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Proud Greeks > Lessons from a journey May 27, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News, Greek Diaspora.
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The unveiling of a statue of the Leichoudis brothers in Moscow next week shows the depth of Greek-Russian ties and, at the same time, the incredible wealth and shared values deriving from our common European history. This shows the dynamism of overseas Greeks, the power of the spirit and cultural exchange.

The fiery islanders of Cephalonia in the 17th century are themselves links in a long chain of Greek scholars and merchants who left their mark in Venice, Padua, Trieste, Vienna, Moscow the trans-Danubian countries and the Black Sea.

From Theofanis the Greek and the Leichoudis brothers to Iosipos Moisiodakas, Dimitrios Katartzis and Adamantios Korais, the older Greeks, who might not have had a state but still had a sense of nationhood, show us the path in survival and progress: foresight, mobility, reciprocity, exchange and education. That’s the lesson from the journey of the Leichoudis brothers.

Greek tradition of “Anastenarides” May 27, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Culture Heritage.
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Fire, walk with me > red-hot religious fervour endures in Northern Greece

anastenarides.jpg  A select group of faithful known as “Anastenarides” launch into a trance-like preparatory dance before walking on hot coal during a religious ritual ceremony in the northern Greek town of Lagadas on 21 May 2007, to mark the feast of Saint Constantine and Saint Helen. The ritual, practiced in northern Greece for centuries in honour of a Roman emperor who embraced Christianity, mixes Orthodox rites with pagan traditions.

As night falls on the small town of Langadas, a dozen men and women prepare for a centuries-old ritual that combines Orthodox Christian rites with paganism and is literally a trial of faith by fire. Known as “Anastenarides” they mark the May 21 feast of St Constantine and Helen, one of the most important religious feasts in Greece in honour of the Roman Emperor who embraced Christianity, by walking on red-hot coals.

“I’ve been fire-walking for 30 years and it doesn’t hurt a bit … because God is at our side,” says Georgia Hatzibouzini, an elderly lady who was putting her shoes back on after tredding on the burning embers.

Most of the Anastenarides are descended from Greek families forced to leave their homes in eastern Thrace following the Balkan Wars, the early 20th-century conflict that drastically redivided the borders of Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey.

Preparations for the ritual start a day ahead: icons, embroidered cloths, small votive offerings attached to red scarves, and heirlooms precious to each family are placed before the icon stand in the main chamber of the hall used in the ceremony, the “konaki”.

Musicians take their place to sing folk songs about the warrior exploits and bravery of Byzantine heroes. And after a final prayer and with icons sometimes clutched in hand, the Anastenarides launch into a trance-like preparatory dance.

On the morning of May 21, a nine-month calf and three small lambs are slaughtered in the house courtyard for the evening dinner, which is served late at night, after the fire dance that marks the ceremony’s culmination.

This year, spring thunderstorms meant the coals could not be lit until midnight. Even then, the embers quickly turned into gray ash and the dance barely lasted 30 minutes. But the faithful were not overly distressed. The ritual lasts three days, and the fire dance was to have been repeated on Wednesday night. Theories on the ceremony’s origins vary.

“Nobody can explain the true origins of this tradition into which we were initiated by our families,” says one of the organisers, George Melikis, a 40-year ritual veteran who trod on his first coals at the age of 12.

Some believe the tradition dates from the 12th century AD, when a Greek church in a Bulgarian village was set on fire and the faithful walked into the flames to rescue the icons. Others say it harks back to antiquity.

“This ceremony has very ancient roots. It dates from a time when people worshipped the sun and fire,” says ethnologist Miranda Terzopoulou. “I see a purifying sense in it … an internal force to master fire, which is a pagan element,” adds Terzopoulou, herself initiated into the fire-walking rite over past years along with dozens of new adepts.

Not surprisingly, Greece’s powerful Orthodox Church that frowns on all vestiges of paganism says fire-walking is “heretical,” and Orthodox priests are rarely seen during the ritual. “The Church says that we have the Devil inside us,” says Melikis.

Kertesz and video art at the Cycladic Museum May 27, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Greece, Arts Museums.
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The work of distinguished Hungarian photographer Andre Kertesz (1894-1985), known as the pioneer of photojournalism and the teacher of Henri-Cartier Bresson, will be spotlighted as part of a retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Cycladic Art on June 14 to August 18.

