Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

'Exile,' 'Home', and 'Nostalgia' in Paintings and Poetry by the Romni Artist Ceija Stojka

Gesa Zinn.

In the literary imagination, ‘home’ functions as a tangible place and a liminal site, i.e., it can be a particular location or a state of mind. In my presentation, I am particularly interested in the latter, and I will analyze recent paintings and poetry by the Austrian gypsy writer, singer, painter and poet Ceija Stojka with a focus on’home’ as a state of mind. Stojka is a holocaust survivor and the first female Romni in the German-speaking world who describes Romni life in the concentration camps, who writes about the diaspora of her people and who discusses her life as a Romni during and after the Second World War. Her written testimonials (Wir Leben im Verborgenen and Reisende auf dieser Welt) are gaining wider recognition within ’German minority literature,’ but her paintings and poetry have yet to be discovered. I am thus focusing on these two art forms, which, I believe, are as vital for coming to an understanding of Stojka’s life as a gypsy in exile as her two books.
In my presentation I will explore her longing for a world that once was as well as her construction of a place that I define as a ”place that is not a place, and a place that is not a time.” I will argue that her longing for an ideal, harmonious past is a central aspect in her paintings. As a “lying nostalgia” it points to the impossibility of recovering through memory and painting/writing the “authentic” version of past experiences. Last but not least, I will show that ‘home’ and ‘nostalgia’ in Stojka’s work belong to her desire to recuperate, repair, and return. As such her paintings and her poetry are part of a genre that some have called ‘exile writing.’ The feminist Amy Kaminsky, for instance, describes an ‘exiled person’ as one that is no longer in the place departed, but not a part of a new place either. I will show that Stojka lives within this ‘borderland,’ which I see as having very much in common with what the cultural critic Edward Said’s terms ‘intellectual exile.’


Gesa Zinn  (United States)
Assistant Professor of German Studies
Foreign Languages
University of Minnesota Duluth

Gesa Zinn, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of German Studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Her research interests include German-speaking women filmmakers, “minority literature”, and pedagogy. She has published articles on Helke Sander, Zafer Senocak, and on the teaching about minorities. She is currently working on editing a book with the title “Voices from the Margins: Female Exiles in 20th and 21st Century Europe.

  • Memory
  • Holocaust
  • Roma (Gypsy) Artist
  • Exile
  • Home
  • Nostalgia
Person as Subject
  • Stojka, Ceija

(Virtual Presentation, English)