Back to the roots
“TINOS” was written with big letters at the fence of the marble process studio which my father owned in Athens! That was all I knew of our island! I remember that this was the place where he used to meet his fellow Tinian marble craftsmen and his brothers. Through their craft they shared a very intimate relation. The chisel and the hammer were “on fire” there. This so sweet, almost melodious sound was giving shape to the cold marble and at the same time pride to the marble sculptor who handcrafted it. Here, the art of marble sculpture harmonically matched with the sweet chirping of the tools. All experts could distinct from every sound how deep, wide and mastery each hit with the chisel was.
The years were passing by and the only thing I knew regarding my father’s origins was the phrase “I am from Marlas” as he liked to say boasting about it! Whatever this phrase might mean!
When I grew up and had my own family, I began playing a strange game of questions, pursuits, a lot of pain and anger and many whys. Why my father has cut the bonds with his island, why he never talks about his mother, the years he lived there, why he never brought us to the homeland that he was given birth and raised? What he was afraid of, what did he want, what did he love, what did he remember?
While working in Eleftherotypia newspaper and talking with colleagues, friends and people who were fond of my father’s island, I met Nikos Chatzis who we are also relatives with! This acquaintance together with his proposition to stay at the hospitable guest house of the Association of our village was determinant.Our first visit to the island, year 2001. My father’s first solemn visit to his village was a reality! Back to the birthplace, to his beloved Marlas after 65 years. This is how a love story for my unknown –up to that moment- village, Exo Meri and Tinos begins!I had the luck to experience his presence at the village for three years, three marvelous summers of night chatters, descriptions from his childhood which nowhere else I could have listened to. In this way I had the chance to acquire a deeper and more substantial relation with my beloved father and also to meet the people of my village.
When he was no longer in life, he passed me on his island, his village, Marlas! Now, all alone I am called to make this island my homeland and to be able to give and take things that I think that I was deprived of. Every summer the anxiety and anticipation are huge and the joy excessive. Year by year, my admiration and love for the island become bigger!
Life in Athens doesn’t permit you to see what happens in the rest of Greece! Greece is dying slowly. In our country, the province is alive only during the summer period and this happens only in certain occasions. The land is dead and villages are being abandoned. Consequently, what I learnt wellbeside the people of my village is the contribution of the present Cultural Associations.
I don’t know if this may seem too much to you but this is my own estimation regarding Greek province. So, I decided to get in touch with the Cultural Association of Marlas-Mamados so as, through the Association, to be able to make things for the land I love!
“I never felt that I earned more since when I gave to you”, a wise man says. This is my relation with the Association. I offer very little and I get back the multiple. I participate creatively in a small group of people who, in spite of the adverse conditions and against the existing current of the easy judgment and levelling down, we turn the flame into fire! We spend a few hours of our lives and there we have the miracle! We make a square full of people. Magic things!We organize the publication of a book and leave a legacy to our children! We fix a cobbled street and the beauties take the lead; the bougainvilleas and geraniums blossom gracefully.
I could have never imagined that these small villages, this Association would be able to organize and carry out a project such as the Artistic Park of the Unsung Quarrier.Who would believe this?! Still, the Artistic Park is a reality! It prevails grandiosely over there, at the “interchange” of Marlas-Mamados. It is a project of memory, respect and pride. An honor to our past, future and values! An honor to the Spirit, Art and Labor! Crisis has brought everything upside down, has shaken all of us from the lethargy of the illusion that we were living in, moved youngers and elders away from their offices and sleep.Until the moral senses to be awaken and see things more simply and substantially in Greek reality, we have to stay at the forefront and protect our islands, villages and country from getting disappeared. Most things are simple and easy. They only need of one thing; Will!
All the rest will find their way as long as there are people with initiatives, love and will to work! Such kind of people I have found, loved and trusted in our Association and villages. They welcome me with love, they accepted me and we became a team. So, this summer we are really proud! Now, every time the ship passes from the strait Andros-Tinos, I will be secretly proud! The lighthouse over there in Disvato will light, more beautiful than ever! We have prolonged its life for many more generations!
With the help of many and prime fellow Tinians, institutions and sponsors together with simple fellow villagers who share the same sensibility and agonies, we have managed to preserve this magnificent architectural monument of our cultural heritage.
At the old and closed school in Marlas, we will inaugurate the marble tools museum which will also function as a multiple-purpose hall. At the space of the amazing neoclassic building of the past century, we have set a small marble tools museum. For the marble crafters, tools were and still are considered the extension of their hand and soul. That is why we have tried to form the space they deserve, given that our village is principally a marble village. But for us to get there, we had to respect its previous identity. So beautiful is the building as the moments it has lived while it was in operation. Those days when it was full of life, children’s laughter and voices.
The items are plenty and unique. School books, documents, yearbooks which date back in 1925, chemical tools, children’s papers. We cannot have a future if we don’t protect our past. The care, digitalization and organization of all these was a hard and time-consuming work but we are sure that it was worthwhile! We also wish that in the future this hall will house many exhibitions, film projections, debates and conferences as well as any sort of events that will promote our mores, identity and culture.
So, in order to celebrate everything that our Association has created and unpretentiously offers to our villages and the cultural events of our island, we inaugurate our museum by introducing a group painting & hagiography exhibition. Besides, our island has always honored art! The name of this artistic encounter is “Art is female” and our goal is to honor the female creativity and sensibility. Honor the woman of yesterday and today, our mothers, our partner, every female figure and existence, every Woman! Many women from all over the island have happily responded to our call and will exhibit their work in our celebration.
I owe a big thanks to the members and friends of our Association who have embraced and showed me trust by letting me share with them such beautiful and creative moments.
“How the nonbelievers may believe the miracles that faith can make? They forget that the man’s soul becomes omnipotent once carried away by a big idea. You are shocked when, after difficult challenges, you realize that inside us there is a power which can surpass human power, you are shocked… because now you cannot look for excuses for your insignificant or coward actions by putting the blame on others. You are aware of the fact that it’s you, not faith, luck or the people around you but only you who is fully responsible for whatever you do. And in this moment, you are embarrassed to laugh, you are embarrassed to make fun of a burning soul that asks for the impossible. You now understand well that this is the man’s value: ask and be aware of the fact that he asks for the impossible; and to be certain that he will accomplish it because he knows that if he doesn’t quail, if he doesn’t listen to what rationality demands, but on the contrary he keeps strongly his soul and carries on with faith and tenacity to seek the impossible, then the miracle occurs. The miracle that the unwinging mind could never guess: the impossible becomes possible”.
Extract from the book “Captain Mihalis” by Nikos Kazantzakis
Mary Chatzi – Karatza