Arranged by curator Vangelis Ioakimidis in six sections, Distortions being one, Kertesz’s retrospective, which is entitled Mirror of a Life, is organised by the Jeu de Paume in collaboration with the Thessaloniki Photography Museum.

Kertesz, the photographer of portraits and daily scenes as well as the creator of the famous Distortions series, also took shots of prominent personalities of his time, including the author Colette, film producer Sergei Eisenstein and painters Mondrian and Chagall.

Apart from Kertesz’s show, the Museum will host an international video art exhibition from June 4 to September 29. A group show, Her (his) story focuses on sociocultural issues, such as the place of men and women in contemporary society, as well as the artist’s role in today’s world. Aiming at encouraging viewers to reflect on history’s subjective dimension, participating artists, including Gary Hill, Douglas Gordon, Paul Chan, Tony Oursler and Miltos Manetas, have adopted an abstract narrative delivered in the first person by the ‘heroes’ of their mainly anthropocentric videos.

Jean Cocteau events in Greece May 27, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Greece, Arts Museums.
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The new wing of the Benaki Museum on Pireos Street in Athens, has organised a series of events to run parallel to the exhibition Jean Cocteau in Greece.

The Cocteau agenda includes screenings of the French author/filmmaker’s films Orpheus, on May 23, 9pm at the French Institute and Testament of Orpheus on May 30, 9pm at the French Institute with Greek subtitles. A lecture by author and film producer Carole Weisweiller entitled I Used to Call Him Mr Cocteau on May 21, 7.30pm at the French Institute, Yannis Kontaxopoulos’ lecture The Secret of Jean Cocteau’s Greece on May 22, 7pm at the New Benaki Museum, and the theatre production Human Voices on May 29-30 and June 5-6, 9pm at the New Benaki Museum, directed by Stamatis Fassoulis and featuring Pemy Zouni and Yannos Perlegas in the lead roles.

Admission to all events is free, with the exception of film screenings which cost 5 euros and for students 3 euros.

Modern dance in Limassol, Cyprus May 27, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Festivals, Ballet Dance Opera.
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Choreographer Artemis Ignatiou’s Cold Water Traces will represent Greece at the 10th European Dance Festival, to take place in Limassol, Cyprus, at the Rialto Theatre on June 13.

The 50-minute choreography, which has already been featured in Stuttgart, Germany’s 10th International Dance Festival in March 2006, and at the Athens Concert Hall or if you prefer, the Megaron Mousikis in Greek, 2nd Contemporary Dance Platform, explores man’s course in life in relation to time and memory.

Swedish-Cyprus digs May 27, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Cyprus, Arts Museums.
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A touring archaeological exhibition by the Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities (Medelhavsmuseet) in Stockholm is being hosted at the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia through to July 22.

The show, which was previously shown in Bucharest, Romania, in 2005 and Alicante, Spain (2006), features select finds from extensive excavations conducted on the island of Cyprus by a Swedish team of archaeologists between 1927 and 1931. Archival material, photographs and films that document the Swedes’ stay in Cyprus are also on display.

“Medelhavsmuseet in Stockholm and the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia have been in close cooperation concerning the Cyprus collections” points out Medelhavsmuseet Director Sanne Houby-Nielsen. “We are, therefore, pleased to show select objects from the collections of the Medelhavsmuseet at the Cyprus Museum, where the other half of the finds from the expedition are on display.”

The 54th Acropolis Rally, Greece soon to take place May 27, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Racing & Motors.
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A gathering of 72 contenders at the 54th Acropolis Rally in Greece

After their passage through Sardinia, the drivers of the World Rally Championship will meet once again for another difficult Mediterranean event, the Acropolis Rally of Greece.

The rally will take place from Thursday 31 May to Sunday 3 June. It will be the 8th event of the season, the fifth consecutive meeting to be held on a gravel surface, and will mark the mid-season point.

72 crews have forwarded their entry forms for the 2007 edition, including the three teams competing in Constructors Championship 1: Ford World Rally Team, Citroën Sport and Subaru World Rally Team. The three Constructors Championship 2 teams will be Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team, OMV Kronos Citroën WRT and Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team. Cars entered in the Production World Rally Championship will also be participating.