As a boy of twelve, Jan Yoors fulfilled many an adventurous youth's fantasy when he left his comfortable Belgian home to live and travel with a tribe, or kumpania, of Gypsies. Adopted into the extended family of Pulika, Yoors passed his days with the patriarch's sons and nephews, learning the traditions and participating in the rituals of the Gypsies, or Romani. As the years passed, he divided his life between the world of his birth, where he became a noted tapestry artist, filmmaker, and war hero, and the world of the Romani, where he returned regularly for more than five decades.
Yoors was also a gifted writer and photographer: his memoir, The Gypsies, is a riveting account of his life with the Romani; his many hundreds of images -- most of them never before published -- document the personalities and daily existence of his kumpania. The Heroic Present: Life Among the Gypsies brings together Yoors's photographs and excerpts from his memoir. The nuanced portrait details the rhythms of life among the Romani; the exceptional occurrences of birth, marriage, and death; and the highly codified system of conduct of the Gypsies. Roadside caravans, evening meals, multifamily feasts, village fairs, convocations of the kris (the Romani tribunal of justice), and wedding celebrations: all are powerfully evoked in both word and image. Comprehensive and vivid, expressive and lyrical, this volume is testimony to the author's remarkable facility with language -- both written and visual -- and an unequalled portrait of daily life among the Gypsies.