New initiative aims to unite Hellenes across the world through the Arts

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Two Greek Australian teachers passionate about the Arts, Vana Argyris, originally from Sydney but now a resident of the Greek island of Kythera and Helen Koutroulis from Melbourne, believe that “where there is creativity, communication and critical thinking converge.”

The two Greek Australians sat down with The Greek Herald to discuss their ‘The Pan-Hellenic Festival for the Creative and Performing Arts’ initiative -scheduled to be held online later this year- and how they endeavour to unite Hellenes and Philhellenes across the globe.

Why the Arts and what inspired you to commence such an initiative?

The arts have a long history of bringing people together creating stronger connections and fostering the preservation of Hellenic heritage. We hope that the Panhellenic Festival initiative will support the Greek identity and preserve the Greek language and culture. 

Ultimately, we hope that forging enduring bonds of friendship between Hellenes and Philhellenes, will be an investment in the Hellenic cultural capital for future generations. 

What has truly inspired us is our involvement in teaching drama and classical studies and being cognisant of our rich inheritance with the incomparable and unique culture. The civilization of Ancient Greece has influenced every aspect of life and it is considered to be the most distinguished above all others for balance of conception. 

Photo L: Detail of the Festival’s poster, designed by Con Emmanuelle. Photos R: Founders Helen Koutroulis (top) and Vana Argyris

Does someone need to be an artist to participate?

The Festival is not a competition. Its aim is to unite Hellenes and Philhellenes across the globe in order to showcase and celebrate their creative talents and most importantly to nurture and flourish the Hellenic Cultural Heritage, including language and literature.

• The festival’s aim is to be inclusive. There is no age or cultural background limit for the participants. Entrants can be a Hellene or a Philhellene of any age and can participate in the project that has been designed for their particular creative category.

• The Festival will showcase the talents of the participants in the following creative categories:  Drama, dance, music, art, photography, film, writing and crafts.

• The expertise of artists, photographers, film makers, theatre practitioners, music teachers, musicians, dance teachers, dancers, craft makers and writers. These professionals will be a part of the festival’s creative team and will act as mentors and creators of projects.

-There are different projects in the Festival and the first one is called ‘A Suitcase of Dreams’. What is this project about?

This project aims to create a sense of discovery and journey for the performer/writer. 

A journey through which they will engage in investigating the family histories of their ancestors and how they came to be in the land they have chosen to migrate to. 

This style of theatre is called Verbatim Theatre where the performer/ writer will conduct interviews with their parents, grandparents and other relatives. These interviews will be recorded and the transcripts can be re-used in a creative way in order to heighten dramatic meaning. 

Alternatively, the performer/artist is free to research a historical figure unrelated to them and conduct a case study on their migration experience and respond in any of the following ways: short monologue, duologue, dance drama, poem, painting, story, photo journal, song, creative craft project.

We are fortunate to have many Hellenes supporting this initiative which we hope will unite us worldwide in our endeavour to share and celebrate our creative talents and document our memories and history. 

Paintings by artist Alex Kyriakacis

-How has the response been so far?

We have had good response from Hellenes in the diaspora and a lot of positive feedback regarding the initiative. We have approx. 40 supporters of this initiative including the Greek Teachers Association of Victoria and many Community language schools and Greek community associations such as the Kytherian Society of California.

-You aim to present the festival in October. What will the presentation look like?

The Pan-Hellenic Festival for the Creative and Performing Arts will be presented online during the month of October 2021. We aim to hold the Festival on other months during the year when other Hellenic festivals may occur, by doing so, The Pan-Hellenic Festival for the Creative and Performing Arts can participate as an event in these festivals.

The Festival will be utilizing the Zoom facility as a platform to showcase the entrants work. During the zoom presentation, the entrants will be sectioned off into chat rooms where they will have the opportunity to meet each other and discuss the work that has been presented.

What do the artists think?

Adelaide based short story writer Kostas Livaditis and Melbourne based Author and Artist Constantinos Emmanuelle – who is also the designer of the Festival’s poster, give us their perspectives on the creative idea. 

 Kostas Livaditis, Short story writer 

Short story writer Kostas Livaditis

– What do you think about The Pan-Hellenic Festival for the Creative and Performing Arts?

The Festival is a great way for Hellenes right across the world to connect through culture and the arts. Considering what is happening in the world at the moment with travel restrictions to Greece for many (including Australia), it’s a great way to connect to your heritage and embrace your roots via other means.

Why do you think cultural initiatives like this one are important?

 ​Cultural initiatives (such as this Festival) are important because they are connections not only to the past, but also help us continue moving forward. Greek Culture is not static and stagnant, it continues to evolve, refine and mature with time. 

Constantinos Emmanuelle, Author & Artist 

Author and Artist Constantinos Emmanuelle

-Do you think creativity and the Arts can bring people closer to Hellenism?

Of course, this has been proven time and time again going all the way back to ancient times when creative people gathered together in magnificent amphitheater to perform and engage an audience. In many ways, the ancient actors, performers, orators and artists had an easier task than their modern counterparts. For one, the amphitheater was the only real place to go and see an event. 

By comparison, modern-day creatives have to compete with millions of events online on a global stage. Back to answer your question more directly, if an event like a festival is well planned and promoted it can surely have the desired outcomes, especially if one of those outcomes is to unite people and help them engage with their ethnic roots. 

In my own experience, my creative arts project titled Tales of Cyprus has been very successful in engaging audiences from around the world and raising their level of understanding and appreciation about the island of Cyprus and more importantly, their cultural heritage.

*More information can be found on the Festival’s Facebook Group. Entries and Entry forms can be emailed to panhellenicfestival@gmail.com

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