Culture travels to remote islands with a keen cast of actors to inspire children

Diadrasi has a slogan, «Agoni grammi gonimi» (Unprofitable shipping line can be profitable), and a clear vision: «to sow a seed so that the barren cultural landscape of the remote islands can become fertile, so that they are not just summer holiday destinations but areas with a clear identity on the map,» said the person who provided the inspiration for the group, cinematographer Stephanos Nolas. The group’s 13 members have traveled to 13 islands since the winter. On Donousa, Irakleia, Amorgos, Astypalaia, Anafi, Folegandros, Nisyros, Symi, Kasos and Karpathos they gave out books, set up workshops for mask making, drums, photography and theater games, performed plays and screened films. Their van was full of books provided by the Greek Federation of Publishers and Booksellers, the Education Ministry and Athens College. The sense of isolation felt by the children they visited was allayed for a while and their creativity was given expression. Amorgos, 11 a.m. Stephanos, Michalis, Manolis, Myrto, Kirki, Markos and Victoria draw up the day’s program over a cup of coffee. Today Victoria will be in charge of the mask workshop at a school in Tholaria, Michael will teach percussion at the junior high school in the main town and tomorrow they will put on a performance. Myrto and Kirki will teach photography in Arkesini. Myrto Apostolidou (photographer) and Kirki Evangelinou (assistant cinematographer) handed out cameras to the children, asking them to look at their island through the camera lens, from a different angle. «The kids are more open than the kids in the city. Through the photos they took we got a fresh insight. And we were impressed by their enthusiasm for simple images,» said Kirki. Victoria Kotsalou was in charge of the mask workshop. «The children turned the balloons we gave them into masks, with newspapers, glue, paints and their own vivid imaginations.» Manolis Karyotakis (actor and acrobat) and Markos Economidis (organ player and musician) put on the theater performance at the schools. They performed «The Trojan War» in 15 minutes. The public was enraptured. «In the Greek provinces television dominates. People think this form brings them closer to the centers and capital. Our activities pulled them away from the screen and made them take part. And we’re very pleased about this,» said Markos. Michalis Afologian taught the children how to make their own drums with flower pots and pans and he showed them how to keep rhythm. The most memorable occasion during their travels was in Irakleia. «Adults also took part in the lesson. They formed a circle and watched until the end.» In addition to the workshops, many films and documentaries were shown, among them «Brides,» «Peppermint» and «Matchbox.» On many islands a writer was invited to accompany the group and write about the experience. The texts will be published in a book titled «Agoni Grafi Gonimi» (Unproductive Writing can be Productive). The group hopes they will grow and be able to split into small teams so as to travel to isolated villages in the Greek mountains as well as the remote islands, to give an injection of culture by holding various interesting events in which local people can participate. Stephanos Nolas has the last word: «We paved the way, let’s hope our activities spread to other areas and other groups follow in our steps.» (1) This article first appeared in Kathi-merini’s color supplement, K, on April 29.