Migrants are learning about Greece from its museums

She thought her first visit to a museum was «lovely.» Maria Ohilebo, who has been living in Greece for 14 years, works in a restaurant and takes lessons at a cooking school. She is the president of the Nigerian Women’s Association of Greece. Along with her two daughters and many other women from the organization and their children, she recently visited the Museum of Cycladic Art. The visit was part of a project that aims to put migrants and refugees who live in Greece into closer contact with Greek civilization and to make them feel part of the culture in which they live. Cultural Integration Action is a joint effort by the museum and the nongovernmental organization Praksis, under the aegis of the Foreign Ministry. «We started last year during International Museum Day and got a good response, so we and the Museum of Cycladic Art decided to extend it,» Praksis president Tzanetos Antipas told Kathimerini. The NGO organizes humanitarian and medical aid for vulnerable social groups. Antypas was present at the guided tour for the Nigerian women and he recalled a moment that had impressed him. «The mother of one of the girls was asking questions about some of the exhibits and the daughter turned to her and said: ‘Don’t ask, Mom. We’ll look at my history book when we get home and I’ll show you.’ In such cases, children can be like teachers for their parents. After all, they are the ones who are attending school in Greece,» he said. «I was able to see your traditions up close,» said Ohilebo, whose daughters have visited the Acropolis on their own. «I know nothing about the city’s museums, so I think this is a very positive step, and I’d like to do it again.» May 18 was International Museum Day, and the museum had organized tours in Farsi for clients of Praksis from Aghanistan and Iran. There were workshops for the children where they encountered the Stargazer, a Cycladic figure named for the pronounced backward lean of its head. The sculpture is on short-term loan to the museum from the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. Kelly Bourni, a professional guide for 20 years, one of 10 at the museum, guided the Nigerian group. «The older women had difficulty understanding some things, but they liked the collection, which portrays everyday life in ancient Greece, possibly because the Cycladic figures remind them of their own [traditional] masks.» She was struck by how outgoing the children were. «They embraced me and played games. I gained a lot from the experience.» The first guided tour of the year was on March 21, International Day Against Racism. Another tour, for the children of the Kenyan Women’s Association of Greece, took place shortly after International Children’s Day. And yet another was held for refugees the day after International Refugees’ Day, June 21. The Museum of Cycladic Art offers free spots at all its weekend children’s workshops to youngsters who receive help from Praksis.