Finalists announced for the 1st Greek Youth Creative Arts Competition 2024

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The Greek Festival of Sydney has exclusively announced to The Greek Herald the finalists of its ‘1st Greek Youth Creative Arts Competition.’

The theme of the inaugural competition was “Greece within me” and it was broken into three creative categories – art, writing and music – for three youth groups: 12 – 15 years, 16 – 18 years and 19 – 24 years of age.

Here are some of the finalists and a little bit about themselves:

Writing category / 16-18 age group

  • Andrew Caramanis
ANDREW CARAMANIS
Andrew Caramanis.

I am a 16-year-old student from St. Aloysius’ College, currently in Year 11. I am deeply passionate about studying the Greek language and feel fortunate to be enrolled in Modern Greek Continuers at NSW School of Languages, where I am supported by excellent teachers. In my spare time, I engage in various co-curricular activities such as Public Speaking, Football, Swimming, Waterpolo, Athletics, Charity work and Leadership roles at school. Spending quality time with my family and friends on the weekend is something I truly cherish.

I entered the competition to express my profound love for Greece in a creative manner. Greece’s history, landscapes, culture, and people hold a special place in my heart. Through this endeavour, I aim to pay homage to the country that has deeply inspired me. Participating in the competition also gave me an opportunity for personal growth and skill development, beyond merely seeking recognition.

I composed a short story inspired by my profound love for Greece, along with images reflecting its beauty. Writing in Greek challenged me academically whilst also allowing me to express my affection for the language. Each word echoed my deep connection to Greece, from its breathtaking landscapes to its rich history. Sharing my story was a celebration of the country’s significance in my life.

  • Damascin Georges Cosgrove
Damascin Georges Cosgrove
Damascin Georges Cosgrove.

I was born in Sydney but spent most of my teens in the hinterland of Byron and Noosa. My family is Greek on both sides, and I always loved to listen to my grandmother’s stories about the village she grew up in near Epidauros.

I’ve always loved writing stories. My mother is a published author, so I grew up surrounded by books. I’ve written stories and poems since primary school, and this is the first time I’ve been inspired to enter into a competition – all the better as it’s run by Greeks!

My story ‘Singing the Past’ arises from my love for Greece, allowing a glimpse into a village where the past feels real and present, where ancient and modern history meld and generations struggle to understand each other. The story is fictional yet informed by my experiences in Greece, family stories and oral history.

Writing category / 19-24 age group

  • Caitlin Turner with her piece ‘A Language of the Heart’
caitlin turner
Caitlin Turner.

I’m 21 and a university student who just finished my Bachelor of Arts in History and am now studying for a Master’s in Information Studies. I love watching shows, reading, writing, and history, especially Greek and Australian history. 

I’ve always enjoyed attending Greek festivals and events with my Yiayia and Pappou. I also liked the idea of applying for a writing competition, so when I saw this new competition, I was excited to apply, and the idea of using the Greek language as ‘Greece within me’ came to me. 

I decided to use my struggle with learning Greek as I was told my English was too bad as a child (later dyslexic), and my parents were told not to send me to Greek school. But even without understanding it there was a feeling of familiarity within me when I heard it.

  • Emily Papagianopoulos with her piece ‘Olive Oil and Cloud Watching’
Emily Papagianopoulos
Emily Papagianopoulos.

My name is Emily and I’m 19. I’m currently a second-year university student at UTS studying Creative Writing and Political Sciences. I’m an avid booklover, appreciate anything with floral patterns on it, have always wanted to travel to Austria (Sound of Music is my favourite movie), and am an aspiring fiction editor. 

I was encouraged by my creative writing teacher to submit my story to the competition after he saw it advertised. The opportunity to connect with other Greek Australians through the creative arts is a unique experience and I am so grateful for the space this competition has given to allow it. 

‘Olive Oil and Cloud Watching’ is wholly inspired by the vibrance and warmth of my grandparent’s home. The sporadic use of Greek throughout the piece, looks to capture the bilingual experience so often had between 1st generational immigrants and their grandchildren. Much of my love for my Greek heritage and Orthodox Christian faith comes from their stories and the traditions they follow. My story looks to display this appreciation, in that a ‘place is a person.’

