George Bizos, Anti-Apartheid Lawyer Who Defended Mandela, Dies at 92

Alan Cowell wrote

A champion of human rights, he represented his client and friend in the so-called Rivonia trial of leaders of the African National Congress in the 1960s.

George Bizos in 2011 touring the building where Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo had a law office in Johannesburg.
George Bizos in 2011 touring the building where Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo had a law office in Johannesburg.Credit…Denis Farrell/Associated Press

George Bizos, who fled the Nazi occupation of his native Greece at age 13 to become one of South Africa’s most prominent human rights lawyers, championing Black people who were denied those rights and devising a three-word phrase that may have shielded his client and friend Nelson Mandela from execution, died on Wednesday. He was 92.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the death in a televised news briefing. No cause was given, but he said Mr. Bizos’s health had recently begun to fail. His family said Mr. Bizos died at his home, though it did not say where he lived.

Over a long and combative career, Mr. Bizos was one of only a handful of lawyers who sought redress for victims of racial separation through the very legal system that sanctioned it. While deeply flawed by the pervasive prejudice of the times, South Africa’s legal establishment did offer some slim protection to the accused under a white minority regime that liked to boast of a commitment to Western values.

In his lawyer’s black robes and starched white bib, Mr. Bizos honed his skills throughout the 1950s in remote rural courthouses, where the authorities sought to deploy apartheid law against little-known offenders, long before the well-publicized trials that cemented his reputation.

“The new apartheid government was determined to use the law not only to crush all opposition but also directly to oppress people,” the University of Cape Town once said in an appreciation of Mr. Bizos. “These lawyers were just as determined to use the law in whatever way they could to protect their clients against the abuse of state power.”

In his later years, particularly after the death of Mr. Mandela in 2013, Mr. Bizos expressed disappointment and disillusion with South Africa’s swerve toward corruption and misrule two decades after its first fully democratic elections in 2004. “We have failed to live up to the vision of Mandela,” Mr. Bizos said at a memorial for the former president in December 2013.

Indeed, from 2012 to 2015 he was among the lawyers who represented the families of 34 striking miners killed by the police at Marikana — bloodletting that he likened to atrocities of the apartheid era.

Mr. Bizos with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, right, and Limpho Hani, the wife of Chris Hani, a leading anti-apartheid activist, who was assassinated in 1993.
Mr. Bizos with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, right, and Limpho Hani, the wife of Chris Hani, a leading anti-apartheid activist, who was assassinated in 1993.Credit…Reuters

While many of his trials were fought in the glare of publicity, which he often sought to exploit, Mr. Bizos claimed a particular contribution to the destiny of his adoptive land by urging Mr. Mandela to insert three words — “if needs be” — into his oft-cited address from the dock at the so-called Rivonia trial of leaders of the African National Congress in the early 1960s.

In his first draft, Mr. Bizos said, Mr. Mandela had written that he was prepared to die for “the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.”

But at the urging of Mr. Bizos, who feared that the words might invite the death sentence, Mr. Mandela said: “It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

In 1964, Mr. Mandela and others among the accused were convicted of sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment — a term that ended for Mr. Mandela with his release in February 1990.

(Mr. Bizos was third figure from the Rivonia trial to die this year. The others were the last two surviving co-defendants, Andrew Mlangeni, who died in July, and Denis Goldberg — the only white defendant in the group — who died in April.)

In 1986, while still in prison, Mr. Mandela chose Mr. Bizos as his confidential emissary to brief exiled members of the A.N.C. on secret negotiations with the Afrikaner authorities.

In “Odyssey to Freedom,” a memoir published in 2007, Mr. Bizos wrote that he had harbored an enduring revulsion of injustice in South Africa from the moment he landed in Durban, on the Indian Ocean coastline, in the 1940s and saw Black men consigned to hauling rickshaws. It was, he wrote, the first time he had seen “a man doing work reserved for animals, and it shocked me greatly.”

Well after South Africa’s landmark 1994 election, which swept Mr. Mandela to power, Mr. Bizos continued his courtroom crusade to expose the bloody actions of the apartheid police, committed years earlier in the suppressing of adversaries like Steve Biko, who died in police custody in 1977.

In hearings called by South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the 1990s, Mr. Bizos represented the families of leading foes of apartheid, including Matthew Goniwe, an educator who was one of three activists murdered by the police in 1985. They were known as the Cradock Four, named for the small, segregated township in the Eastern Cape region where they had built a challenge to white rule.

In the early 1990s, Mr. Bizos joined other lawyers in court proceedings to formally approve South Africa’s post-apartheid constitution, regarded as one of the most liberal in the world.

He acted as an independent barrister for many years, but from 1991 onward he was associated with the Legal Resources Center, a prominent firm of human rights lawyers in Johannesburg of which he became senior counsel. Mr. Bizos also worked in Botswana and Zimbabwe, where he defended Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, against treason charges in 2003.

Arriving for his 80th birthday with Nelson Mandela, a client and longtime friend, in 2008.
Arriving for his 80th birthday with Nelson Mandela, a client and longtime friend, in 2008.Credit…Denis Farrell/Associated Press

For decades Mr. Bizos represented Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, a friend and activist in her own right during the imprisonment of Mr. Mandela, her husband. Soon after his release in 1990, the marriage ended in a bitter divorce, and Ms. Madikizela-Mandela faced charges related to the harsh mistreatment of boys staying at her home in Soweto.

The body of one of them, Stompie Seipei, 14, was later found in a field with his throat cut. Although Ms. Madikizela-Mandela was not charged in the killing, the boy’s fate became a byword for the brutal behavior of her bodyguards, known as the Mandela United Football Club. In early 1991 she was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for kidnapping and assault, but the sentence was reduced on appeal.

The charges, Mr. Bizos suggested in his memoir, were part of a progressive diminution of Ms. Madikizela-Mandela’s stature and judgment. “For Nelson, her family, the movement and the nation,” he said, the damage to her reputation in the late 1980s and onward “was a serious embarrassment.”

“For Winnie,” he added, “it was nothing less than a tragedy.”

Mr. Bizos’s close association with the travails of South Africans as they fought against apartheid and emerged from it seemed an improbable destiny for a man whose Mediterranean roots endured in a love of modern Greek poetry and in his marriage to a fellow Greek, Arethe Daflos, an artist who died in 2017. They had three sons, Kimon, Damon and Alexi, who survive him, as do seven grandchildren.

