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  • Sylwia Herbst

Painting with the colors of a Gypsy.

Updated: Nov 13, 2019


My interest in discovering who I am spiritually, led me on a little side road to also uncover my genetic line. This turned out to be very interesting and honestly pure fun. Yes, I did a DNA test and found out I was (in part) a Gypsy! As an artist, I found this to be exciting news. Let me tell you why, if you don’t mind a little bit of fascinating history:


Around 800 BC a Celtic tribe called the Boii inhabited the central part of Europe. During the time of the expansion of the Roman Empire, their lands were labeled Boioheamum in Latin and Proto-German, meaning “home of the Boii.” Later, Germanic and Slavic tribes also moved into the region, but the area retained its early identity. This region then became known as Bohemia. Later, In Europe in the 1600’s “Bohemian" became a synonym for "Gypsy," based on the belief that Gypsies had originated in Bohemia and migrated to Europe.


I then learned from other genetic studies that Gypsies, a Roma ethnic-cultural group, originally came from a single group of individuals in northwest India, likely from the Hindu dalit, or untouchable, caste. They left 1500 years ago, going first to the Punjab, then to the Balkans and on further to the west, perhaps fleeing Islam. At some point they passed through central Europe and Bohemia on their journeys and spread out through Europe.

It was this last piece of data that resonated most with me. This ethnic group seeking freedom and a new life were my kind of people, rebels against status quo. I suddenly felt such a strong connection to them that I felt like I was part of their journey through all those years. It wasn’t just in the blood but the spirit of the group. So interesting!

I later stumbled upon the work of an American artist, writer and journalist Ada Clare, who lived in Paris, New York and San Francisco, was known as the “Queen of Bohemia,” who described this group in a way that hit home to me: "The Bohemian is by nature, if not by habit, a cosmopolite, with a general sympathy for the fine arts, and for all things above and beyond convention. The Bohemian is not, like the creature of society, a victim of rules and customs; he steps over them with an easy, graceful, joyous unconscious-ness, guided by the principles of good taste and feeling. Above all others, essentially, the Bohemian must not be narrow minded; if he be, he is degraded back to the position of near worlding."


I felt like she was describing me in that quote, and as I looked around the room at the art work I’ve created, I saw the spirit of their journey in my pieces, and each one telling a story.


I am so eager now to discover and share more of the adventures and visions that seem to hide in my universe, and I hope I have inspired you, at least a little, in your own discovery of who you really are.


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