Cultural extravaganza as Australia’s Pontians gather for Synapantema 2024

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International musicians and proud Pontians from around Australia gathered over the weekend in Wollongong, New South Wales to participate in Synapantema 2024.

The Pontian Synapantema is organised by the Federation of Pontian Associations of Australia, which is made up of seven member associations including Pontoxeniteas NSW, Panagia Soumela Sydney, Greek Pontian Society of Wollongong “Diogenes,” Pontian Club Canberra, Akritis tou Pontou, Pontic Foundation of Panagia Soumela of Australia, and the Pontian Brotherhood of South Australia.

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All photos Facebook.
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Synapantema has become a highly anticipated event in the Greek Australian community since its first event in 2004, showcasing the best of Pontian culture, food, language, music, and above all its enlivening and energetic dances.

This year’s event began with a welcome Parakath on Friday, March 1, featuring youth musicians from all over Australia and 200 Pontians.

On Saturday, March 2, there was also a dance and music workshop in the morning, involving over 100 performers and musicians culminating in a phenomenal showcase.

Later on Saturday night, more than 420 Pontians from across Australia enjoyed a Dinner Dance at the Fraternity Club in Fairy Meadow.

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There were also a number of special guests including the Parish Priest St Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Wollongong, Father Anastasios Bozikis; First Secretary for Public Diplomacy at the Consulate of Greece in Sydney, Anastasia Christofilopoulou; President of the Hellenic Lyceum Sydney, Liana Vertzayias; and President of the Pan Macedonian Association of NSW, Anastasia Karakominakis; as well as various Presidents and Committee Members of Pontian organisations around Australia.

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Emcee Anastasia Tavlaridis guided the official proceedings, asking a number of people to the stage to speak including Ms Christofilopoulou and the President of the Federation of Pontian Associations of Australia, Esta Paschalidis-Chilas.

Ms Paschalidis-Chilas presented awards on behalf of the Federation to people who have extended, supported and advanced the Pontian cause, culture and history in their own way. The award recipients were:

  • Mithridates Award for Lifetime Achievement: Nick Chrissostomidis
  • Ktenidis Award for Significant Cultural Contribution: Stefanos Eleftheriadis
  • Ktenidis Award for Significant Cultural Contribution: Arthur Natsikas
  • Euclidis Award: Angela Triantafilou
  • Ipsilandis Award for Contribution to Pontic Hellenism in the field of Academia: Costa Vertzayias.
  • Diogenes Award: Theodoros Kotidis and Kostantinos Zois
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Costa Vertzayias.

On the night, there was also one of the largest dance performances in Australia with 90 students across Australia from five Pontian dance groups united in one circle to perform a spectacular show.

Esteemed musicians from Greece, Thodoros Kotidis (lirari virtuoso) and Kostas Zois (drummer) brought rhythmic prowess to the Synapantema festivities.

Kostas told The Greek Herald that whilst his journey to Australia was long, seeing the Pontian community come together made him feel as if he had reconnected with long-lost relatives.

“The Pontian community’s thirst for the homeland and its musical tradition surpasses any precedent. Babies, young people, middle-aged and old people all together, embracing the rhythms and melodies of the homeland, with wet eyes and elevated hearts,” he said.

Thodoros added that he was impressed with the flawless organisation of the event, and the “ultimate family environment” it provided.

“I had mixed feelings… awe, deep emotion, warmth for the people, but also optimism for the continuity of our Pontic cultural heritage, since it is in the best hands!” Thodoros said.

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The final day of Synapantema on Sunday was a casual picnic where attendees reflected on the weekend and their beautiful memories.

In a statement to The Greek Herald, Ms Paschalidis-Chilas said as this year marks 35 years since the founding of the Federation in Australia, Synapantema 2024 shows the Pontian community is going “from strength to strength.”

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“What we brought together on the weekend was led entirely by volunteers. In that – we see strength, resilience and commitment to our Pontian Hellenic culture here in Australia,” the Federation President said.

“We had children and young people actively leading and participating who are many generations away from our Pontian ancestors. What’s most important to all of us at the Federation – is they participate with love of their culture. It isn’t something we need to force.

“Our member Associations are to be warmly congratulated for all the hard work they do in Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney. Their vision and work locally brings all of this together.”

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