Such was his commitment to his heritage that, in 1974, Mr. Bizos took the lead in founding a racially-integrated Hellenic school in South Africa.

“I have lived through the joys and sorrows of the South African people,” he once said of his ties to his adoptive land. “That’s what really binds you to a country.”

Asked whether he would support Greece or South Africa in a soccer match, he replied, “It would be better for me if it was a draw.”

Mr. Bizos in 2018. “I have lived through the joys and sorrows of the South African people,” he once said.
Mr. Bizos in 2018. “I have lived through the joys and sorrows of the South African people,” he once said.Credit…Gulshan Khan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

George Bizos was born in November 1927. The exact date was never known because municipal records were burned during the Nazi occupation of Greece, Mr. Bizos said in his autobiography, although his mother, Anastasia Tomaras, recalled it as Nov. 14.

His father, Antonios Bizos, was the mayor of Vasilitsi, a village in the southern Peloponnese. George, one of four siblings, attended a school that he once likened to the overcrowded classrooms of Soweto. His mother was a homemaker who, in the traditions of rural Greece at the time, had been denied formal schooling and learned to sign her own name only as an adult.

After the Nazi occupation, the young Mr. Bizos became embroiled in an undertaking, led by his father, to spirit to safety seven New Zealand soldiers trapped behind the lines. In May 1941, the soldiers and their rescuers slipped out of Greece on a fishing boat and were themselves rescued by a British warship, the H.M.S. Kimberley, which took them to Egypt.

From there, Mr. Bizos sailed to South Africa with his father as refugees at a time when racial oppression seemed unchallenged and pro-Nazi sentiment among some Afrikaners ran high. The train taking them from Durban was forced to divert to a station in Johannesburg to avoid crowds of Nazi sympathizers protesting the arrival of the “filth” of Europe.

His father found work in a munitions factory in Pretoria, the capital, and later worked as a shop assistant there, while his son stayed with Greek friends of the family in Johannesburg. After struggling to learn Afrikaans and English while working as a shop assistant, and after scraping together tuition money, George Bizos enrolled at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He completed his law degree in 1950, two years after the National Party came to power and began codifying apartheid. He was admitted to the Johannesburg bar in 1954.

While Mr. Bizos’s two brothers later emigrated to South Africa, he did not see his mother for more than 20 years, until she traveled to South Africa in the 1960s. His parents seemed remote from each other by then, he wrote, with his mother expressing “no wish to see my father” before returning to Greece several years later.

His father died in a freakish manner in 1969. Recovering from a motorcycle accident, and wearing a plaster cast on one leg, he fell in a bathroom at his home after leaving a coffee pot on a stove. The coffee boiled over, extinguishing the flame, and his father “succumbed to the leaking gas,” Mr. Bizos wrote.

Working with two other lawyers — Mr. Mandela and Oliver Tambo, who went on to lead the A.N.C. — Mr. Bizos represented clients in obscure rural places in cases that revealed the minutiae as much as the ubiquity of laws devised to keep the races apart.

In a foreword to Mr. Bizos’s memoir, Mr. Mandela said that he and Mr. Tambo had frequently acted as the instructing attorneys for cases in which Mr. Bizos was the courtroom advocate representing victims of apartheid. Later, Mr. Bizos was the among the lawyers representing Mr. Mandela and others in epochal trials in the 1950s and ’60s that became landmarks in South Africa’s modern history.

At their most intrusive, apartheid laws decreed where people could live and where they would be buried; which schools they could attend and what they might learn; whom they could sleep with and where they could sleep. Buses were segregated by race, and so were park benches, railroad stations, beaches, stores and entire areas in the patchwork of urban townships and so-called tribal homelands that blanketed the land.

It was in those early cases that Mr. Bizos confronted the central paradox of his chosen profession.

“In South Africa there was at least lip service” paid to the legal principles, he wrote in his memoir. “And the courtroom often was the last forum available to condemn oppressive policies and the deprivation of fundamental rights.”

Only in court, he said, could one demand for all South Africans the rights “to meaningful citizenship, free and fair elections, dignity, equality and a fair distribution of goods and honors in a democratic state.”

After a long career as a foreign correspondent for The New York Times based in Africa, the Middle East and Europe, Alan Cowell became a freelance contributor in 2015, based in London.

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Battle for the Parthenon Marbles

Irina Korobina, President of the Russian Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures (RCRPS), has sent us the Committee’s excellent video. We are most impressed by the Russian Committee’s work.

In Russian, but subtitled in English throughout, the work opens with quotations from Lord Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.

Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage


Following is the English language script, with stills from the work.

Lord Elgin’s act caused outrage and condemnation from the very beginning. Lord Byron, a great countryman of Lord Elgin, frankly, called Elgin’s act theft and barbarism, in his poem the Pilgrimage of Childe Harold. It is often suggested that Elgin’s goal was to save and preserve the Parthenon sculptures. However, in one of the archives there is a letter in which Lord Elgin boastfully writes: “I have taken out of Greece as many antique values as Napoleon never dreamed of”

Click this image for the video

I don’t think we care about his motivations today, or whether he was a Saviour or a Robber. It is important for us that the Parthenon, which is for all humankind a symbol of harmony, a symbol of the architectural, artistic and living environment that all humankind throughout history recognizes as the ideal that gave rise to classical art, this symbol has been desecrated and violated. Its most valuable fragments, without which it is impossible to preserve the harmony of integrity, were broken out and taken to another country, where they are still located. Half of the Parthenon’s marble sculptures are in the British Museum, in London, and smaller fragments have spread all over the world. And all progressive humanity declares: they must be returned to their native place! Fragments of the Parthenon must be returned to Athens!

I don’t think we care about his motivations today, or whether he was a Saviour or a Robber. It is important for us that the Parthenon, which is for all humankind a symbol of harmony, a symbol of the architectural, artistic and living environment that all humankind throughout history recognizes as the ideal that gave rise to classical art, this symbol has been desecrated and violated. Its most valuable fragments, without which it is impossible to preserve the harmony of integrity, were broken out and taken to another country, where they are still located. Half of the Parthenon’s marble sculptures are in the British Museum, in London, and smaller fragments have spread all over the world. And all progressive humanity declares: they must be returned to their native place! Fragments of the Parthenon must be returned to Athens!

The debate about whether Lord Elgin’s act was a Saviour’s mission or Barbarism began in British society during his last expedition to Greece, and this debate continues till now.

