If you’re Greek and you have the fortune (?) to travel often around the world, you will see things that will definitely make you feel ashamed of your country and what it implies:
the degrading morals of our society, the lack of culture
our driving behavior, the parked vehicles on the parking spaces for disabled people
our dirty city, the graffiti on neoclassical buildings and churches, the hand out of the car window littering the streets, the smoker’s attitude that he or she claim the right to smoke in the same room with people who are not smokers, the naturalness with which the cigarette end is tossed on the ground
the ethos of young people;
the eager for the ephemeral and “having fun”
cafes-clubs-bars-bouzoukia, gyms, beaches and football, shopping; all of the above without any deeper concerns
the disinterest for history and knowledge,
the “Greeklish” (Greek written in Latin characters ) which literally devours a language that dates back thousands of years,
the ugly “wallpaper” formed by countless students’ parties posters in the temples of knowledge, in the universities
the ethos of old people;
the conceit of a supposedly “generation of the revolution”, the exchange of power and authority between two political parties PASOK and Nea Dimokratia for decades
the corrupted politicians and the corrupted people who elect them for so many years,
the same people who bribe for getting a driving license and a bed in the public hospital
our uncle and our cousin who got into the public sector with the well-known non transparent procedures
the everyday crooks
the dogma of the “easy-fast-cheap” that has ruined us
the selling off of our history in school’s books and the wealth of our country
the disrespect we have for each other…
Most famous comic artist in Greece, Arkas, says that being born and dying Greek is a great blessing, but the period in between is a great misfortune. And even if that sounds as a paradox, I feel that he is right.
For I may look down when I see other nations’ superiority in various fields, but I would never ever change my origin. For despite our modern reality, being born Greek is special. So is being able to see the Parthenon from the narrow streets of your neighborhood;
reading the Bible, Hesiod, Plato and Sofocles in the original text;
being able to visit the Byzantine churches and knowing that their painters were your ancestors.
Of course you feel extremely proud when you stand in front of the miracle of Hagia Sophia of Constantinople (today Istanbul), the mosaics of the Chora Monastery, the grandeur of Byzantine culture. How can you not to feel chills on the idea that you share the same blood with the Greeks resisted the monster of the Persian Empire and won, with Theodoros Kolokotronis and Athanasios Diakos, who fought the Ottoman Empire in the Greek Revolution, with the Greeks who said NO to an invincible force in 1940, when they chose to fight against the Nazis rather than be enslaved to the Italian and the Germans.
Because, the Greeks are like untamed wild horses, like Pegasus and Bucephalus; a horse that can be ridden only by Purpose, so together they make miracles. Miracles like those we have made and will make in the future. Because, we may be in the situation they say we are, but Greek history proves that the Greeks always achieved great things while in difficulties. And this phenomenon is so consistent throughout the years, so I cannot stop believing in this people. That’s why when I make a mural anywhere in the world, I do not just draw “another cute picture”, but I aim to send the message that there is still something alive within us.
I paint Greek because I am Greek. What else would you expect from me to do? I work for a forgotten Tradition, a painful Greek History. I illustrate myths of our tradition because they refer to the problem but also to the solution. This is how I exercise my social criticism.
Those who have eyes to see.
Recently I have returned from Romania where I painted the myth of Bellerophon and Pegasus at a school wall.
Bellerophon is a relatively unknown hero of our mythology. Perhaps because, yet a hero, he is not an exemplar due to his unfortunate ending. He was the first who managed to tame and ride Pegasus with the help of goddess Athena. With Pegasus he won battles, defeated bandits, the Amazons and Chimaera. Gods were indeed in fond of him and protected him, but his arrogance crushed him. Blinded by the idea that his power can accomplish anything, he desired to reach the top of the Mount Olympus, the home of the gods. It was then when Zeus with a lightning threw him on Earth where, without Pegasus, he lived the rest of his life poor and forgotten.
This story reminds me much of Greece. We had always been in God’s favor; we had culture, wealth, heroes. We defeated Persians, Galatians, Avars, Goths, Arabs, when they attacked us. We drove off the Turks after four centuries of slavery. So many people and tribes passed from this land and maraud every city and island and yet we kept our language and religion and stubbornly continued to produce civilization until a few decades of lent money and false prosperity stood enough to forget about God and our gratitude for what we have. So, with a thunderbolt we abruptly fell off the sky. We lost our culture, our glory and now we are the black sheep of Europe – the continent with the Greek name…
Fortunately, we write the History and its book always has another blank page.
Will it say anything about heroes again?
Well, it’s in our hands.
Many thanks to the organization of the Sibiu International Street Art Festival and my good friend Saddo to whom I owe this work.