“Today discrimination, racism, and populism are on the rise again. Throughout Europe they undermine democracy and threaten the foundation of common European values. Minorities are among the first to experience the violation of human rights. Election campaigns are one sign of this development. Following the experience of the Holocaust, which meant the destruction of half a million Sinti and Roma and six million Jews, it has to fill us with great concern to see a European prime minister selectively using prejudices at the expense of minorities, like Berlusconi did in his election speech in Milan in May 2011, saying that under a left-wing government Milan would become an ‘Islamic city full of gypsies and Roma camps and besieged by foreigners.’ Against this background it is most important that minorities raise their voice like the Sinti and Roma have at the Venice Biennale. For this I want to thank our artists and encourage them to never give up."
– Romani Rose, Chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, Heidelberg
“In the context of the Venice Biennale, the Roma Pavilion is a disruptive proposal. It tackles the paradox of a minority ethnic group lacking a nation, which lives within that sort of Leviathan that is the European Union. More than bringing visibility to Roma identity and culture, the main achievement of this initiative is to contribute to Roma’s cultural agency within globalized western institutions.”
– Gerardo Mosquera, curator, Havana
“Particularly in turbulent times of anti-Romani actions across Europe, by giving recognition and a voice to Roma artists through their art, the project Call the Witness at the Venice Biennale 2011 is in keeping with the values of equality and dignity for all, values we should all uphold as Europeans. Call the Witness proves that Roma art is part of the cultural heritage we all share. Still, challenges remain when it comes to treating Roma people as equal citizens, not as “second-class” citizens in our societies. For the Roma people, Europe signifies the hope that embracing cultural differences might begin to change a pattern of centuries of injustice, suppression of the Roma identity, and a loss of cultural heritage, allowing us to live in dignity. It is crucial to motivate young Roma, to express and give continuity to our identity and history, just as our ancestors succeeded in maintaining our language and keeping our heritage alive against all odds.”
– Magda Matache, Executive Director, Romani CRISS – Roma Centre for Social Interventions and Studies, Bucharest
“Ithoroughly applaud the organizers of this year’s Roma Pavilion Call the Witness project for their bringing the reality of the Roma to the world. Speaking out, with our art and our music as well as with our voices, is our strongest weapon against the hostility and misunderstanding we as a people face today.”
– Prof. Dr. Ian F. Hancock, Director, The Romani Archives and Documentation Center and State Commissioner, Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission, Austin
“The significance of Roma contributions to music and dance is well known. This exhibit presents another dimension of Roma culture: the work of Roma visual artists. In addition to attracting well-deserved attention to their contributions to the arts, our hope is that the exhibit will help to counteract stereotypes of Roma that are a factor in the surge of xenophobia and racism manifest recently in several countries of Europe.”
– Aryeh Neier, President Open Society Foundations, New York
"I have met many Roma artists, who have contributed greatly to the richness of our European culture. Roma communities have been living in Europe for more than 700 years, contributing to the rich fabric of our lives. The European Union is built on fundamental rights and values, and in the respect for cultural and linguistic diversity. Our European values also include the protection of people belonging to minorities and the prohibition of all forms of discrimination. Supporting the inclusion of Roma in Europe is for everyone's benefit."
– Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission, Brussels
“With this great initiative—the Roma Pavilion at the Venice Biennale—what was largely invisible becomes visible, and a whole side of European history becomes understandable. It is vital for the future of Europe, which cannot be built on exclusions. Officially it presents itself as a space for the realization of democratic rights, and the common happiness of its peoples. Practically it will win legitimacy in the minds and hearts of its citizens only if it amounts to an advance towards more democratic institutions, and a culture with more solidarity, not less. In this respect, the persecution of Roma in Europe is not a problem for each country separately; it is a ‘common’ and a ‘communitarian’ problem. By addressing it as such, Europeans will not only eliminate a source of internal conflicts and violence that could become unbearable, they will construct their common citizenship. And, by claiming their rights, raising their voice from the cultural to the civic level, finding the institutional interlocutors and popular allies they need, Roma from all over Europe will win an integration that concerns us collectively.”
– Étienne Balibar, philosopher, Paris