Back in the 80-ies of the last century, the famous Greek singer and Minister of Culture Melina Mercuri officially announced the policy of “insistent return” of marble sculptures to the Parthenon.


EDITORIAL NOTE

Following Melina Mercuri’s initiative, the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles was formed, in 1983.  This followed the formation of the International Organising Committee Australia for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles. Later the IARPS (International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures) was created.


Today it [IARPS] includes 21 countries, including a very active British Committee. Their activity is very wide such as the appeals were made to the Queen of England, statements and petitions with demands to return to the Parthenon its treasures. In particular, there is a Russian Committee, which I agreed to become President of because for us, who were students of the Moscow Architectural Institute, the Parthenon and the culture of Ancient Greece are the Cradle of world Culture, including the Russian architectural culture.

Russian Classicism and Neoclassicism, the highest examples of Russian architecture of the 18th, 19th and early 20th century, would not have been possible without the Parthenon.

International committees of IARPS do everything for the return of sculptures – they conduct educational work, organize lectures, exhibitions, but most importantly, they express the position of the cultural community of their countries. It is clear that today the return of the Parthenon’s sculptures may not be the main concern of Russians who are going through the economical and other crisis. But this is only at first sight. In the culture of different countries, in architecture and art, sometimes incredible phenomena occur.  Something that becomes important for all humankind. And it is naive to think that these masterpieces belong only to one country. They belong to the world – all of humanity is interested in ensuring that these Points of Power that feed everyone are preserved intact. And it is immoral, even criminal, to take them apart… to destroy them, to break out pieces of them, to take them somewhere, to build new temples for them in other countries… this is a manifestation of barbarism and lack of elementary culture, which are often clothed with beautiful words about salvation, preservation, etc.

The counterargument on the part of the British, who for many years have categorically refused all Greek requests, is precisely that they are preservers of world heritage. They have a large scientific and custodial culture, they have a mission of Saviours. But there was an important event – the Acropolis Museum was opened, which was designed by Bernard Chumi and was the result of 4 international architectural competitions. The world recognition of this Museum-it is ranked 8th in the top ten museums in the world, which shows that not only Britain has great specialists and scientists, not only Britain can preserve the treasures of world heritage.

The architectural solution of the Acropolis Museum is unique. The space itself develops vertically and symbolizes the ascent of the Acropolis mountain, which is crowned by the Parthenon. And the exposition is located in such a way that the highest level represents the friezes and frontons of the Parthenon. Those parts of them that are in the British Museum have been replaced with plaster copies.

In the 21st century, the storage of sculptural treasures has acquired a Museum format, it is important that this is the Acropolis. But the removal of fragments of the Parthenon to other museums is unacceptable – the sculptures are taken out of context and deprived of their natural environment. There is an opinion that I share. It was expressed by scientists engaged in antiquity – the finding of fragments of the Parthenon in the British Museum humiliates them. They should be illuminated by the Acropolis. And the Acropolis Museum is the optimal place for them – it belongs to the Acropolis, forming a single whole with it. And there are all the conditions for perfect conservation. All conditions have been created at the highest level to ensure the safety of the priceless sculpture, which British colleagues and professional Museum workers around the world are happy about. If the British Museum delays the return of these great treasures, it will gain a reputation as a provincial, colonial, and regressive Museum.

I think that Perthenon problem has dragged on for a century, not only because Britain does not want to return the unique values that attract crowds of people from all over the world to the British Museum. Obviously, there is a great fear of creating a precedent that push many museums, many collections, and many countries will make claims against each other. This fear is understandable. We in Russia have been discussing the Shchukin collection for many years… Professional Museum workers are generally very careful about this issue. Throughout history, all the painful problems as it evolved and where it came from. And it is scarred to touch them – because explosion may occur. I believe that we need to touch it. I think that vicious and criminal decisions, as well as serious mistakes, must be corrected. And I believe that this will happen in future, because a culture was built on mistakes is like colossus on clay feet, which sooner or later will collapse. And it is better not to bring it to this!

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The Acropolis and the Parthenon in Neo-Hellenic art as emblems of national and world heritageNew Post

This article from Dr. Alexandra Kouroutaki is in French.

Dr. Kouroutaki is a member of the Specialized Teaching Staff at the School of Architecture of the Technical University of Crete. She holds a doctorate in art history from Bordeaux Montaigne University and a postgraduate degree in French Literature from the School of Humanities, Faculty of Letters of the Open University of Greece. She is also a graduate of the Department of French Language and Literature at the National and Capodistrian University of Athens. The following text is written by Alexandra Kouroutaki as part of the year 2020 “Melina Mercouri Year” and the vision for the reunification of the Parthenon sculptures.

We re-publish the article here from the online journal Grèce Hebdo, the original can be found here:

The Acropolis and the Parthenon in Neo-Hellenic art as emblems of national and world heritage


Le soleil me brûle et me rend lumineux Combien tout serait triste, triste, mon Dieu, si mon âme n’était pas consolée par l’espoir des Marbres par l’espérance d’un rayon brillant qui donnera une nouvelle vie aux merveilleuses ruines [1]

Introduction

Emblème de l’Hellénisme dans sa diachronie et symbole des principes et des valeurs fondamentales de la culture européenne, le Parthénon est l’un des monuments les plus éminents du patrimoine mondial de l’UNESCO. L’article entreprend une étude du Parthénon qui apparaît sous la qualité de symbole dans l’art Néohellénique, tant dans la peinture de paysage du début du XXe siècle que dans la production picturale de l’Entre-deux-guerres.

Dans la première partie, l’étude porte principalement sur les variations autour de l’Acropole durant la période 1910-1930 afin d’explorer la dialectique directe et le rapport plus essentiel entre le Parthénon et l’espace attique. La vue sur le Monument qui domine de sa magnificence l’Acropole, donne aux artistes grecs l’occasion de capter sur toile “l’esprit du lieu” qui habite dans les rochers et les collines d’Athènes, dans les courbes du paysage et la végétation dense, dans la qualité même de la lumière éblouissante méditerranéenne et la pureté du ciel d’Attique. Dans cet endroit qui a conçu le modèle architectural d’un idéal de beauté, les marbres du Parthénon se mettent en dialogue avec l’histoire.

