Letter to Min. Kris Faafoi

Letter to Minister Kris Faafoi, Minister of Commerce & Consumer Affairs

Sent by Email: kris.faafoi@parliament.govt.nz

Dear Minister Faafoi:

I am Robert Lovell Kamulo, first of my Romany Gypsy family, born in New Zealand in 1949. I am writing to you on the advice of Minister Jenny Salesa who I have recently been in touch with concerning the cultural appropriation and misuse of our Romany identity and heritage here in New Zealand.

Minister Salesa has kindly responded to my complaints about a global trend by non-Roma/Romany using our cultural heritage and identity for commercial gain. This is mostly practiced in the romantic stereotype of the Gypsy, which we as a people find insulting and also racist, considering the negative treatment of our people. For example, in the extermination up to 500,000 Sinti Romany during the holocaust of WWII.

While there are not large numbers of Romany (Gypsies) here in New Zealand – 1200 to 3,000, there are many millions of Roma/Romany Gypsies worldwide. Globally, we are a distinct ethnic group that share a culture, language and DNA.

Here in New Zealand, we have a situation where a van culture of non-Romani is conducting business operations as The Original Gypsy Fair (TOGF) with full trademark licensing which is owned and operated by Mr. Jim Banks.

Presently in 2018, TOGF is ramping up its operation for traveling the North Island with advertising using photos on their advertising posters. These photos are used without the permission of the UK Romany Finny family who are related to me. Mr. Barrie Law owns the rights as part of a historical collection. Mr. Barrie Law is now very elderly. I have been in contact with him and he has confirmed he has never given permission to TOGF or any other Gypsy Fair in New Zealand to use his copyrighted work in this way. 

As intellectual property rights and copyright use is a key concern, TOGF’s business profile will be of interest. In the early 2000s TOGF was sold to the present owner – Mr. Jim Banks. He has since registered three New Zealand businesses; 1) The Gypsy Fair 2) The Gypsy Market and 3) The Gypsy Road Show. TOGF is a registered trademark and New Zealand Tourism has adopted this business as one of New Zealand’s tourist attractions, showcasing their offerings on its website.

TOGF’s position and brand is presented not only in the name but also in their advertising material. And because these people advertise themselves as “A Gypsy Fair”, I made it my business to talk with the owners at the time to see if there were any true Gypsy people travelling with the Fair. The answer was always no! They claim they are Gypsies because they live a Gypsy life style! The notion of earning a living while moving around in a van culture and making a claim as “Gypsies” confuses a lifestyle choice with our authentic Romany cultural identity.

As you can appreciate, TOGF’s position is so very far from the truth. No true Gypsy person would travel to earn a living in this way. Most Romany Gypsies earned a living doing traditional Gypsy work, such as fruit picking, buying and selling horses, cutlery grinding, the woman selling hand-made items like wooden flowers, brooms and clothes pegs. Not by selling tie-die T shirts, tattoos and dream catchers.  

In advocating for the due respect to my Romany heritage by Mr. Jim Banks and TOGF, I have participated in an interview with the New Zealand Herald in March 2017. In addition, many Roma/Romany worldwide have united to email the TOGF’S owner with the same result of no reply. Presently, worldwide support is gathering with a Stop Romany Cultural Appropriation online petition. We are also utilizing social media – Facebook, Twitter and a blog.

We do not wish to prevent TOGF from conducting business as is their right. We do, however, want this fair, The Original Gypsy Fair and the other registered businesses (The Gypsy Market, The Gypsy Road Show, the Gypsy Fair) as owned and operated by Mr. Jim Banks to remove any and all Roma/Romany Gypsy copyrighted photos from future advertising poster boards and from any type of media advertising.

We would also kindly request your intervention with a legal review that removes the language “Gypsy” from all registered business names. 

We feel the above-mentioned actions would send the right message on the true meaning of ethnic diversity to New Zealanders by correcting stereotypes and bigotry towards Romany peoples and preventing others from exploiting our cultural identity for profit.


Robert Lovell Kamulo and on behalf of all Roma/Romany Gypsies.



Author: pushapencil

Frances Roberts Reilly is a Romani poet, harpist and filmmaker born into a Welsh Romany/English family and now living in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.

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