As the 36th annual Greek Festival of Sydney continues with its rich cultural program, the month of March is a proud one for those connected to the islands of Lesvos and Kythera. Visiting Australia for the first time from Lesvos is the multi-talented Tzeli Hadjidimitriou. As a photographer and visual artist, Tzeli has exhibited in China, Istanbul, Italy, and Greece, having honed her skills in Rome in the 1980s before working extensively in the Hellenic republic.
Tzeli told Neos Kosmos “everything becomes more alive and present through light; this is the key to my art. I am a visual storyteller. In my art I document, in my own way, a world that is vanishing in front of our eyes due to forces of globalisation. I want to give visual expression to moods and to evoke fading habits and lifestyles.
“I seek out subjects that feel authentic, things that are coloured by the patina of time.”
Add to the mix her abilities as a storyteller, documentary maker, and author, and the island of Lesvos has certainly produced a gem.
Lesvos is not her only love, she told me in 2015 of her “love of Kythera and her people.”
A real highlight of her contribution to this year’s festival was her documentary In Search of Orpheus which was screened at the Greek Community Club earlier this month.
The film is based on the search for traces of the poet-god on Lesvos.
Tzeli visited the only site of an oracle of Orpheus in the world, attempting to recreate the image of this mythical person who has influenced western art over the last 3,500 years.
Coming up on Thursday 22 March, Tzeli will be presenting a series of her three short documentaries shot in Lesvos during the financial and migrant crisis in a program titled ‘The Silent Path’.
The first film, Salt and Bread, introduces us to the people of a neighbourhood, an ouzo distillery, and a boatbuilder. This documentary for Tzeli is about “what they all have in common, their love for what they do.”
The second is called Grannies and features four women from the island, ageing but strong in spirit, grounded in the soil and history of the island, recalling life with humour and wisdom.
The third documentary is Routvas about a remote shepherds’ family settlement in the mountains, next to a Christian chapel with ancient Greek columns, where the family spend the summer with their flock of sheep.
Some of her noted titles as a photographer and travel author include In Search of Kythera and Antikythera a Traveller’s Guide About the Island of Kythera and Antikythera; In Communion With Stone, the Rural Architecture of Lesvos; Time Fading into Clouds; Urban Housing of the 30s: Modern Architecture in Pre-war Athens; 39 Coffee Houses and a Barber’s Shop; Sacred Water: the Mineral Springs of Lesvos; and A Girl’s Guide to Lesbos, a traveller’s guide about the island of Lesvos with an LGBT orientation, all delightful works.
Tzeli has also presented a photography exhibition, ‘Photographs of Lesvos and Kythera’, for this year’s Greek Festival.
The exhibition evoked sensations and experiences that derived mostly from “nature and less often from the daily human presence, while avoiding the superficial convenience of digital photography, the photographs do not simply portray a beautiful landscape.”
Tzeli invited the audience “to hear the sounds of its waters, calm and stormy, to feel the heat of its earth, the sun, to gaze at its moonlight, to feel the humidity of its forests.”
Tzeli has worked tirelessly since last year with George Kazantzis a fellow islander living in Sydney, alongside the 36th Greek Festival of Sydney and the Greek Orthodox Community of NSW, the Mytilenean Brotherhood of Sydney and NSW and the Kytherian Association of Australia, to ensure audiences are treated to something special with the exhibition and screenings of her brilliant works.
Tzeli will be a guest of the Hellenic Club (Matilda Street, Woden, ACT) in Canberra tomorrow, Sunday 18 March at 6.00 pm for a presentation on her Lesvos documentary work. To find out more, call (02) 6281 0899.
‘The Silent Path’ series of three documentaries: Salt and Bread, Grannies, and Routvas, screens at Mytilenean House (225 Canterbury Road, Canterbury, NSW) on Thursday 22 March at 6.00 pm for a 6.30 pm start.
These events are free. For more information visit http://greekfestivalofsydney.com.au/program.html#page/26
*Billy Cotsis is the director of the documentary ‘Lesvos: Fall in Love’.