News & Events
March 6, 2012
“The Heroic Present: The Gypsy Photographs of Jan Yoors,” a new exhibition hosted by UNC Asheville’s Center for Diversity Education, is now on view through April 16 in the Karpen Hall lobby on the campus. The exhibition features extraordinary photographs taken before and after World War II by an outsider who was welcomed into Roma communities.
“The Heroic Present” is free and open to the public. Some 500 middle school students from Buncombe and Graham counties have scheduled guided tours of the exhibition.
Yoors was just twelve years old when he left his home in Belgium in search of a group of Roma (gypsies) known as Lovara, who lived on the outskirts of Antwerp. For the next six years, he traveled widely and was informally adopted by a Lovara family. When World War II began, Yoors joined the British army and recruited his Roma friends to assist Allied intelligence units in smuggling arms to the resistance.
Following the war, Yoors moved to the U.S. but remained connected to the few Roma families he knew that survived the Holocaust. The Roma were systematically murdered by the Nazis and an estimated 1 million perished. The exhibit shares the images and witness of Yoors during his youth and in his continued relationships with Roma communities across the world until his death in 1977.
“The experience of the Roma reminds us that ‘racial purity’ and genocide can be seen as solutions to difference, and that people everywhere are a few angry incidents away from the start of that kind of catastrophe,” notes Deborah Miles, director of UNC Asheville’s Center for Diversity Education. “By looking at the Roma community, which is unknown to many people here, we have an opportunity to examine our own ideas of ‘what makes a culture?’ and how to be prepared for democracy in our ever-more diverse society.”
“The Heroic Present” is a traveling exhibition on loan from the Kennesaw University Museum of History and Holocaust Education. Viewing hours are 8 a.m.-9 p.m. weekdays. A workshop and teacher training will be held from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 20, in Karpen Hall's Laurel Forum, with continuing education units of credit awarded. For more information on the exhibition, or to register for the training, please email Deborah Miles at firstname.lastname@example.org.