Dans la seconde partie, l’étude se concentre sur des œuvres picturales de la célèbre “Génération des années 30”: il s’agit des compositions aux sujets historiques, mythologiques et allégoriques, des peintures de portrait et des natures mortes. Dans ces œuvres, le Parthénon fonctionne comme symbole de l’héritage culturel. D’une part, le Monument constitue le miroir identitaire de la conscience ethnique des Grecs, d’autre part, il est inextricablement lié à un symbolisme beaucoup plus large qui inclut l’idéal de la démocratie Athénienne, les valeurs humanitaires, les conquêtes du rationalisme et de la philosophie dialectique.

Outre la présence symbolique du Parthénon, l’étude met en évidence le contexte idéologique de l’art Néohellénique, d’après le contexte historique des premières décennies du XXe siècle et les évolutions générales dans le domaine des arts. En particulier, l’accent est mis sur les variations du Modernisme Périphérique Grec. Référence est faite aux influences du Symbolisme et des tendances postimpressionnistes dans la peinture de paysage et aux influences du Cubisme et du Surréalisme dans l’œuvre des artistes grecs de la “Génération des années 30”.

Le Parthénon dans la peinture de paysage et la dialectique du Monument avec l’espace de l’Attique

Au début du XXe siècle, la peinture de paysage est considérée comme  l’événement majeur de l’art néohellénique qui entre désormais dans de nouvelles directions. [2] Les peintres progressistes grecs s’éloignent de la stérile représentation du réel et se libèrent de l’esthétique du Réalisme Académique de l’école de Munich. Leur intérêt se tourne désormais vers les pionniers du Modernisme et les mouvements d’avant-garde de Paris. [3]

Le contexte historique et politique en Grèce était favorable à cette évolution. La politique de Venizélos a décisivement contribué à la réorientation de l’intellect grec vers le Modernisme européen. Dans l’esprit du “Vénizélisme” associé au besoin de modernisation et de renaissance spirituelle de l’État Grec, le “Groupe Techni” (Groupe de l’Art) a été fondé en 1917 pour transmettre de nouvelles idées dans le domaine conservateur des arts visuels en Grèce. [4] 

La peinture de paysage de la période 1915-1930 se caractérise par une uniformité étonnante [5]: il s’agit d’un art subjectiviste, postimpressionniste, influencé par le Symbolisme. Des artistes importants qui étaient pour la plupart membres du “Groupe Techni” (Constantinos Parthenis, Constantinos Maleas, Nikos Lytras, Périclès Byzantios, Nicolaos Othonaios, Othon Pervolarakis, Lykourgos Kogevinas, mais aussi Michel Oikonomou et Spyros Papaloukas) prêtent au paysage des dimensions symboliques. Manos Stefanidis souligne cette évolution de l’art vers le subjectivisme: «On dirait que nos créateurs ont pu découvrir avec éblouissement le paysage, son énergie, le caractère unique des étés lumineux et les contours stricts des montagnes et abordent désormais le paysage de façon exploratoire, avec perspicacité. [6]

2 kokogevinas
Kogevinas Lykourgos, “Acropole”, huile sur toile, Galerie Averoff

Le subjectivisme et la tendance vers le symbolisme caractérisent les peintures de Lykourgos Kogevinas. Dans ses toiles, les volumes solides dans leur immobilité témoignent des influences de P. Gauguin et de M. Denis. [7]

Kogevinas aborde les paysages en suivant une approche antinaturaliste, par une schématisation des formes plates. Dans tous les cas, on doit souligner l’impression provoquée par ces peintures. Il ne s’agit pas de la représentation fidèle d’un espace naturel ou structuré mais de la mise en relief d’un Monument-symbole. L’éclairage théâtral et irréaliste des toiles relie le Parthénon à sa charge culturelle et capture la mémoire du ciel étincelant de la lumière éternelle de l’Attique.

3 Kogevinas
Kogevinas Lykourgos, “Parthénon”, huile sur toile, Galerie Averoff

On retrouve cette impression dans les peintures de paysage de Constantinos Maleas. En arrière-plan, les formes du Monument sont rendues avec un fort degré de simplification et d’abstraction, sous le ciel bleu ou doré d’Athènes. Au premier plan, on aperçoit la  végétation dense de la région qui se compose principalement de pins et de cyprès. Tous les éléments des compositions sont stylisés. Maleas applique des couleurs plates sur les surfaces. [8]

Antonis Kotidis souligne l’influence de Gauguin et de Bernard sur l’esthétique du peintre grec et attribue l’influence du Symbolisme d’une part au subjectivisme du paysage et d’autre part aux “correspondances” entre les couleurs et les émotions, entre le développement des lignes et des phrases musicales. [9]

En conclusion, dans les peintures de paysage, le Parthénon est conçu comme un Monument-symbole revêtu de la majesté des siècles, toujours animé d’un souffle vivant, et inextricablement lié au lieu de son origine. Cette dialectique du Monument avec l’espace est soulignée par Le Corbusier, dans sa conférence, en 1933: «C’est l’Acropole qui a fait de moi un révolté. Cette certitude m’est demeurée: Souviens-toi du Parthénon, net, propre, intense, énorme, violent, de cette clameur lancée dans un paysage de grâce et de terreur. Force et pureté. [10]

4 5 maleas collage
Maleas Konstantinos, “Acropole”, peinture à l’huile, 1918-1920. Source: http://www.nikias.gr
Cent trois ans après sa fondation, le “Groupe Techni” continue de susciter l’intérêt des amateurs d’art, étant associé aux débuts du Modernisme en Grèce. Il s’agit d’un art moderne grec qui était à la recherche d’un caractère international. [11]

Cependant, au milieu des années 1920, le besoin du retour aux sources de la tradition artistique grecque a mûri pour donner une nouvelle dimension au Modernisme Périphérique Grec. Le “Groupe Techni” et surtout Parthenis avaient préparé le terrain aux artistes de la célèbre “Génération des années 30” qui ont créé des œuvres d’une idéologie plus ethnocentrique. [12]

Le Parthénon dans la constellation de la “Grécité” et la “Génération artistique des années 30”

Des artistes importants de la “Génération des années 30″, tels Gerasimos Steris, George Gounaro, Costantinos Parthenis, Nikos  Engonopoulos, Nikos Chatzikyriakos Gikas, Yannis Moralis ont abordé le Parthénon comme emblème du génie grec, assurant la continuité de la Nation dans le temps, et en même temps lié à un symbolisme plus large, associé aux idéaux démocratiques et aux valeurs humanitaires.