  • Jessica Wiseman-Best with her piece ‘Longing for Home’

I am currently completing my Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Creative Writing. I enjoy the freedom storytelling gives in conveying an array of experiences, such as the notion of diaspora and Greece being ‘within’ someone, like I attempted to do in ‘Longing for Home’.

I decided to participate in this competition as it finally gave me a chance to write something specific and heartfelt to an audience who will more or less feel moved by this semi-fictional experience: being a Greek Australian. After seeing the Instagram post about it, and later at the Greek festival, I knew it was something I wanted to partake in.

My creative piece was inspired by my mother’s experience as a first-generation Greek-born Australian. She has told me in length about how isolated she felt between two cultural worlds and how she wished to carve out some kind of in-between spot for herself to feel at home, whether it was a physical location or a feeling within her heart. Just like in the narrative, she too married a white-Australian who wasn’t able to comprehend her culture or nurture it. Instead, he attempted to squash it out, and remove it from the lives of their children – my sister and I. This story was a way to give another version of my mum a chance to make things right and find Greece within herself.

  • Christos Tatsis
Christos Tatsis
Christos Tatsis.

A few months ago, I finally completed my sixth year of study and graduated from university as a registered psychologist. I’m now taking a few months off to prioritise my family, friends and own mental clarity to ensure I’m on the right track when starting the next journey in life.

During my master’s degree, my grandmother Panagiota was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer – about a year has now passed since her death. Creating something for this competition allowed me to try express that experience in a medium that I am comfortable with – more so than just talking about it.

When my grandmother was in her 30s, her husband Christos also passed away from cancer. After his death, she wrote some poetry about her grief and published it in the local Greek paper, clippings of which she still owned. I thought perhaps I could honour her by doing something similar.  

Arts category / 12-15 age group

  • Claudia Divanis

I’m a student, living like countless others, yet having a passion for art deeply inspired by Greek culture and mythology. With a love for fine arts and classical aesthetics, I aim to capture the timeless beauty and symbolism of ancient Greek art in my work.

I chose to participate in the creative arts competition to commemorate and honour my Greek heritage through my artwork. I saw this as an opportunity to share my cultural pride while simultaneously showcasing the importance of familial influence in shaping identity and artistic expression.

My artwork portrays my yiayia, capturing her essence and the profound impact she has had on my Greek identity. Through intricate details, I depict her strength, wisdom, and culture, symbolising the resilience and richness of Greek culture she embodies. She inspired me to celebrate our heritage through art.

  • Krystal Preketes
Krystal Preketes
Krystal Preketes’ artwork.

My name is Krystal Preketes or in Greek, my name is Χριστινα. I am 15 years old, I am a second generation Greek Australian and I go to St Spyridon College and I am in Year 10.  

I decided to participate in the creative arts competition because I really enjoy making art as it has been a long time hobby of mine. Through my artwork I get to share my Greek heritage with others and how proud I am to call myself Greek.

My artwork is a portrait of my great-grandmother named Georgina from my father’s side. I decided to draw her for my school assessment as the topic we are doing in Visual Arts is ‘Our Ancestors’. I was given the task by my teacher to find the oldest picture I have of any of my family members and draw them inspired by the techniques that Verrnon Ah Kee incorporates in his drawings. I chose that specific portrait of her because through her expression you can see the hardships of her life that she had to overcome in the Peloponnese. 

  • Eva Tsonis

My name is Eva and I am currently in Year 10. My interests are debating, reading, visual arts and history. I am currently part of the Cretan Dancing Association of Sydney and NSW. I am also very proud of my Greek heritage which inspired me to create this sculpture.

I decided to participate in the Greek Youth Creative Arts Competition because I wanted to showcase my creativity, skills and love for my Greek heritage and culture. I also could connect to my roots, by creating this sculpture to highlight the Ancient Minoan and Greek style of art.

I was inspired to recreate an artwork to symbolise the connection between my cultural identity and decided to reflect this in modern day society through pottery. I chose an amphora shape to emphasise the style of Ancient Greek pottery. The three Minoan ladies represent my connection to my Cretan heritage, which is also a famous fresco from the Palace of Knossos in Crete.

