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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 21 October 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 21 OCTOBER 2017 23 EXHIBITION Epirus, Greece. PHOTO: THE LONELY TRAVELER/ MIRELA FELICIA CATALINOIU a predisposition for pluralism. These days, social media facilitates us wearing our hearts on our sleeves, or on our Instagram, our Pinterest and all the other social media forms of which I am blissfully unaware owing to an innate inability not to understand what purports to be modern technology. At the time when the costumes on display were worn, and many of them were still being worn in Epirus, at least on feast days, at the time of Greek mass migration to Australia, what set one apart was bling. That bling was, in less words than a tweet, the entire articulation of a personality, including one's standing in one's family and community. An entire exposition of class Nineteenth century gold embroidered pirpiri from Epirus. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED pot became popular for a brief period here in the 80s and 90s, the jewellery display will feature almost identical wedding crowns for Christians and Muslims, distinguished only by extremely slight details such as the presence of a crescent moon and, amazingly, a votive reliquary with the undeniably Christian symbol of St George on the obverse, while on the reverse, paradoxically, or maybe not so, the Jewish Star of David appears, attesting to the presence of the vitally important Jewish community in Ioannina. Long before our arrival on these shores then, Greek women understood not only diversity, but also synchretism and the enriching experience of culture-sharing. This exhibition will argue that they packed their looms for the journey here, with relations can therefore be extrapolated from the costumes on display. From urban formal wear, with sumptuous silks and intricate brocades, styled in the latest Ottoman fashions in the capital, to rural formal wear, slightly heavier and rustic, but no less ornate, to urban streetwear for the more active woman, and there were few that were not, to rural streetwear, formidable, durable, uncompromising and ready for action, kind of like most of the Greek community actually, the exhibition aims to provide a snapshot of the cultural diversity existing in one of Greece's smallest and poorest regions. The costume of Konitsa displayed, worn by women who spoke Vlach, a Latin-based tongue, is a testament to that diversity. Of course, counterparts of the costumes on display were brought to Australia and adapted to Australian conditions in the 60s and 70s. I have heard of fashionable young migrants applying scissors and shears to brocade and embroidery; stories that will make the skin of even the most indifferent crawl. But then again, if it is deemed acceptable for Valentino's 2016 collection in which bodices that look almost identical to the Attic singounia are featured, it should be okay for us. Sadly I did not have the heart to seek to display the miniskirt made out of an ornate 19th century kaftan a particularly enterprising acquaintance of mine created in an act of unspeakable desecration during the late 60s. Yet this act itself is one of supreme acculturation. In keeping with our narrative of globalisation, a large portion of the silver works made in Ioannina, traditionally the silversmithing capital of Greece, are now made in Taiwan. Nonetheless what will be displayed at the exhibition, are not the dinosaur bones of that tradition nor its ossification, but, again, the warp and the weft of an aesthetic tradition that thrives today, within Melbourne, as can be discerned by a cursory visit to some of the jewellery shops in Oakleigh. Many of the pieces on display lent their wearer immense dignity, and a distinctive gait, a method of deportment which is common among many of the older ladies among the first generation Greek migrants, no matter their stature, who tended to walk in a particularly erect, and proud manner. Their deportment was conditioned by generations of wearing of items such as those on display. Caroline Crummer, the first Greek woman to arrive in Australia in 1835 from Ioannina, to whose memory the exhibition is dedicated, wore such pieces during the formative years of the creation of Australia. To point to artefacts of whatever nature, and to expect that they symbolise or encapsulate the breadth of any human experience is a task fraught with danger. This exhibition merely hopes to draw attention to the complexities and also the commonalities of that experience within the Victorian multicultural context. 'From Epirus to the Antipodes: Multicultural Foundations through Artefacts' will be launched at Parliament House, Spring St, Melbourne by Dean Kalimniou on Tuesday 31 October at 6.30 pm. The exhibition runs from Tuesday 31 October - Thursday 2 November.
14 October 2017
28 October 2017