Pendant l’Entre-deux-guerres, la création artistique en Grèce entre dans une nouvelle phase, oscillant entre Modernisme et Tradition. [13]

Le retour aux sources artistiques grecques est devenu impératif après l’expérience traumatisante de la catastrophe nationale en Asie Mineure. Cet événement a créé le besoin d’une auto-affirmation nationale, exprimée même dans les arts. La “Génération des années 30” était à la recherche de la “Grécité” dans son effort de création d’un art profondément grec. Cependant, elle est considérée comme le courant le plus caractéristique du Modernisme en Grèce car elle a su conjuguer des influences occidentales et orientales.

Le cas de Gerasimos Steris est révélateur des évolutions qui s’étaient produites dans le domaine des arts en Grèce, pendant l’Entre-deux-guerres. Son œuvre symbolique et métaphysique a marqué un tournant décisif grâce à la liberté plastique de son langage pictural orienté vers l’abstraction. La source d’inspiration de Steris, dans l’ensemble de son œuvre, est l’art grec ancien et l’art moderne européen. [14]

Dans sa peinture de paysage avec l’Acropole, le caractère symbolique du Monument est intensifié par l’extinction progressive de la couleur grâce à la lumière éblouissante. Par la limpidité de ses couleurs, Steris tente de capter cette émotion unique qui se cache dans l’atmosphère grecque. Une fois de plus, le Monument qui domine le Rocher sacré, fonctionne comme symbole illustrant l’idéal en Architecture.

6 Steris
Steris Gerasimos, “Paysage avec l’Acropole”, 1931-1935, huile sur toile, Galerie Nationale- Musée d’Alexandros Soutzos

L’influence du Symbolisme se retrouve également dans la peinture de George Gounaropoulos -Gounaro. En 1938, l’artiste a réalisé une peinture murale d’une superficie totale de 113 m²  dans la salle du Conseil Municipal de l’Hôtel de ville d’Athènes. [15] L’artiste tente “un développement micro-historique [16] avec des épisodes divers de la mythologie et de l’histoire de la ville, comme la lutte d’Athéna avec Poséidon, la bataille entre Thésée et le Minotaure, Égée qui attend du haut d’un promontoire le retour du bateau de son fils, Socrate en train de boire volontairement la ciguë, la bataille navale de Salamine, les guerres médiques, la scène de la mort de Georgios Karaiskakis, un héros de la guerre d’indépendance grecque [17] etc.

7 Gounaropoulos
Gounaropoulos George, “L’apothéose de Périclès”, section de peinture murale, huile et cire, 1938-1939. Hôtel de ville d’Athènes. Source: nikias.gr

Dans la représentation centrale du programme, le Parthénon est situé en arrière-plan, dominant le Rocher sacré. La figure de Périclèsest sans doute idéalisée. Le grand politique athénien était le chef charismatique du Ve siècle considéré comme le Siècle d’Or du Miracle grec. Gounaro associe le Monument aux idéaux démocratiques. Lorsque la Grèce demande qu’on lui restitue les marbres du Parthénon, elle réclame bien plus que de simples œuvres d’art. Elle cherche à rassembler les fragments épars de son idéal de beauté, mais aussi de démocratie et de liberté d’esprit, devenues depuis lors des vertus universelles.

BeFunky Collage gounaro final
A gauche: Gounaropoulos, “La lutte d’Athéna-Poséidon”. Peinture murale, huile et cire, 1938-1939. Hôtel de ville d’Athènes. Source: www.nikias.gr. A droite: Hôtel de ville d’Athènes. La salle du conseil municipal avec la fresque de Gounaropoulos. Source: Photo: Paris Tavitian. Lifo
La présence du Parthénon dans les compositions de Nikos Engonopoulos est tout autant symbolique (images 10, 11). Dans son œuvre surréaliste, Engonopoulos créé un collage “anarchique” de figures, d’objets-symboles et de scènes de différentes périodes de l’histoire, depuis l’Antiquité, l’Occident médiéval, la Renaissance jusqu’à l’histoire moderne de la Grèce, en associant son imagination reproductrice à la mémoire.

L’espace pictural d’Engonopoulos ressemble à une scénographie où ses fameux mannequins anthropomorphes (un emprunt à Giorgio De Chirico) jouent des rôles, comme des acteurs de théâtre. Les mannequins sont présentés soit nus soit habillés de costumes d’époque. La colline de l’Acropole est peinte à la manière byzantine. Le Monument emblématique du Parthénon constitue le point connecteur qui relie la Grèce moderne à son passé glorieux, tout en soulignant la relation interculturelle de la Grèce avec l’Occident.

egonopoulos10A gauche: Engonopoulos Nikos, “Alexandros Filippou et les Grecs sauf les Lacédémoniens”. Peinture à l’huile, collection privée, 1963. A droite:  Engonopoulos Nikos, “Le serment de la Société des amis”, 1952, huile sur toile, Galerie Municipale de Rhodes. Source: nikias.gr
Le Parthénon apparaît également dans la composition de Yannis Moralis intitulée “Par le photographe d’extérieur” (images 12, 13) en vue de mettre en relief l’importance du Monument et son pouvoir de fonctionner comme une présomption de continuité culturelle et historique pour le peuple grec. Dans cette peinture de portraits (deux femmes et un enfant), Moralis adopte un style byzantin et folklorique. Cependant, le Monument et le rocher de l’Acropole en arrière-plan, sont envisagés de manière abstraite. Les rapports intemporels entre Homme et Monument sont soulignés, ainsi que le droit moral de chaque peuple à jouir de son héritage pour se reconnecter avec ses origines.
BeFunky Collage moralis kourout
A gauche: Moralis Yannis, “Par le photographe d’extérieur “, 1934, huile sur toile. A droite: Moralis Yannis, Détail, huile sur toile, avant 1931. Source: nationalgallery.gr.

Le Parthénon apparaît dans la composition de Constantinos Parthenis “Nature morte avec l’Acropole en arrière-plan”,(image14). Parthenis crée une peinture cérébrale, émotive, de portée idéologique. Il utilise des données empruntées au Cubisme, cependant, les motifs sont bien reconnaissables, malgré leur traitement géométrique. Il est à noter que la morphologie du cubisme n’empêche pas le peintre grec d’attribuer un caractère spirituel à son langage pictural et d’exprimer ainsi sa réflexion philosophique sur le monde. Le spectateur est confronté au sens spirituel des éléments représentés sur toile. Même si l’“idéal” (le Parthénon) est transféré au “cadre humain” (la nature morte portée au premier plan) il semble que l’effort de Parthenis consiste à capturer la vision grecque ancienne avec des couleurs et des formes, grâce à la limpidité des tons et la spiritualisation des éléments matériels.

