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A media campaign to combat prejudice against the Roma.

The Tolerance Project is a media campaign which aims primarily to stimulate a public debate on racial violence and discrimination in the Czech Republic against the Roma.

Since 1989, the position of Roma has gotten worse. Housing is bad. Educational policy has contributed to the fact that almost no Romani kids get any further than elementary school. Half of all orphans are Roma. The split of Czechoslovakia had dramatic consequences for many Roma. Many thousands of them are now stateless, because the government refuses to acknowledge them as Czech citizens. Neither country is in fact willing to accept them, and this lasting stalemate has led to distrust, fear and apathy among the Roma. In the last few years, at least 25 Roma have been killed by racially-motivated violence. The Czech press reports regularly of violent attacks by youth, often skinheads. These violent attacks are not wholeheartedly condemned, and even sometimes tolerated by many Czechs. Anti-Roma prejudices are widespread and the marginal socio-economic status of many Roma only further enhances persisting cliches.

This campaign has been organised by the Dutch photographer Juul Hondius. In 1994 he came to the Czech Republic to study at FAMU and work as a photographer. During this period he decided to undertake action against the preference to ignore the Roma. Juul Hondius decided to fight this ignorance by making Roma visible on the streets of Prague.

With the help of many people - interpreters and local contact persons - he travelled through various Czech cities to make a number of photo portraits of Roma. Young and old, and rich and poor, trying to show all existing variations in the social status of Roma. While making these photographs, he tried to avoid showing the actual circumstances of their reality today, which should not be confused with the romantic stereotypes of the wandering happy gypsy tramps.

From the many portraits he made, he selected 4 of them and added thought-provoking texts to them. These poster designs were blown up to very large sizes; 160x220 cm and even up to 450x550cm. Now, the posters are finally covering the walls of the city of Prague.

The posters will be photographed again before they are taken down, in order to document any positive or negative reactions to this campaign. Connected to this campaign is a web site on the Internet, where visitors are able to comment on the campaign. More detailed information about the situation of Roma is also linked to the web site.

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