of folklore such as weddings, laments, beliefs, and crafts, its focus is not on ethnographic objects but on human beings and the diversity of human relationships.
The exhibition is a joint project between the Ethnographic Museum and the Erkel Ferenc Museum in Gyula.