14 ParthenisParthenis Constantinos, “Nature morte avec l’Acropole en arrière-plan”, huile sur toile, avant 1931. Source: nationalgallery.gr.

Le parcours dans les variations autour de l’Acropole dans l’art néohellénique se termine avec une composition de Nikos Hadjikyriakos Gikas, intitulée “Vue d’Athènes”. En adoptant un style cubiste, Gikas représente les trois collines de la ville, l’Acropole, le Lycabette et la colline de Philopappou. Le rocher de l’Acropole, les humbles maisons grecques, la lumière brillante et dorée et la végétation dense composent les éléments du paysage de l’Attique. Une fois de plus, le Parthénon s’érige en symbole assurant la continuité historique d’une civilisation auréolée de son passé prestigieux.

15 Hatzikiriakos
Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Gikas, “Vue d’Athènes”, 1940, peinture à l’huile, Collection privée. Source

Conclusion

En conclusion, le Parthénon qui domine dans sa majesté le rocher de l’Acropole apparaît souvent dans l’art Néohellénique des premières décennies du XXe siècle, dans des peintures de paysage, des compositions aux sujets historiques et mythologiques, des natures mortes et des portraits. L’Acropole et le Parthénon constituent des points de repère pour l’identité du peuple grec, transmettant partout au monde le message de la civilisation, de la démocratie et de la liberté d’esprit d’une société ouverte. Les paroles de Melina Mercouri semblent plus actuelles que jamais: “La Grèce est ceci, son héritage. Ceci est sa propriété, et si nous perdons cela, on perd tout. [19]

16 William Gell
Sir William Gell, “La suppression des sculptures des frontons du Parthénon par Elgin”. Aquarelle sur papier, 1801, Μusée Benaki

Dans tous les cas, l’Acropole et le Parthénon apparaissent dans l’art Néohellénique comme emblèmes du patrimoine culturel national et mondial, doués d’une valeur symbolique et d’une force unificatrice incontestables. La vision de la Grèce pour la réunification des sculptures du Monument devient désormais universelle. Et le jour de la restitution des sculptures au Temple ne peut pas être loin, si l’on  considère le chaleureux soutien de l’opinion publique internationale.

D’ailleurs, les sculptures violemment détachées du Parthénon ne sont pas des œuvres d’art autonomes. Elles constituent une unité indivisible, naturelle,   esthétique et sémantique avec le Monument. Pour cette raison, les marbres antiques devraient être réunifiés dans leur environnement naturel et historique. Le rôle de l’art s’avère important en vue de la sensibilisation internationale à ce sujet. Le retour des sculptures au Parthénon est désormais une question européenne de culture et de morale. L’affaire est en cours.

Notes

[1] Engonopoulos, N. (1938)  extrait du poème «Tram et Acropole» coll. Ne parlez pas au conducteur,Poèmes, tome A, éd: Icare, p. 11-12. Pour la traduction du poème, voir Les Avant-gardes littéraires au XXe siècle(1986) direction de Jean Weisgerber, Centre d’étude des Avant-gardes littéraires de l’Université de Bruxelles, direction de Jean Weisgerber, Budapest: Akadémiai kiadó, vol.1, p. 449.
[2] Voir Kotidis, A. (1993) Modernisme et Tradition dans l’art grec de l’Entre-deux-guerres, Thessalonique: University Studio Press, p. 182, 192
[3] Voir Papanikolaou, M. (2006) L’art grec du XXe siècle, Peinture – Sculpture, Thessalonique: Vanias, p. 49.
[4] Voir Kouroutaki, A. (2018) «Les débuts du Modernisme dans l’art Néohellénique dans l’esprit du “Vénizélisme”», Kritiki Estia,  tome 15  (2014-18) Société Historique de Folklore et d’Archéologie de Crète, Héraklion: Typokreta, p. 243-249.
[5] Voir Kotidis, A. Modernisme et Tradition dans l’art grec de l’Entre-deux-guerres, op.cit., p. 182.
[6] Voir Stefanidis, M. (2009) Le Musée hellénique. Sept siècles de peinture grecque, vol. c.
Ingénieurs de lumière, Eleftheros Typos,p. 85.
[7] Voir Kotidis, A. Modernisme et Tradition dans l’art grec de l’Entre-deux-guerres, op.cit., p. 182. line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:”Calibri”,”sans-serif”; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}
[8] Ibidem, p. 196
[9] Ibidem, p. 196
[10] Le Corbusier (1933) « Air, son, lumière », conférence publiée dans les Annales Techniques, 15 octobre-15 novembre 1933 (Le IVe Congrès international d’architecture moderne) Athènes, p. 1140. Voir aussi Lucan, J. (2008) « Athènes et Pise: deux modèles pour l’espace convexe du plan libre ». Les cahiers de la recherche architecturale et urbaine: Le Corbusier, l’atelier intérieur, n. 22/23, p.66.
[11] Voir Kouroutaki, A. (2018) «Les débuts du Modernisme dans l’art Néohellénique dans l’esprit du “Vénizélisme”», op. cit. pp. 248-249.
[12] Voir Lambraki-Plaka, M. (2001) Galerie Nationale 100 ans. Quatre siècles de peinture grecque, collections de la Galerie Nationale et de la Fondation Euripide Koutlidis. Athènes: Galerie nationale et musée d’Alexandros Soutsos, pp. 122-123.
[13] Voir Kotidis, A. (1993) Modernisme et Tradition dans l’art grec de l’Entre-deux-guerres, op.cit., p. 15.
[14] Stavropoulos Costas, “Enregistrements de la mémoire intemporelle”, Musée Benaki. Exposition: Steris, Œuvres de la collection Koutoulaki, 23 mai – 27 juillet 2008, Athènes: Musée Benaki, p. 29.
[15] Voir Skaltsa M. (1990) Gounaropoulos, Centre culturel de la municipalité d’Athènes, Athènes, p. 55.
[16]  Voir Skaltsa M. Gounaropoulos, op. cit. p. 140-147. Voir  Kotidis, A. Modernisme et Tradition dans l’art grec de l’Entre-deux-guerres, op.cit., p. 118.
[16] Voir Kotidis, A. (1993) Modernisme et Tradition dans l’art grec de l’Entre-deux-guerres, op.cit., p. 118.
[17] Voir Skaltsa M. Gounaropoulos, op. cit. p. 140-147. Voir  Kotidis, A. Modernisme et Tradition dans l’art grec de l’Entre-deux-guerres, op.cit., p. 118.
[18] Melina Merkouri about the Parthenon Marbles (2009)  iPedia (2016) Melina Merkouri and the British museum director.Disponible ici
[19] Voir Kouroutaki, A. (2018) «Les débuts du Modernisme dans l’art Néohellénique dans l’esprit du “Vénizélisme”», op. cit. p. 249.
 * Image d’introduction: Kogevinas Lykourgos, “Acropole”, huile sur toile, Galerie Nationale -Musée d’Alexandros Soutzos