  • Morpheus Bekirakis
Morpheus Bekirakis
Morpheus Bekirakis.

I was born in Athens, Greece. I am 15 years of age and am currently in Year 10. I’m also in the army cadets to service my community which support Christian values.

I wanted to participate in your creative arts competition to illuminate the increase of dementia in our community. My grandfather Leo Karagiannis passed away during Christmas 2023. He became ill with dementia and it took over his life, affecting all our lives. I want to remember the heroic journey of my grandpa, the marvellous experiences and entrepreneurship that has become a trademark of Hellenes in the era of the 50s and 60s. I want people to look at my photos and remember that your loved one with dementia is not giving you a hard time, but the dementia in your loved one is having a hard time.

  • Nicole Stratis
Nicole Stratis
Nicole Stratis’ artwork.

I am a Year 9 student. I am a generous, humorous, and sympathetic individual with a strong drive to achieve. My favourite subjects at school are Visual Arts and History along with my passions of tennis, writing, and personal development. In my free time, I appreciate spending time outdoors with my family, drawing, reading, cooking, and playing the clarinet.

I decided to participate in the creative arts competition, interested in learning more about my Greek heritage and language. It was an opportunity to contribute something about my Greek background as I believe we should be expressing just as much as our identity based in Australia. My mother showed me the competition application form which I promptly submitted.

This year’s theme was “Greece Within Me”. Despite not having visited Greece, my artwork (Australian Greece) depicts images that evoke emotions of the country. I intended to emphasise the ‘small Greece’ in Australia, via its cuisine, landscape, and people. My notion was inspired by my supposedly Greek experiences in Australia.

Arts category / 16-18 age group

  • Chris Roussos

I am a Sydney-based photographer, videographer and founder of Roussos Media, with a passion for preserving narratives through a lens. My journey as a visual storyteller is fuelled by a relentless pursuit of creativity and authenticity, as I aim to evoke emotion, provoke thought, and inspire action through my work. 

I chose to join the creative arts competition to present a cherished moment captured within the Greek community. Being a proud member of this vibrant culture, I am passionate about showcasing the beauty and essence of our heritage through my artistic endeavours.

In my photograph, Angelique Aifantis, a Greek dancer, flawlessly embodies the essence of “Greece Within Me.” Her graceful movements and captivating presence evoke Greece’s rich cultural heritage and vibrant spirit, as she transports viewers to a world of passion and beauty, perfectly encapsulating the essence of Greek identity.

  • Jacinda Papadopoulos

Currently in Year 11 at St Ursula’s College, Kingsgrove. I am 16 years old and love my Greek culture. I participate in Opacize with my godmother who is an instructor and also study Modern Greek. I enjoy attending musicals, concerts and love spending quality time with family and friends. 

Excited to participate in the creative arts competition because I am always up for a challenge and thought it would be important to showcase the generations of my family history. I am proud that my background is from a village near the majestic UNESCO World Heritage listed Meteora in Thessaly. 

My black and white artwork is of my paternal grandmother’s family. My great grandfather is holding my grandmother Voula who is around four years old, her two brothers either side of her with her mother and my great granduncle standing behind. This captures the importance of family even through poverty. 

  • Kosta Giitsidis
Kosta Giitsidis
Kosta Giitsidis.

I’m a second generation Australian-born Greek. I graduated from Fort Street High School last year and grew up around my grandparents who have influenced my life since the beginning. I enjoy swimming and the outdoors and taught myself how to draw and paint through school which I hope to turn into a career in the future. 

I decided to participate in the competition as I have always had a passion for Greece through my grandparents’ stories and traditions, as well as having visited family in Greece in 2019. Combined with my passion in creating art and connecting with my community and to make my family proud. 

Kosta Giitsidis
Kosta Giitsidis’ artwork.

‘FOR MY GRANDPARENTS’ (Painting Oil on tiles, door and tablecloth) – My artwork explores the intricacies of identity: the journey of life; the way emotional and cultural connections breach geographical distances; people’s small mannerisms. My work uses unconventional surfaces, such as my grandmother’s tablecloth, in which the essence of their personalities are expressed in simple practises such as cooking. I have represented my grandparents’ life in this country, but also my deep reverence and respect for them. Their love for each other and for family has created an enduring legacy for me here in Australia.

