Couple look at legal action against travelling show.

A Romani gypsy couple in Auckland is considering legal action against the founders and operators of The Original Gypsy Fair - for allegedly exploiting the gypsy culture for commercial gain.

Robert Kamulo Lovell, 68, a gypsy of Romani descent, said people could not become a gypsy by choice.

He is upset that the owners and operators of the fair, which has been running since the 1990s, are using images of Romani Gypsies on posters and calling themselves gypsies.

"We are born gypsies and cannot become one by lifestyle choice," Lovell said.


"To us Romani people, this misuse of name gypsy by non-gypsies who are not Romani is insulting.

"It is a gross misrepresentation of who we are as a race of people, and very misleading to the general public."

Gypsy is another name for the Romani people, an ethnic group who originated on the Indian sub-continent.

It is unclear how many Romani are here in New Zealand, but perhaps the most well-known is broadcaster Paul Henry, who said he was 25 when he discovered that his grandmother was a gypsy.

Lovell said photos of UK gypsies on their horse wagons - some of whom were his blood relations - had also been used to promote the travelling fair that goes to various towns and cities across the North and South Islands.

He had been in touch with the photographer in the UK and believed they did not have permission to use the images in that way.

"They do not have permission to use the images, and even worse, the people in these photos are related to me," Lovell said.

Lovell was born in New Zealand, but said his "romniphen" or "gypsiness" went back directly to north-west India.


A recent study estimated there to be between 1200 and 3000 Romani here, mostly immigrants from the UK and more recently Roma refugees from Europe.

Tourism website said that while there aren't many Romani gypsies here, there was a small number of Kiwis who have taken to life on the road, living in converted trucks and school buses.

It said there were two fairs, the other being The Gypsy Travellers Fair, that were run as co-operatives by road folk.

According to the Original Gypsy Fair website, the fair provided a venue for these "like minded travelling folk" to earn a living to support their chosen lifestyle.

Lovell's wife, Jayne Lewington Lovell, said they had emailed and tried contacting the fair owners, but had not received a reply.

"We want them to please stop using photos of real Romani gypsies on their posters, and remove gypsy from their name and all advertising as it is misleading and not truthful," she said.

Gypsy Craft Fairs Limited, trading as The Original Gypsy Fair, is owned by James Banks from Haumoana.

Banks also did not return the Herald's calls, email or text messages.

Lewington Lovell said they had sought legal advise and were told it was possible to get a court injunction to stop the use of the term gypsy and the photos.

However, it would cost about $10,000 and they did not have the funds to proceed.

AUT University Professor of Diversity Edwina Pio, however, felt the best way forward was for the two groups to talk.

"In the daily navigation of our lives we have to give a little, take a little and filter our reciprocity through honour, dignity and civility," she said.

"Perhaps that is why New Zealand has been ranked as the most prosperous country in the world based on its social capital."

Cultural appropriation can be a precarious double-edged sword, Pio said, because it could diminish cultural authenticity and present a one dimensional romanticised view which could perpetuate stereotypes and ignore the multidimensional facets.

"In the hunger to attract economic benefits, it is crucial that historic demons do not trump our better angels," Pio said.

"In times of conflict and cultural polarisation, courageous conversations and revisiting expectations may be key to optimise harmonious solutions."