Mar 28, 2012

Lessons from the Greek Crisis 2

Lilika Nakou/Nakos, novelist, writes in Land of Boeotia (1967): "Our people has greatly suffered. You can even see it in the vocabulary: When we refer to making love, we say 'to tear our eyes out'. When we refer to eating, we say 'to get ourselves poisoned'. And when we refer to sleeping, we say 'playing dead'... "


How many words can contain the despair that people, young and old, poor and less poor, are reduced to through no personal fault nowadays? How can language contain rage?

Mar 24, 2012

Greek Black: Powerful Symbol, Impeccable Style

"When I finished primary school in Distomo I had to go to the Gymnasium in Livadeia. At the time, traveling by bus from Distomo to Livadeia was too long and lasted three hours. When my father and I got off the bus in the morning, I saw 10 girls in colorful skirts. I asked him: '' Why do the girls wear such colors, father?" I had hitherto never seen a woman or a girl NOT wearing black in Distomo, because of the Holocaust in 1944" recalls Thanasis Panourgias, Distomo's mayor today, then only a young child.

The testimony reflects the nightmare of the Holocaust June 10, 1944 in Distomo, where 223 people -including elders, women and children- were massacred by the fourth Constitution of Police SS in retaliation for the losses the Germans had by partisans of the 3rd Constitution of the 34th battalion of ELAS (National Lberation Front).

old lady in Crete

Black was (and still is) synonymous with mourning in Greece. For a very long time, there was always someone in the family mourning for the loss of other members; be it from famine, or war, or hostile acts related losses (the Civil War, the Turkish invasion of Cyprus) ; or some of these combined. The longest time of continuous peace in Greece has been a mere 48 years (since 1974). This is why there are so many little old ladies clad in black attire, all wrinkled up in folklore pictures circulating all over the net; they still mourn family members lost in Nazi atrocities  most  likely.

Manos Katrakis

The tradition in villages was that if you lost your parents it was customary to wear black for at least 40 days (though many opted for a lot longer); if you lost a spouse, habitually for 7 years (or as long as you considered yourself a widow after that); and if you lost a never got out of black, you wore it for life....

papa-Noufrakis (the priest head of Orthodox Mass at the St.Sophia in 1919 in Istanbul)

Black is also the colour of choice for the clergy. From head to toe. Solemn and in accordance to the suffering of the grieving parish. Every parish had their own grievers, you see. 

Cretan attire

Mourning sometimes gets to an almost nationalistic level. The classic Cretan attire is consisting of black shirt (morning for the losses in the Cretan war against the Turks), beige or midnight blue jodhpurs ("vraka", a classic rider's pair of pants), black boots and a black crocheted handrkerchief tied on the forehead (the "sariki"). The tassels on the latter are representing tears for the Greek holocaust at Arcadi monastery.
[I have to say, despite myself, I find the effect very virile-looking.]

Black looks exceptionally good under the intense sun, against the white houses and the blue sea (as does white) or the grey of the rock. This is probably why it ended up defining Greek style. All the other colours gain an added intensity under the sun, sometimes to the point of blinding. You just can't go wrong with black.

Elli Lambeti in A Girl in Black (1956)
dance performance En Attendant
dress by Elena Troulakis
Dress by Elena Troulakis

photos via,,,,,

Mar 23, 2012

This is Greece

It had to come to this: Someone needed to organise a positive campaign, rebranding Greece not as the den of political corruption (which it can be, sure), but as a cradle of working, enterprising, friendly people who put their minds where their heart is and never forget that they're first and foremost "of Greek education", a humanist one that encompasses anyone who is willing to partake in it*. This is Magic. This is Greece.

People (Greeks mainly) like to complain that we should change from the inside before even thinking about the outside, about mere appearences (about how the country looks to foreigners visiting, maybe?) Yes, there's certainly a point there. But an organic change isn't possible without really looking the part. Think about it. If you have a bad habit, like gnawing your nails or constantly picking your nose in public and everyone looks at you doing it, are you likely to cut out the bad habit? It becomes part of who you are. The outside becomes the inside and gets incorporated into your being; it ends up defining you! Conversely think how picking the brightest garment in the wardrobe sometimes uplifts our mood when that is as flat as the floor.

If you try to stop looking like that, though, if you restrain yourself, if you consciously make an effort to look good, if only for the times when someone is looking at you or for a set time you decide to set, you tend to pick up the good habit and extend it from the public domain to the private one; from the outside to the inside. And you bring on change. Organic change. Just in a different way that only looks superficial at the very start... This is indeed the very start on the path to greater things, mark my words.

Images are powerful things. They travel with lightening speed and influence our brain instantly.  Let's use images to bring on that change from the outside to the inside in ourselves. Let's re-invent ourselves by remembering what good qualities we always had but we have forgotten; not the folklore we exported so much, but the true spirit we had in our souls. Let's start today! Let's indulge in the magic.

Read Stephen's article on the Elgin Marbles

More to discover: This is Greece 

*“So far has Athens left the rest of mankind behind in thought and expression that her pupils have become the teachers of the world, and she has made the name of Hellas distinctive no longer of race but of intellect, and the title of Hellene a badge of education rather than of common descent.”~Isocrates, Panergyricus, 50, circa 380 BC (J. A. Freese Translation)

Mar 21, 2012

Lessons from the Greek Crisis 1


Sounds superficial and Coelho-like in its simplistic, humanist message, but spring will always come in the end. The sun always rises from the east. There's hope where people bask under the sun.
Imagine if this were the UK.

