The art exhibit “Live–Dance–Paint: Works by Romani Artist Ceija Stojka” is now on its way back to Vienna, Austria after being in the United States for a year. Thus, it seems appropriate to begin this blog with describing one of the most beautiful paintings in the exhibit and one of my favorites. I especially like this painting for the story behind it. The sunflower is one of Ceija Stojka’s favorite flowers because of the time that her father made a skirt out of five real sunflowers for her so that she could go to a Romani dance festival. Here is how she described how her father made the dress, as related to me and the three students who visited her in her apartment in Vienna in January, 2009: “He took a big one, a really big one, he hollowed it out, and all around he sewed a flower, with the leaves, and with the stripe, yes interesting. He also lifted my hair, and added a small one on the right and on the left. I was not even eight years old.” (”Er hat eine große genommen, eine ganz große, die hat er ausgehöhlt, und rundherum hat er so eine Blume raufgenäht, mit den Blättern, und mit den Stängeln, ja interessant. Meine Haare hat er auch hochgehoben, der hat links und rechts eine kleine hergegeben. Ich war keine acht Jahre alt.” )
There are a number of paintings that show the resourcefulness of Ceija Stojka’s family as they faced limited resources and obstacles from nature, as well as persecution and discrimination. Some of my other favorite paintings are those depicting the wagons that the Romani used to travel, including “Winterzeit/Wintertime,” where the cold, harsh winds propel the wagon forward into the snow. While the life of the Roma may seem romantically adventurous, such paintings demonstrate how this view may not always be realistic, especially in the face of uncontrollable natural conditions.
In this blog, I want to explore what exactly might be meant by “Romani art.” Are there special motifs that occur that depict shared Romani culture? Is there a certain aesthetic method that characterizes Romani art? Is there a potential danger in stereotyping if one talks about “Romani art” as a collective? Does one have to be Roma to write and make art effectively about the Roma? I would also like to make this an ongoing site of discovery as well. I am no expert in Romani art; I have only come to the topic through intense study of Ceija Stojka’s written and visual works. I welcome any constructive comments and suggestions.
I am also new to blogging, and thus welcome any ideas on making this blog fascinating and informative in the most effective manner.