How RESIO designed the olive mural at Thornbury’s Kalamata Lane

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By Irene Tsianakas, Member of the Pammessinian Brotherhood of Papaflessas

When RESIO, a popular Greek street artist, was tasked with the job of painting a mural for the side of 2 Gooch Street in Thornbury, Melbourne, he was excited. RESIO is Melbourne born and bred and knows well of the Greek migrant experience.

The mural faces the recently gazetted ‘Kalamata Lane’ which was a project elicited by Melbourne Pammesinian Brotherhood ‘Papaflessas’ and voted unanimously by Darebin Council in recognition of those Greeks who emigrated to Thornbury in the 1950s from Kalamata to Greece.

The most famous Greek city for Messenians is Kalamata and it produces the best olives in the world and so RESIO boasts “that it was a no brainer that the olive would be incorporated in the mural.”

His mural depicts a monochromatic greyscale portrait of a Greek Australian muse wearing an elegant olive wreath highlighted in deep green colour in her hair.

RESIO, of course, had to consult with locals to ascertain the breath of the mural. What he did learn was that the city of Darebin has one of the highest concentrations of Greek Australians in Victoria who are vibrant and active with a strong sense of community and pride. There are many Greek Australian businesses operating in Thornbury, including restaurants and cafes. These businesses offer a taste of Greek cuisine and culture and are a popular for both Greek Australians and non-Greek Australians alike.

However, the assimilation of Greek migrants into Australian society didn’t happen without language barriers and discrimination challenges. Greeks persisted through these obstacles and with their warm hospitality and generosity they shared their rich cultural traditions and customs with their neighbours. But their success is clearly attributed to their strong work ethic, and this can be seen through their significant contributions shaping the multicultural and diverse society that Australia is today.

So as RESIO recounts, the olive tree can be seen as a metaphor for the Greek people and their resilience in the face of adversity. The olive tree’s ability to survive for thousands of years in all conditions make is a symbol of endurance, strength and hope for all migrants.

Even the prominent Greek poet Kostis Palamas wrote in his most famous poem The Olive Tree that it has become a symbol of Greece and its identity, who despite their long suffering (alluding to the four-hundred-year occupation under Ottoman rule), endured and prospered. To quote the words of Palamas: “Let us all be the olive tree, firmly rooted in our land, let us all be… standing tall and proud.”

It is a powerful reminder of the value of solidarity, resilience and rootedness and encourages people from all walks of life to embrace these qualities as they work towards their goals and navigate their challenges in life.

The residents of Darebin have welcomed the artwork to Thornbury honouring decades of Greek contribution in the area. It is a beautiful gift for the residents, creating a feeling of belonging through street art.

RESIO is best known for painting the iconic Native American mural for Tonto Cafe in Canterbury, which has become such a landmark for the area. He has recently worked on the NGV project ‘The Temple of Boom.’

The Pammesinian Brotherhood ‘Papaflessas’ is a non-profit cultural and social organisation that focuses on servicing the local and greater Australian multicultural community via the promotion of Messenia, Greek and Australian initiatives in history, community, and social fun.

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