  • Mike Giannikouris

I graduated for The Scots College in 2023 and am now currently completing my first year of university. Art has aways been a passion of mine and something I often would enjoy doing in my spare time. My grandparents were born in Greece from the islands of Kalymnos, Samos and Lesvos. They have all experienced and gone through multiple challenges and hardships which is why I chose to demonstrate my love for both my family and art in my HSC major work. 

When I heard about the creative arts competition, I was happy to share my work and the stories of my grandparents with an even greater audience. I hope my art encourages people to embrace and explore their heritage, whilst also reminding us of our loved ones. 

“Ekeí pou eísai ímouna ki edó pou eímai tha ‘rtheis.” comprises a collection of large oil portraits depicting essential personal figures, grandparents. Painted solely with a palette knife, the free expressive form captures the raw emotion of each individual, whilst simultaneously maintaining a semi-realistic appearance. When looked at individually, the audience is able to explore the depth of each individual, and gain an understanding of the wisdom, challenges and sacrifices each figure endured. However, when displayed as a collective the piece takes full form. Individuals brought together through hardship and love to form a family, a community; brought together to form me.

Arts category / 19-24 age group

  • Alessandro Yannis Balaguer

Like my mother, I was born in France to Greek heritage, however we have embraced Australia as our place of residence. Committed to community betterment, I enjoy volunteering. Additionally, as an autism advocate, I like to shine a light on the remarkable abilities of individuals within the spectrum, and be a voice of inclusion for them. My passions include travelling, visual and performing arts, learning languages and fitness.

Creative arts are my profound calling that fuel my soul. Participating in this competition, allows me to proudly contribute to the Hellenic cultural dialogue and inspire our community through the power of art. Keeping the flame of our cultural legacy alive is both a duty and a privilege which I wish to honour.

With my artwork, as the Parthenon emerges from the canvas and its majestic columns are bathed in a golden glow, I wanted to showcase ethereal aura and splendour of our motherland Greece. In my heart and soul, gold and blue create a harmonious symphony of colours, that capture the essence of Greece’s beauty and heritage. Their marriage symbolises the eternal bond between land and sea, past and present, tradition and creativity. This is how Greece lives within me.

  • Basilia Dionisia Giannarakis
Basilia Dionisia Giannarakis
Basilia Dionisia Giannarakis.

As a third generation Greek living in Australia, I have felt disconnected from my own roots, even ashamed of them at times. It wasn’t until I visited Greece in 2019 that I realised how beautiful our culture is and how much Greeks have contributed to the way we live and even think today. Since that visit I have returned and ventured to different countries, each time returning with more wisdom and gratitude than when I left 

Before learning about the Greek youth art competition, I had begun embarking on a personal project- creating a unique deck of cards. I had shared this endeavour with my friends and family, it was my mum that suggested I submit my art into the competition. Upon reading the terms, it seemed like the perfect fit for what I was creating. 

Basilia Dionisia Giannarakis
Basilia Dionisia Giannarakis’ deck of cards.

Seemingly trivial, a deck of cards holds years of history, showing remnants of the different cultures who have enjoyed them.  They are not only a way to celebrate with long-standing friends, but I have personally found them a powerful tool in forming new friendships. In Trapoula, I have embedded my own Greek history onto this rich medium, illustrating Greek myths aligning with the historical themes of each of the suits and cards. 

Music category / 12-15 age group

  • Nikolaos Vasilas, Crystal Rose Dawson and Sienna Swan Dawson
niko vasilas crystal and sienna dawson
Nikolaos Vasilas, Crystal Rose Dawson and Sienna Swan Dawson.

Sienna and Krystal: We have been raised in an active Aboriginal cultural family and are very culturally active amongst community. We work as a profession in Aboriginal culture performing in local events, major festivals, world events etc, for VIP delegates and at schools, learning from our fellow uncles how to teach culture, preserve and promote the worlds living richest culture. In our spare time, we like to hang out with our friends.