 

 

Posted in Athens, Greece, Parthenon | 3 Comments

ADDRESS BY E.J. COMINO OAM, FEBRUARY 1986


This was an address to the Royal Commonwealth Society of NSW on the occasion of the Greek Night organised by the Kytherian Ladies Auxiliary Committee on 22 February 1986.

We publish this because it is a document from the very early stages of our activity. Emanuel explains what led him to be a pioneer in seeking the return of the Parthenon Marbles. Active in this cause from 1976, he went on to form the first committee in the world, outside Greece, to campaign for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, in 1981.


Emanuel J Comino AM, founder of the International Organising Committee – Australia – for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles. Athens 2015

Distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen.

When one is asked to speak on Greek history, it’s culture and traditions or the Greek people in Australia, it is not as easy as one may think because I don’t know where to start and where to finish. So allow me to start by saying that for thousands of years Greece and her people of the past and present have given so much to the world. You don’t have to go far, only a few blocks away from here, you walk through Hyde Park and the Domain and you will see the Hellenistic beauty, you will note that there are those unique artistic columns, the Doric, the Ionic and the Corinthian Columns, you will also see the names of Homer, Socrates, Plato, Archimedes, Sophocles, Praxiteles, Pythagoras, Diogenes, Solon, Hippocrates, Periklis, Aristotelis and many others on our national and university buildings, and not only in this beautiful city of ours, Sydney but all around the world.

And what does this mean? It means that the Hellenic people are sharing with the world the glory and beauty that was Greece and still is today.

A Greek contribution to the world

The Greeks, wherever they went, they built city-states, spoke Greek, practiced democracy and their religion. When one knows the Parthenon on Acropolis, was built between 447-432 BC for the Goddess Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, and some 1000 years later, another great building was built by Greeks at Constantinople the Agia Sophia, for the Christian faith, which means Holy wisdom.

One must never forget that these two unique buildings. No other structures or architecture built by men have ever equalled the beauty, symmetry, and symbolism of the Parthenon and Agia Sophia. They will live forever.

No doubt you have all heard of the Greek Government request to the British Government for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, otherwise known as the Elgin Marbles.

These ancient treasures were taken from Greece by Lord Elgin about 1800 while Greece was under Turkish rule and had no say in the matter whatever, and just in case you don’t know the real reason why he took the Marbles from the Parthenon – he took them to decorate his mansion in Scotland. But by 1816 after getting into financial difficulties he eventually sold them to the British Museum for £35,000 although they were valued over £100,000. Their home ever since has been the British Museum.

Just to enlighten you all, there is a very strong British committee formed in December 1982 in London and it is named the British Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece under the chairmanship of that distinguished scholar Professor Robert Browning. His Committee consists of Professors, businessmen, play-wrights, members of parliament, and many others. The aim of these distinguished Englishmen is to bring the facts and arguments to the British people to win public support in England and to urge the British Government to change its mind to have the Parthenon Marbles returned to their rightful place in Greece.

There is also an Australian committee formed in Sydney that is supporting the British Committee in the struggle for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, it is called the AHEPA (Aust) Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles. I just happen to be the chairman of the Australian Committee. My Committee’s aim is to assist the British Committee to undo the wrongs of history.

My Greek heritage

These strong feelings about my Greek heritage were not always with me. I recall well my early years in Rockhampton, Queensland where I was born. My father took me to Greece in 1938 after my mother’s death. We were caught in Greece during the 2nd World War. It was a bitter experience and when we returned to Australia after the War, I didn’t want to have hardly anything to do, with anything Greek.

When I was 19 years old and doing my National Service in the RAAF in Townsville, at a special Officers night I met an Englishman (that changed my whole thinking of anything to do with Greek). He was an Air Commodore in the RAF. He was on a special mission in Australia. We got talking and he said to me, Comino; that is a Greek name and should be called Cominos with an ‘S’ at the end. I was a very shy youngster of 19 at the time. I said to him that I am an Australian, I was born in Rockhampton, Queensland, my father came to Australia (from Greece) when he was only 11 years old and my mother also came very young. Thus making me an Australian and not a Greek. To this day I can never forget what this Englishman said to me and in the manner in which he expressed himself to me. He said, no my boy, you are Greek and you should always be very proud to be a Greek because the world owes a lot to Greek history and to the Greek people. From that moment on I wanted to know all about Greece, its history, and its people, so believe me I am still learning 33 years later. It is more than interesting learning about one’s heritage, I can assure you.

What is the Greek contribution to Australia? To begin with, there are 3/4 of a million Australians of Greek origin, about 1/3 of these migrated here, the others are their Australian born children and grandchildren.

I should point out that nearly all of these people maintain a sense of Greek heritage while being good loyal Australians. They maintain a strong affiliation with the many Greek Orthodox parishes, churches, and associations in Australia and are conscious of the importance of the preservation of the family unit. I could point out that there are approximately 40,000 children being taught Greek in after-hours schools, run mainly by the Greek Orthodox parishes in Australia.

The Greeks in Australia started off as shopkeepers and as labourers, but within one generation we have a prosperous community with very large numbers of professional people, lawyers, Q.C.s, judges, medical specialists, university professors, members in all professions. There are eleven members of parliament, state and federal in Australia, leaders in commerce and business, knights, and many people who have been honored by her Majesty the Queen, and the Government of Australia.

The ties between Australia and Greece are very strong, the two nations have fought side by side in both World Wars. In the 2nd World War, Australian, British and Greek forces, fought the might of Hitler’s army in the heroic campaigns of Greece and Crete. Let me recall two significant historical statements made by Winston Churchill at the time.

