Katitzi – A Literary Figure Rooted in Reality

10. October 2013. – 04. December
MegnyitóOpening: October 9, 2013, 5:00 pm
MegnyitjákRemarks by: Maria Lind, Angelica Ström
The subject of the exhibition is Katarina Taikon’s (1932-1995) autobiographical figure Katitzi, who is the main character in thirteen books and eight comic albums published between 1969 and 1982. The exhibition presents first editions of the Katitzi books, comic albums, illustrations by Björn Hedlund. It also unfolds the history of the book’s reception. The items exhibited – articles, reviews, films, TV programs, photographs and other materials, will help the visitor live through and understand the particular popularity of the character called Katitzi.

Katarina Taikon Swedish writer of Roma origin had raised attention with her first book ‘Zigenerska’ (gipsy woman) in 1963. Later on she continued to shake the Swedish public with her literary and political activism, fighting for Roma’s rights together with her sister, Rosa Taikon. On the pages of her biographical children’s book series ‘Katitzi’, the ’splendid’democracy, the Swedish ‘welfare’ society, is depicted as a society infused with discrimination – a particularly surprising and dark read for the Central-Eastern-European reader. Through the narration of an innocent and curious child, the book challenges our notion of Western European ‘developed’ democracies and its myth of ‘equality and well-being’ societies.

Katitzi, along with the internationally well-known figures like Nils Holgersson or Pippi Longstocking, has been one of the most significant characters of the Swedish children’s literature. Hundreds of thousands of children and adults have read the book in Sweden. In 1980, for instance, the book was borrowed 432.000 times from the library. The story, not long after its coming out, appeared as a comic book as well as a magazine, the TV series based on ‘Katitzi’ became popular and came out on dvd. Recently, the Folkteatern in Gothenburg has done a family show based on the Katitzi books and the Nationalteatern in Stockholm has adopted it for the post-modern times with hiphop elements. This latter piece has already reached thousands of primary school children.

The book series ‘Katitzi’ has not only been a fascinating read for many generations, but was also a significant example of the new type of realistic children’s literature emerging in the 1960s. It also provides the reader with an insight to a Swedish society dragged by ethnic and social tensions and to the destiny of Roma living in Sweden.

What reasons can we find for the success and popularity of Taikon’s story, especially among non Roma readers? Is it the mixture of fairy tale and novel, together with the ancient motif of wandering that makes us go through this story of searching for home with such deep empathy? Maybe it is the unimaginable adventures of Roma life that maintain the actual attention of the readers? Or is it perhaps the destiny of a gipsy girl growing up amongst racism in a 20th (21st) century Europe that attracts us? And if the latter is the case – then why is it affecting us only in the form of literature? Is it a book that will open our eyes to social injustice and racism within society?

Literature is none other than the coalition of humanism and politics, as Thomas Mann’s Settembrini declares. Do we have/ Why don’t we have a Katarina Taikon? Why don’t we have our own Katitzi? What can a child or a children’s book tell us about the nature of racism? Would it be important for us to have our own Katitzi? How much can a children’s book contribute to the education of tolerance and how can we protect our children from racist writings nowadays?

The project adopts the exhibition Katitzi – A Literary Figure Rooted in Reality, Tensta Konsthall October 2012 – January 2013.

The curator of the Hungarian adoption of the exhibition and the related programs: Veronika Vaspál, literary historian