Issue 12, September 2009
homepage > "The Dead Brother's": A theatrical performance - a meeting point for different peoples
"The Dead Brother's": A theatrical performance - a meeting point for different peoples
 
Director Sotiris Hatzakis and, at the top, the wedding scene
Director Sotiris Hatzakis and, at the top, the wedding scene
The Onassis Foundation adheres to the principle of not sponsoring theatrical performances (and the filming of movies). It does so in this case by exception for a very specific reason. The reason is a venture by Sotiris Hadjakis and his partners which is encompassed in a wider policy our Foundation pursues to implement. Our policy is mainly focused on all cultural aspects where government intervention is either not feasible or not fitting, as well as all aspects lacking the voluntary support of another private body. Moreover, our policy focuses also in the promotion of modern Greek culture not as a contradiction to the ancient and Byzantine one but as their natural continuance.

Sotiris Hadjakis proposal belongs to this framework.

Ancient Greece was not only Classical Athens. Ancient Greece and the ancient Greek culture encompass Macedonia and Thessaly, the Orphic Mysteries, Dionysus and Bacchus, the worshipping of Adonis, as well as the Hellenistic and Roman era. Likewise, Byzantium is not only Constantinople, religious paintings and music. Byzantium is Thessaloniki, Ioannina, Mistras and later on Smyrna. Byzantium encompasses also secular music, literature, philosophy and painting. After all, our folk songs can be dated back to the older or even prehistoric years. It has been duly documented that these songs can be carried back to the Roman and early Byzantine era, excluded however by classical tradition as fragments of ancient tragedies, prosodies and ancient Greek music. This is mainly true in the borders, the Black Sea, Cyprus, Epirus and remote islands, where the association of the Greek element with neighbouring peoples has been stronger. The peoples in the Balkans and Asia Minor have adopted Greek heroes, songs and customs almost completely unalterable. The achievements of Alexander the Great, Digenes Akritas and many more have been sung all the way from Afghanistan to the coasts of the Adriatic Sea.


The daughter Areti with the Greek and Rumanian Mother. To the right, Areti returning home on “horseback”with her Dead Brother.
The daughter Areti with the Greek and Rumanian Mother. To the right, Areti returning home on “horseback”with her Dead Brother.

Nowadays, in a more and more unified Europe, the conservation of national identity is of paramount importance. We view unified Europe as an opportunity and challenge instead of a threat. An opportunity to be reminded of the always pertinent value of the ancient Greek social process (becoming) and to elevate the modern Greek social process (becoming). Our country’s active presence in the Balkans adds to its status at a European and global level; a presence which is not only of a financial but also of a cultural nature.

Up: Nikos Arvanitis, in the role of Constantis, with the Rumanian Mother, Maia Morgenstern<br />
Down: Speakers at the Press conference.
Up: Nikos Arvanitis, in the role of Constantis, with the Rumanian Mother, Maia Morgenstern
Down: Speakers at the Press conference.

Our neighbours in the Balkans have been both our enemies and our partners in war. We have all been victims of a common history. We have coexisted and are coexisting in the same home for thousand of years. Since the first Greek settlement, there have existed permanent Greek facilities in the Black Sea and the Adriatic Sea in the west of the Mediterranean. We should not forget also that the Dorians have set off from somewhere in the North and wound up somewhere in the South. Since then the presence of the Greek nation has been sustained all the way to the Danube and beyond. At the same time, these peoples have come in contact with us, have settled and lived near us. The dynamics of the coexistence of the peoples on the Peninsula of Haemus is already explicit since the time of Rigas Feraios.

It is this kind of honourable coexistence that the common expression of all peoples’ suffering serves primarily. Such a common expression is “The Dead Brother’s” song, which speaks amongst other things about expatriation and emigration, so contemporary a pattern for Greece which enjoys the privilege of being both a point of origin and a point of destination for generations of immigrants. With this opportunity, the Onassis Foundation has undertaken in the context of its social activities to organise in Athens in November 2009 the Civil Society Day of the Global Forum on Migration and Development held every year by the United Nations.

Up: The Chorus – Public Community Group during rehearsal<br />
Down: Anthony Papadimitriou, Margarita Xhepa, Sotiris Hatzakis and Maia Morgenstern.
Up: The Chorus – Public Community Group during rehearsal
Down: Anthony Papadimitriou, Margarita Xhepa, Sotiris Hatzakis and Maia Morgenstern.

At a broader level, “The Dead Brother’s” play directed by Sotiris Hadjakis is founded on this exact common expression. This may sound strange in a play where every actor speaks in their own language, however, what is indeed strange is that the play is directed in such a way that the spectator does not wonder when the Rumanian or Albanian mother addresses her Greek son in Rumanian or Albanian and he in turn responds in Greek, or when the nine brothers sing the same songs each in his own language, or when every people perceives the costumes of the actors as belonging to their specific tradition. The timbre of the idioms is so similar that if we cease to look for the meaning of the words we listen and look inside us for the truth of things, we will barely perceive the shift from one language to another. “The Dead Brother’s” song is a song with no known author, not even a mythical one. It is a chorale, perfect in its own right, stemming from the collective conscience of a people, which has been modified and adopted by so many other peoples retaining nevertheless its essence. This is a kind of work which speaks by itself the common language of Art.

We consider the fact that our neighbours adopt and appropriate such a song by singing it for centuries as originally “theirs” an honour. This song is a meeting point for us all. 

This is the mystery of great Art; the fact that it is one, undivided, common for all. The only thing that is needed is for the spectators to keep an open mind to all good and innocent the “other” might possess, whether the “other” is our fellow countryman, comes from another country or is of a different religion.

This is the exact profound dimension we wanted to serve; a dimension offered by Sotiris Hadjakis, Maya, Margarita, Maria, Nikos, Kitty, Constantinos, Andromachi, Doumitrou, Natassa, Christos, Chris, Karafil, Androniki, Dimitris and Marianthi, Makis and the rest of the contributors. We thank them all and we would also like to thank Yannis Metzikof, Maria Gouti, Ersi Drini and Antonis Panagiotopoulos.  

Anthony S. Papadimitriou
President of the Alexander Onassis Public Benefit Foundation

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