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Souvenirs of encounters with Asian cultures of a "prisoner" with a distant horizon

20 April 2010 / 11:04:31  GRReporter
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The diversity of showcased exhibits prove the complex levels of human existence and communication in the dimensions of their cultural identity, highlighting unique historical and aesthetic details. These are objects charged with “powerful” and sometimes sacred, energy, loaded with social connotations with regard to the people who use them. The valuable exhibits in the display cabinets, around the two walls of the room, culminate in the improvised "sancta sanctorum" of the traveler in its bottom: a tightly covered with postcards with colored stamps from faraway places panel, shelves filled with travel literature, including the edition on India by connoisseur of Eastern religions William Dalrymple, maps with routes traveled, hotel reservations from exotic places and others. 

The exhibit is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalog (€10) - almost pocket format - containing text by Yoanna Papandoniou, introductory words by the exhibition curator Sofia Handaka and a gift story for Yoanna Koutsoudaki written by the famous Italian writer and academic Antonio Tabucchi. “I love those items very much," shares collector Yoanna Koutsoudaki at a press conference, "because they remind me of the people I met”.  Journalist Spyros Yannaras describes in Kathemerini newspaper the first associations this exhibition awakens with its variety of colors and diverse, but at the same time harmoniously combined materials. What one realizes is that in our modern time hand embroidery has disappeared from our lives. Hand-embroidered head coverings, in the arranged with taste and professional awareness by curator Sofia Handaka exhibit, offer spiritual delight equivalent to major works of art. Yannaras even quotes a comment by an Athenian lady looking around the exhibition hall he overheard: "Which of my ready tailored clothes wouldn’t I give to have that hat!". 

According to Benaki Museum Director Angelos Delivorias, the unique exhibits refer us to Greek folk costumes - holiday and everyday ones, which have similar head decorations, for example with gold coins, golden Napoleons, Ottoman coins and related embroidered motifs and embroideries. Extremely interesting, open to the world, with high cognitive and educational value, the exhibition will continue until May 9 and it makes us feel distant peoples close and familiar to us through their customs, some of which bearing resemblance to the traditions of the Balkans. 

At the exit the exhibit bids farewell to the visitor with another aphoristic phrase, this time by traveler Bruce Chatwin: "The true home of a man is not his house but the road. Life itself is a journey that must be walked on foot.” The most immediate trip that Benaki Museum offers is a gastronomic one: in the spirit of the exhibition, on Thursday, April 22, visitors of its the restaurant on the last floor overlooking the garden behind the Parliament, will have the opportunity to taste Thai cuisine. More distant destinations depend on each one of us and whether we feel the world as our home.

Tags: Athens Greece exhibition Benaki Museum hats head decorations
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