The Romani Elders

The Romani Elders

Rosa Taikon(SE)

Silversmith and activist

Life story

Rosa Taikon (1926- ) was born in the town of Tibro, Sweden. Rosa’s grandfather produced silver buttons and decorative silver cane handles, and her father worked with metal, earned a living by playing music and, for a certain time, even had an amusement park. As Rosa explained, since they were of a travelling Kalderash/Roma background they had to travel and were not allowed to stay longer than three weeks in a settlement and even not allowed to attend school, so they finished their education via the adult Romani community. Later Rosa chose to become a silversmith as her career path. Since her first exhibition in 1966, her art has been shown in prestigious galleries throughout Sweden. Her silver jewellery has been displayed in group exhibitions, but usually the artist has independent exhibitions. In addition, her work is a part of permanent exhibitions and depositories in various museums in Sweden and abroad: in Finland, Norway, England, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the United States, Australia and other countries. Rosa’s younger sister, Katarina Taikon, is the well known writer of children books “Katitzi”, but not at least known an activist for Roma equal rights. With her fight with the government and the authorities, she opened the doors for the Swedish Roma to the society in the middle of 1960's. Katarina Taikon is an icon for lots of Roma in Sweden and in other countries. She fell seriously ill and remained in a coma for thirteen years until her death in the end of 1995.
Apart from her artistic work, Rosa Taikon enthusiastically participated in political and social activities related to Roma and never stopped fighting for their rights and the propagation of Roma culture. (Source:, photo: Nordiska museets bildförmedling)


“Life shaped us, and it has made me humble. (...) I remember to this day the ice on the canvas. ”

“I am very happy to receive this prize (governmental gold medal “Illis quorum meruere labores” for her achievements as a silver smith). Not only is this a prize for me, but for all the Roma everywhere.”

“It has always been about human rights, you see. That they should apply to us Roma too. That we should have the same right to make us a decent living like everybody else, with housing, employment and education. We were not there, it must be known!”

“I am very grateful for the work done, but 20 years? If a baby borns today will not be treated equally unless it becomes an adult? Should a 20-year-old wait until 40? I'm impatient, you know. How long will this continue?”

“I am worried. Are we going back to the 1930 - and 40's? We see Roma in the Balkans, where they may live with their children on toxic slag heaps. I see the Buchenwald and Auschwitz in front of me in those countries. Enough of racism.”

„No one ever asked us why the Gypsy people has always lived on the fringe of society nor how this way of life has affected the structure of the Gypsy family. Like ostriches people buried their heads in the sand. They did not want to see or hear; they did not want to face the facts. It is so much simpler and so much easier on the conscience to believe that the Gypsy people consists of the 'picturesque' survivors of a nation that specialists who are no more than charlatans dare to criticize with rash judgments and prejudices, using such expressions as ’They don't want to live in houses’, ’They must be as free as birds’ or ’They are always happy, singing and acting’."

Books, Articles, Statements

Rosa Taikon Janush.The Sharing, Caring Family – Gypsy Families. UNESCO Courier (October/1984)

Press about the Elder

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