Mar 17, 2012

Folli Follie: the Crazy for Greece campaign

Folli Follie is a Greek fashion company of jewelry, handbags and petit maroquinerie with boutiques and corners all over the world (of which 100 in Japan and China alone). Their style has always been about good craftmanship on 925 silver and 14K gold or gold-plated pieces and quality leathers producing pieces that are cute, make a statement and adapt easily to busy working lives.

This spring they're campaigning with a back home message, choosing to shoot their campaign at Spetses island, off the Saronic coast south of Athens. The star of the campaign is Vietnamese-Chinese actress and model Gaile Lai, in three incarnations (rock, trendy, classy), getting caressed by the soft, warm sun of the Mediterranean.

Let it be...even that way is better than aping foreign "paradises" and setting the scene for consumerism that profits international conglomerates. At least I know who owns and who controls this brand.

Mar 14, 2012

Domna Samiou: The Keeper of Greek Folk Tradition Is Singing with the Angels

In Domna Samiou a modern Homer lived: taking a rich, oral tradition and compiling decade after decade, century after century of culture into an opus of incomparable magnitude.

Domna Samiou was born by Greek parents, refugees from Asia Minor. And it was her cultural background, steeped in traditional and at the same time cosmopolitan music from the region of Smyrni/Ismir, which prompted her to later immerse herself in music: byzantine music, the mother load of all folk music in the Eastern Mediterranean, through to Greek folk music and the music of magna Grecia. She travelled the lengths and breadths of Greece, from the high mountains of Rodopi and Pindos to the lowlands of Thessaly down to Crete and the islands, always carrying a small recorder and seeking the elders: the keepers of the great oral tradition ever since the Homeric times...

She died at 84, active and joyous to the end. May the earth that lies above you be light, oh Grecian one.

Folk song Tzivaeri, the mother's lament of migration

Cretan song "The Sound of the Chains" (As heavy as the irons hang, so will the black clothes)

Thracian folk song "If I were a bird to fly" (to go abroad and see my beloved again)

Note how similar the tenuta, the harmonies and the solemnity of the voice performance is with byzantine ecclesiastical hymns.

Song Black Sea, modern orchestration & additional lyrics mixed with a Thracian folk dance song) by D.Savvopoulos

"Φταίνε τα τραγούδια του, φταίει κι ο λυράρης
μα φταίει κι ο ίδιος του ο λαός γιατί 'ναι μαραζιάρης
Μαύρη θάλασσα κλειστή, μακρινές μου πεδιάδες
πίσω από τις συμπληγάδες"

The songs are to blame, the lyra player too.
But it's its people to blame most because they like lamenting to.
Black sea, closed, faraway lowlands
behind the Symbligades*.

*translation by me

Mar 5, 2012

Liberation: "Greece, the Cradle of a New World"

From an article in the French paper Liberation (appearing on this link in the original French). Translation from the French my own, links by me.


"No, although dramatic, what is happening in Greece is not a disaster. It can even be an opportunity. For the power of money has, for the first time, briskly exceeded the -until then- gradual, meticulous and carefully organized destruction of the public good and of human dignity. And that has happened in a land as famous for its philosophy of life -diametrically opposed to the Anglo-Saxon model- as for its relentless resistance to multiple oppressions that have tried to bring it to heel. The Greek does not dance and will never dance to goose-stepping, nor will he bend his spine down, regardless of the regimes imposed on him. He dances with his arms raised up, as if to fly towards the stars. He writes on the walls that which he wishes to read elsewhere. He burns a bank when that bank leaves him unable to afford even his traditional grill. The Greek is as much alive as the ideology that threatens him is leathal. And the Greek, even beaten to pulp, always rises in the end.

Yes, European finances wanted to make an example out of the Greek. But in their surliness to hit the country which seemed the weakest link in the euro-zone, in their excessive violence, their mask fell off. It is now more than ever, the time to point to all their true face: that of totalitarianism. For it is indeed that. And there is only one answer to totalitarianism: the fight, tough and uncompromising, until the point of armed combat, if necessary, since its very existence is at stake. We have a world, a life of values ​​to defend. Everywhere in the streets, they are our brothers, our sisters, our children, our parents who are hit before our eyes, even distant. We are hungry, cold, in pain alongside them. All the hits they have received are also likely hurting us too. Each Greek child who faints in their schoolyard calls us to indignation and revolt. For the Greeks, it is time to say no, and, for all of us to support them.

Because Greece is now leading the fight against financial totalitarianism, which is destroying the public property, threatening daily survival, spreading despair, fear and the cretinisation of a war of all against all, everywhere in the world.

Beyond an emotionally-driven anger, which lets off steam by destroying symbols of oppression, a lucid anger rises, that of resistance fighters who refuse to be dispossessed of their own lives for the benefit of the bank mafia and their logic of "mad money". With the direct democracy assemblies, the civil disobedience movement "I don't not pay (any more)" and the first experiences of self-regulation, a new Greece is emerging, which rejects the tyranny market on behalf of humans.
We do not know how long it will take for people to overcome their voluntary servitude, but it is certain that, faced with the ridicule of political cronyism in these corrupt democracies and the grotesque cynicism of the state-bankster, we will have a choice - against any profiteering - to manage our affairs ourselves.

Greece is our past. It is also our future. Let's reinvent it! In 2012, let's all be Greeks!"

Mar 3, 2012

This is the Greece we Love

Created by Kostas Golemis and Fotis Traganoudakis.
Music by Tania Giannouli (featuring lyra, cello, flute)