The world of Romani arts is vast, multifarious, and rich, too much so to treat all the arts comprehensively in this one website. Still, the goal here is to try and collect as much information as possible about this exciting, yet little known and little researched cultural phenomenon. To that end, this website remains open-ended and welcome to comments and changes.
The building of this website is due to the generosity of the Berglund Center for Internet Studies, which supplied me with a grant as a Berglund Fellow in 2009-2010 to work on the website and on a Powerpoint presentation about Ceija Stojka and her artwork for the German Studies Conference in Washington, D.C. in October. This website would not be possible without the help of student personnel at the Berglund Center, in particular Maria Walters, who created the framework for the website, Jennifer Hernandez, who helped take photos of Ceija Stojka’s work and then created the flash player slide show, and Jamaica King, who has provided technical guidance in adding material to the website. Thank you!
My own research on Romani arts began in earnest in 2003 when I was Fulbright Distinguished Chair of Gender Studies at the University of Klagenfurt in southern Austria. Here I taught classes on gender studies while pursuing an interest in literature by Romani writers in the German-speaking countries of Germany, Austria, and Switzlerland. My fascination lay with one author in each country: Philomena Franz in Germany, Ceija Stojka in Austria, and Mariella Mehr from Switzerland (now living in Italy). When colleagues at the University of Klagenfurt heard about my interest in Ceija Stojka, they recommended that I visit her in Vienna. Excited about meeting this well-known Romani writer in person, I contacted her by telephone. She welcomed me and my interest in her work with a very warm and generous invitation to come visit her.
When I arrived at her apartment in Viennna, I was amazed at the artwork that decorated her walls and that was lying in piles all around her aparment. When my colleague at Sonoma State University, Dr. Michaela Grobbel, learned of my interest in Ceija Stojka, she confided in me her long-held dream to organize an exhibit of Ceija Stojka’s artwork in the United States. Thus the idea was born, and collaboration commenced as we began working diligently on the project. In summer 2005 I visited Ceija Stojka again and talked to her about the exhibit, the first of its kind in the United States. In summer 2008, while co-leading a course on Culture and Cuisine in Germany and Austria with my colleague, Dr. Cheleen Mahar, I, along with Cheleen and another colleague of ours, Roylene Read, Scheduling Manager at Pacific University, who was also on the trip, went to visit Ceija Stojka together. It was on this visit that we began to choose the artwork for the exhibit. In July, 2008, Michaela Grobbel spent days in Vienna on a National Endowment for the Humanities seminar and was able to visit Ceija Stojka and select more artwork for the exhibit. In January, I returned with three students, Kristen Almgren, Jacob Artz, and Maria Walters, to select the last of the artwork, to organize all the pieces for packing, and to tape conversations with Ceija as she talked about each of the works.
In hindsight I now that we undertook the exhibit quite naively, not considering the time, effort, and expertise that the logistics would entail. We knew nothing about bringing the exhibit through customs in the United States, or about posting a bond at customs, or about working out a legal contract between the three institutions involved, or about transporting the exhibit from one site to the next, or about insuring the exhibit while in transit and on-site. The whole project consumed the time of countless people from many walks of life: professors, lawyers, gallery directors, transportation personnel, human resources, customs brokers, insurance agents, website managers, catalogue printers, marketers, photographers, forklift drivers, granting agencies, personal donors, and more. Although too numerous to list here personally, we thank them nevertheless.
Such an undertaking also takes an enormous amount of financial support. We really could not have completed the project without the funding from the Bissell Foundation in Vermont, the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York City, Pacific University’s Elise Elliott Fund, Sonoma State University, and West Branch Gallery.
Now that the Ceija Stojka exhibit has been packed up to be returned to Vienna, I want to expand the website offerings to feature other Romani artists. I would also like to research more on Romani film, literature, and music. If you have any suggestions for further developments, please leave your comments here.
Thank you for taking an interest in this fascinating subject! I hope you enjoying browsing through the website!