The month of March is set to be a busy one for PhD candidate Eva Boleti as she holds two events that appeal to two sides of her personality: her academic inclination and her creativity as a clay artist.

The Greek high school teacher by trade has two initiatives planned for this month, with the first being a lecture on the topic, “Biculturalism, culture and Greek women of the Diaspora”, and the second being an exhibition of her clay artworks.

The talk is part of the Greek History and Culture Seminars offered by the Greek Community of Melbourne and will be held on Thursday, March 14, 7 p.m. at the Greek Centre on Lonsdale St.

The PhD candidate in the field of Greek Culture at the University of Sydney explained that the talk examines the key role women (especially grandmothers) in Greek households play in the maintenance of cultural heritage.

“Greek women hold substantial influence in family socialisation, shaping the acquisition and preservation of cultural practices and values,” Boleti told Neos Kosmos while remarking on the fortune of said event being in March (a month dedicated to celebrating women’s achievements).

“The family is the cornerstone of Greek culture, profoundly impacting cultural values and beliefs. Thus, the role of women, especially the role of yiayia, in passing down cultural heritage to their grandchildren is of utmost importance.”

She elaborated further on the significance of “intergenerational transmission of cultural knowledge” in sustaining identity across generations, with grandmothers particularly playing a pivotal role in this.

“In this lecture, we will also explore how the influence of the Greek yiayia has contributed to shaping the broader Australian community and identity, particularly in terms of acculturation,” said the high school teacher who migrated from Greece over four years ago.

Boleti (whose grandparents lived in Australia from the 1950s-1970s) noted the numerous aspects of identity that are transferred from grandmothers onto the next generations.

These range from things like recipes, mountain tea, certain herbs and spices as well as more general topics like metaphors, musical traditions, sayings, social behaviours etc.

“The significance of Greek grandmothers in perpetuating cultural heritage encompasses a rich tapestry of traditions, beliefs, and practices that are deeply ingrained in Greek identity,” Boleti said.

“Within the framework of familial and community dynamics, grandmothers serve as the custodians of invaluable cultural treasures.”

She explained further how these activities and bits of knowledge are also interconnected with other qualities that are passed down, e.g. cooking contributes to imparting resilience, resourcefulness, love.

Building on this, the PhD candidate said that certain metaphors can help instil in younger generations an appreciation for symbolism and allegory while social behaviours like how we physically communicate with our eyes, hand gestures etc. are also passed down.

The lecture will cover this whole subject in depth, particularly in how it has featured in the Australian diaspora.

Greek ceramics exhibition: her artistic connection with clay

While heavily invested in Greek cultural studies, Boleti is also a keen artist that particularly enjoys working with clay.

In line with this, she is having a Greek ceramics exhibition on Sunday, March 24 (3.30 p.m. start time) at the Wine Library in Paddington, Sydney wherein a series of her artworks will be available for all to see.

“Clay is one of the few mediums that comes directly from the earth, free from toxic ingredients, and it allows you to create functional pieces from literal mud,” she said.

“It has been used for centuries across different cultures for sociocultural and religious purposes and can be very meditative. Inexpensive and versatile, clay can serve as a very useful material.”

Boleti spoke further on the symbolism that clay can hold in relation with life, another aspect which makes her connect with this art medium so fondly.

“I love working with clay so much because it always teaches me something about life ~ if you stretch it – it breaks. If you rush it – it cracks. If you force it – it collapses. If you slowly mould it and allow it to become what it wants to be, it will work with you. Much as life,” she said.

In addition to displaying her clay artworks, the event will include Greek wines and rebetiko music while 10% of each sale will be donated towards ‘Penny Marathon’, a Greek Australian animal charity which the PhD candidate feels very passionate about.

“‘Penny Marathon’ supports animals in Greece, Australia, and worldwide. I admire their unwavering dedication to their cause, their appreciation for handmade items and art, and I am grateful for their assistance in helping me adopt my fully deaf rescue dog, “Tzatziki”,” she said.

“Their commitment goes beyond charity; they actively engage in social work. I am excited to lend my support to such a worthy cause – helping animals in need.”