Nothing is more important to me than my painting, it is freedom and confidence for me. I get new strength from the people who come to me and surround me, so that I can continue to speak, tell stories and perhaps paint again. There are still so many white sheets there - empty and white - and my wanting knows no end.
(From the preface to the exhibition catalogue KAI DIKHAS - ORT DES SEHENS 2, 2012)

Ceija Stojka was a writer and painter and was born into an Austrian Lovrara family as the youngest daughter of seven siblings. The family spent winters in Vienna and drove around rural Austria in the summer as horse traders.
The Anschluss of Austria in March 1938 fundamentally and irrevocably changed the living situation of Ceija, who was five years old at the time, and that of all Sinti and Roma. The extended families were deported from their settlements in Vienna, for example the Hellerwiese and the Wankog'stätten in the 10th district of Vienna, and their homes were destroyed after the deportation.

After Stojka's father was murdered in the Dachau concentration camp, the rest of the family was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. In 1944, Ceija was sent to Ravensbrück with her mother and sister, where she had to work in the sewing room. Shortly before the end of the war, all three were taken to Bergen-Belsen, where they were finally liberated on 15 April 1945. Of the extended family of about 200 people, only she, four sisters and her mother survived. With the liberation, Ceija Stojka returned to Vienna in 1945, where she lived until her death. In the following decades she worked as a market driver and carpet dealer before she came to the public as an author and painter in the late 1980s - when she was over 50 years old. In 1988, she wrote her first book, We Live in Hiding, and was one of the first to draw attention to the fate of her people in the concentration and extermination camps. In 1992, she followed this up with Reisende auf dieser Welt (Travellers in this World), her memoirs of her time in post-war Austria. In 1989, after a trip to Japan, she began to paint her first pictures.

As a survivor, she took it upon herself throughout her life to remember the fate of the Holocaust victims. With her writings and her art, she took on the important task of a reminder of the fact, still not anchored in the collective consciousness of the majority society, that the Roma were also victims of the Holocaust. In doing so, she broke a taboo and a wall of silence. But this also meant accepting again and again to be confronted with their traumatic memories. In her work, Stojka gave poignant visual expression to what Jews call the Shoa and Roma call Porajmos, or "the devouring", thus breaking a silence that still prevails. In expressive oil paintings, watercolours and some rather fleeting sketches, she gave the indescribable a convincing form, overcoming to a small extent what she had suffered through a drastic and almost childlike-immediate representation that makes the perversion of the perpetrators and the incomprehensibility of what had happened abundantly clear. Her working method was very direct. She often applied the paint with her bare hands to canvas, paper or plain cardboard. These paintings are often accompanied by short commentary texts.

On the so-called "good days", she used powerful brushstrokes and bright colours to give a cheerful insight into the pre-war world of Lovara Roma that was familiar to her. These are "other" paintings, full of colour, carried by an atmosphere of affection and filled with a specific wind. One sees Roma carriages, places where her family used to stop, and above all nature. These paintings are like a step out of the darkness, and they show a painter whose works seem like an assurance of her existence and of a world beyond the nightmare she has experienced. Even if the old Roma carriages of the Stojka family may not correspond to the reality of life of today's Roma, their image becomes a symbol of resistance against the dispossession of a culture and traditional way of life. While some naïve painters do not succeed in depicting the closeness to nature of their people in a truly credible way, clarity and a downright natural wind emanate from these pictures. Stojka takes with her bare hands and her colour palette what seemed to have been snatched from her forever in her youth.

Ceija Stojka died in Vienna on 28 January 2013, four months before her 80th birthday. Her work, her art and her irreplaceable, loving personality must never be forgotten.


Ceija Stojka . Solo and group exhibitions (selection)

Ceija Stojka: We Were Ashamed, ERIAC, Berlin, DE
2022 – 2023
Manifesta Prishtina 2022, collective exhibition "ALL THAT WE HAVE IN COMMON", organised by Museum of Contemporary Art Skopje
Biennale Matter of Art, collective exhibition, Prague, CZ
Documenta 15 Kassel, invited artists in cooperation with Foundation Kai Dikhas Berlin, DE
ART BASEL, Feature Hall 2.0
"La Memoria Invicta" at Factoria Cultural Sevilla, ES
Ceija Stojka, exhibition at the MU.SA – Sintra Museum of Arts within the LEFFEST Film Festival, Sintra
Ceija Stojka, Ici, il n'y a pas de pourquoi, exhibition at the Gallery Christophe Gaillard, with support from the Forum Culturel Autrichien , Paris, FR
Ceija Stojka (1933-2013) National Museum Art Center Reina Sofia, Madrid, ES
Actually, the Dead Are Not Dead, Bergen Assembly, Bergen, Norway
Not the End. Artists interpret the Holocaust, Levande Historia, Stockholm, Sweden
Et même les mots ne suffisaient pas at the Christophe Gaillard Gallery, Paris, FR
Ein Leben danach, nach Auschwitz!, Galerie Kai Dikhas, Berlin, DE
WIR LEBEN IM VERBORGENEN, Heidelberger Kunstverein, Heidelberg, DE
Ceija Stojka. »… ich habe dir 1000 Bilder gemalt …« – Bezirksmuseum Neubau, Vienna, AT
SOGAR DER TOD HAT ANGST VOR AUSCHWITZ, Kunstverein Tiergarten & Schwartzsche Galerie, Berlin, DE
WIR SCHÄMTEN UNS, Gallery 8, Budapest, Ungarn
DIE HELLEN BILDER, Galerie Kai Dikhas, Berlin, DE
Galerie Schwartzsche Villa, Kulturamt Steglitz-Zehlendorf, Berlin | Ravensbrück Women’s
Ceija Stojka (1933–2013) Sogar der Tod hat Angst vor Auschwitz [Even Death is Terrified of Auschwitz] – Kunstverein Tiergarten, Galerie Nord, Berlin, DE
Ravensbrück Women’s Concentration Camp Memorial Site, Fürstenberg / Havel
Auschwitz-Requiem – French Institute, Budapest
ein romaleben in bildern – Amerlinghaus, Vienna
KZ-ALPTRÄUME – Schneidertempel, Istanbul
STOPPING PLACES II, Galerie Kai Dikhas, Berlin, DE
WIND.ERINNERUNGEN, Galerie Kai Dikhas, Berlin, DE
„Reconsidering Roma“, Kunstquartier Bethanien, Berlin
„LIVE-DANCE-PAINT: Works by Romani Artist Ceija Stojka“, Sonoma State University, Kaliformien; Pacific University, Oregon; West Branch Gallery, Vermont, USA
„Me dikhlem suno – Ich hatte einen Traum“, Lange Nacht der Kirchen, Wien, AT
„ceija stojka.leben", Jüdisches Museum Wien, AT
„Ich hab` Angst, Auschwitz könnte nur schlafen“, Stadtgalerie Kiel, DE
1996 – 1997
Images and Texts - Ravensbrück Women's Concentration Camp Memorial Site / Stiftung Brandenburgische Gedenkstätten, Fürstenberg
Travellers in this World - Amerlinghaus, Vienna, AT
Pictures from the Life of a Romni - Amerlinghaus, Vienna, AT