FROM ‘CONNECTION’ TO ‘ISOLATION’
In celebrating 10 years, the Antipodean Palette 2020 was to involve the collaboration of Indigenous and Greek-Australian artists in a unique exhibition titled ‘CONNECTION’.
Unfortunately, due to the impact of the COVID-19 virus and strict social gathering restrictions, this event was postponed. Despite the setback, the GACL called upon its Greek Australian artists to ‘connect’ instead, in their first online exhibition, ‘IN ISOLATION’.
Maintaining and strengthening our social connections has never been more important than during the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and as we all go online creating a ‘new social norm’, we must be sure these new habits include staying socially connected to others.
As many of you know, the Antipodean Palette is not just an art exhibition, but rather, a 10-day reflection of culture through art, literature and performance. Regretfully, due to this year’s crisis, we have been unable to present the accompanying poetry reading afternoons. As a dedication to our Antipodean Palette writers and poets, we present a series of poems with a message of ‘CONNECTION’, recently written and presented on YouTube by the acclaimed and accomplished poet Angela Costi.
Undoubtedly, ‘connection’ is being tested throughout the duration of ‘lockdowns’ and physical distancing. My poetry practice was underpinned by the Ancient Greek practice of performing before an audience – a reliance on the vital energy between skin and skin, breath and breath. Writing and then releasing a poem into the air is part of poetry making. And yes, one can read aloud a poem in isolation and throw it at the silent walls to ascertain its worth. Another way is to collaborate with a filmmaker, Faezeh Alavi, and musicians, VARDOS, on an explorative project, which entails taking my poems into a new sphere, engaging with images, sound and voice.
These three poems were written in different stages of my life and all three seek to connect with aspects of ourselves. Making Lace travels back to our heritage to find the connection through a grandmother’s skill. Kinaesthetic Grace establishes how a mother’s hands transcend into the history of migrant women’s contribution to Australian manufacture. And Shelter is about the connection we have with our environment – yes, we are confined to our homes of plastered walls, but we have our minds that can take us travelling.
These films are an endeavour to connect with the members and audiences of GACL. A very special thankyou to Cathy Alexopoulos for her inspiration and support, and thank you to the City of Melbourne COVID-19 Arts Grants for funding these films.
I see her as I see me, sitting on chairs before the impact of our craft,
both intent on making a story from a sequence, a gift out of repetition,
her stitch is my letter, her design is my phrase,
thread weave through out and in.
She is framed by a mountainous fig tree,
I have the hallway of wedding and christening photos,
her eyes meld to hands to thread to tsimbi to glosi
to caterpillar turrets to butterfly balconies
to geometrical dreamscapes of Venetian ladies
for Leonardo da Vinci to take to Rome
to robe the table for the last supper
to paint and adorn the Milan Cathedral, that is the myth from linen,
she is the story on linen,
no longer woman in small village sitting under a tree for days months years
of thread weave through out and in, our skin
an embroidery of old maps and new,
Lefkara, Larnaca, Kyrenia, Hartchia,
Riverwood, Bankstown, Lalor, Reservoir
thread weave through out and in,
she lives in each strand of cotton perle, the white, brown and ecru,
she makes houses, rivers, wells, trees, caves
for secret lovers, lost children, dying soldiers,
she peeks through gofti, through fairy windows, and sees me,
letter by letter, crossing the keyboard
thread weave through out and in,
she sees her children’s children not work in fields harvesting rotten crops,
not work in factories making hard, rough, poisonous things,
not work in shops selling dry, fried food,
she sees a series of baby girls named after her, dressed in white,
she lives in the stroke of a foreign letter by letter, word by word,
thread, weave through out and in.
Making Lace was first published in Notata Online Arts Journal, no.1, March 2009, with subsequent acknowledged publications in Southern Sun, Aegean Light, Poetry of Second-Generation Greek-Australians, Edited N. N. Trakakis, 2011.
This woman talks to me with her hands
she always has, since birth
I have failed to grasp them.
I have followed the voices and text
I’ve found outside the home,
words on pages in whatever language, discipline or culture
bound by libraries,
left this woman to create her own story
with soil and seeds, flour and salt,
a cloth, a needle, a pot, an oven…
her fingers are an alphabet
I had no patience for.
This is the woman who knows how to hold
with her lined and stained hands
the story of all those other women
we service with a system of pay-outs,
those women of colour on the General Motors assembly line
playing the conveyor belt like an instrument
they will never learn,
those Hispanic women wearing paper masks as they spray
jeans and their lungs into shreds,
her fingers twitch when they tell
of the Thomastown factory’s sewing machine
stitch by never-ending stitch
bleeding before a stop for break
the dip and throb of migraine fighting quota.
This is the woman
silenced by statistics.
We must search for her
not in photo albums nor newspapers,
we must go out to the wild woods
where there are trees left to grow old,
like hunting for prized truffles
we must smell, touch, taste,
and when we see her
hold out our hands
as children willing to learn.
Kinaesthetic Grace published in StylusLit, Issue 7, Feb 2020.
We are the travellers of small steps
wearing pyjamas and slippers
to greet each room as if it were a country
encountered from a plane flight,
konnichiwa to the space called Living
ola to the island called Kitchen
nin hao to the mattress of pent up dreams,
in the study there is the desk
holding geography’s memory,
salve, kalimera, take me with you.
My mother will be lighting her candles
on her bench-top to create her church,
my father will shuffle with his frame
to the chair on the porch with the vista
of his twelve-year-old eyes diving
for sea sponges from an unsteady pier.
This space termed Home
is a document of journey
as we come to know the walls as trees
we long to climb,
the doors to close or open
depending on altitude and inclement,
the ceiling will seem higher than Everest,
from the carpet we see the grit
of hiking through jungle.
And there, in the lonely corner
is the blue rug to sit on and breathe in
the smell of the ocean calling its waves
to sweep our dust.
Shelter published in Eureka Street, No. 30 No. 7, 14 April 2020.