Niko: My family represents the strength and diversity of Australia’s multiculturalism- as I enjoy the mix of Australian, Greek and Japanese cultures. I play football for Earlwood Wanderers FC and do Greek dancing with Sophia Ventouris School of Greek Dance. I enjoy reading about Greek history and culture.

Sienna and Krystal: We decided to enter in the creative arts competition to showcase both our cultures- Aboriginal and Greek Cypriot- and bring both our heritages together in one creative art space. As we grow older, we are appreciating both backgrounds and heritages more and more, so the GFS Youth Competition gave us an opportunity to recognise and appreciate both of them.  

Niko: I cannot read or write Greek, and speaking Greek is hard for me too. But I am very proud of my Greek heritage. The GFS’ Youth Competition provides teenagers like me- second generation Australian of three backgrounds- with a platform to express my Greekness and love for Greece- through dance.  

Sienna and Krystal: The inspiration for our piece was the journey to learn and be exposed to our Greek Cypriot heritage, and this dance highlights how our culture is inside us. We may be growing up in Australia, and our yiayia and pappou came from Cyprus, but our Greek Cypriot heritage and identity remains inside us.

Niko: This clip is dedicated to all the Greek migrants; they may have journeyed everywhere across the world, but they took Greece with them. In this clip, I play the role of a Greek migrant who arrives in Australia, a very different world, but Greece came with him and remains inside him- with dance. 

  • Eleftherios Giannas
Eleftherios Giannas
Eleftherios Giannas.

My name is Eleftherios Giannas and am 14 years old. I am in year 9 at Holy Spirit Catholic College, Lakemba. I’ve been playing bouzouki for just over six years now. I started playing Bouzouki because I was amazed at the sound and the variety of the instrument from a young age. My bouzouki teacher is the talented and famous performer Tassos Lambrou. I also love playing basketball. 

I decided to participate in the creative arts competition because I want to become more confident with my music by showcasing it in different performances. I want people to see the talent and the love that I have for the Bouzouki. 

This song was not made for the bouzouki, but still sounds very nice on the Bouzouki. The song is called ‘Ας Κρατήσουν Οι Χοροί’ (May the dances never stop). The song was directed by Giannis Christodoulopoulos and was written by Dionysis Savvopoulos. The song talks about the history of the Greek War of Independence in 1821 which occurred so the Greeks would be free from the Turks.

Music category / 16-18 age group

  • Savvas Sousamidis
Savvas Sousamidis
Savvas Sousamidis.

I was born in Marousi, but raised in Thessaloniki. I’ve been learning the organ for the last four years and have a deep interest and passion for early music (music from 500-1750). I have also taught myself composition, studying various treatises from the old masters, such as Fux and Santa Maria. 

I’ve been wanting to do a cross-cultural project for a while – Greek psalm texts set to Italian renaissance music – but just never got around to it. The competition gave me a chance to complete a part of the wider project in a secular aspect, and produce what I aspired to be a simple yet hard-hitting composition. 

The composition is a madrigal in the Italian style, inspired by the illustrious Claudio Monteverdi. I bring a twist to the style by setting it to a Cretan rizitiko poem. Traditionally, madrigals are expressions of love or grief, so the rizitika poems are very fitting. It’s scored for four singers, a simple yet powerful group, that can move the emotions of anybody.

Music category / 19-24 age group

  • Kostas Papoulidis and Christopher Lambropoulos

We are Greek musicians. Christopher is studying music at Macquarie University and Kosta is studying education at ACU. Kosta plays the Pontian Lyra for the Pontoxeniteas dance group. Christopher plays the electric guitar. 

Through our entry, we wanted to showcase the rich history and distinct musical flavour of the Ponian and Anatolian Greeks, and through this highlight the history and the hardships endured under Ottoman rule.

Inspired by the musical signatures of medieval Byzantine Greek music of the Asia Minor/Pontos Regions, “Don’t Wait for Me” takes the audience on a musical journey through time. Utilising common riffs from the “epitrapezia” songs of Pontos, as well as an accompanying Anatolian melody on the guitar. The composition ends in a transition from structured music to musical discord, which represents the struggles that our ancestors endured during the times of displacement.

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