First – “It is said that Greeks are fighting like heroes, but from this moment on we should say – the heroes are fighting like Greeks.” and secondly and more importantly he said: “It is not the glory that was Greece, but the glory that is Greece.”

Migration is nothing new

Migration is nothing new to the Greek people. They have been migrating since the Doric invasions of 1100 BC. Within 600 years of that time, there were more Greeks living in Sicily and what are now Turkey and Syria than there were on the mainland of Greece. Today Greeks in America, Canada, Australia, Africa, and Western Europe number more than 4,000,000 people.

I don’t know if you know this, but migration from Greece to Australia started before the turn of the century, and they came mainly from 3 islands – Kythera, Castelorizo, and Ithaka. The Kytherian Greek community is old, well established, and very large, especially in New South Wales and Queensland. It is often said that Kythera is the 7th state of Australia. There are approximately 3,000 people left on the island of Kythera and about 80,000 in Australia of Kytherian descent. Any time you go to the Island you will run into Australians and English is spoken everywhere. For example, the postmaster of the little town of Milopotamos is reported to know by heart all the postcodes in Sydney.

For those of you interested in going to Kythera I should tell you that the island is the birthplace of the love goddess Aphrodite and it is known as “The Island of Love”.

Which brings me to the Kytherian Association of N.S.W. When I mentioned to my wife who is a member of the Kytherian Ladies Auxiliary Committee, that I have been invited by the Royal Commonwealth Society of N.S.W. to put on a Greek night, my wife, in turn, put it to the Ladies Committee and without any hesitation, they undertook to do it all themselves. I wish to thank all the ladies very much.

The Greeks are good settlers, they work hard and are progressive, but Australia has been very good to them too. Australia has provided a warm friendly atmosphere for these people.

There have been opportunities to work and to prosper. Schools, Universities, and the professions have been open to the new settlers and their children. Australia has been a wonderful and hospitable country.

Everyone is given the opportunity to do well and to be honoured for their successes in one field or another. That is why Australians of Greek descent are truly proud to call themselves Australians wherever they go. At the same time, they have a sense of history and heritage of which they are proud. Together with all other Australians, irrespective of their background, we work towards building up this great nation of Australia.

May I take this opportunity to thank Sir Arthur and Lady George for accepting our invitation with their presence here tonight. My thanks also to the Greek National Tourist Organisation for supplying us with all the Greek flags, and posters for this function.

In closing, I wish to express my deep appreciation to the Royal Commonwealth Society of N.S.W. for accepting me and for inviting me to speak this evening.

EMANUEL JOHN COMINO OAM

Posted in Athens, Greece, Parthenon, Parthenon Marbles | Leave a comment

Silent protest for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles outside the British Museum – 20 June

An article from UK correspondent for Ta Nea, Yannis Andrtisopoulos

On Saturday 20 June, the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles (BCRPM) organised a silent protest outside the gates of the British Museum, which remains closed. The protest follows on for those held in previous years and since 2009 when the then ‘New Acropolis Museum’ in Athens was officially opened. This Saturday’s protest was held to mark the 11th anniversary of the Acropolis Museum, which post-Covid19 lockdown re-opened to the public on Monday 15 June 2020.

The four large banners that were tied to the British Museum’s railings were the four original banners that hung down from the 4th Plinth in Trafalgar Square, when 19 year old student from Central St Martin’s College, Sofka Smales stood to protest, 12 September 2009, on behalf of the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles. On the following day, accompanied by Eleni Cubitt and Marlen Godwin, Sofka visited the British Museum to hand the letter she had written on a roll of wallpaper during her protest on the plinth to the then British Museum Director, Neil MacGregor.

On Saturday the London protesters, Luke, Zara and Tayo wore the 2020 Melina Mercouri t-shirts that made their debut at the 08 February 2020 BM protest. They hung the 4 posters with a few additional scribbles on them (11 years later, there was more to say!) and held the ‘Reunite the Parthenon Marbles’ flag that Professor Edith Hall held out for the first time on 22 February 2020 in the British Museum’s Room 18, the Parthenon Galleries, at the end of Natalie Haynes recital of ‘A Thousand Ships’ the voices of the women of Troy.

On Saturday, 20 June, the Acropolis Museum reduced its entrance fee and there were a number of  talks and additional exhibitions for visitors to take part in, including: ‘Chisel and Memory’, ‘The lost statue of Athena Parthenon’ and ‘A walk through the Museum with an archaeologist’.

The Director of the British Museum, Dr Hartwig Fischer spoke to UK correspondent for Ta Nea, Yannis Andrtisopoulos  that the Acropolis Museum and the British Museum “are complementary in their approach,” adding that the museum “looks forward to continuing our collaboration and fruitful dialogue with our colleagues at the Acropolis Museum.”

Minister of Culture and Sport for Greece, Dr Lina Mendoni commented :“ Perhaps the main argument that the British Museum has been making for years in order not to return the Parthenon Sculptures – since 1982, when Melina Mercouri raised the issue at a UNESCO Conference of Ministers – was that Greece did not have a modern museum that could house the masterpieces of Phidias. Since September 2003, when the construction work for the Acropolis Museum began, Greece has been systematically demanding the return of the Sculptures, which are on display in the British Museum, because they are products of theft. The current Greek government – like any Greek government – is not going to stop claiming the stolen sculptures, which the British Museum continues to hold illegally contrary to any moral principle.”

Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale reflected: “while I do not hold to the view that all artefacts should be returned to their country of origin it does seem to me that the Parthenon Marbles have a good home to be returned to and a facility in which they can be properly displayed in home surroundings for the benefit and enjoyment of visitors from all over the world.”

Labour MP Mary Glindon also added: “I have enjoyed several classical tours of Greece and a highlight of those tours has always been the visit to the Acropolis and the Parthenon. But it’s sad that the Parthenon Marbles are in London.  While they are seen in the British Museum by many people, as many, if not more, would appreciate seeing the Marbles as part of the amazing cultural experience to be enjoyed when visiting the Parthenon and the Acropolis Museum. The Marbles belong in Athens.”

Dame Janet Suzman , Chair of the BCRPM concluded: “there’s always an anniversary to celebrate. June 16th marked the 44th year since the student uprising in Soweto that was a turning point in the downfall of the apartheid state. A global reaction to the murder of a black man in America is sweeping the world, and those same students, grown much older if they survived at all, want to honour that murder by urging “a move away from a world centred on white supremacy and violence to one centred on justice and equity”.

“That argument was taken further when last week a statue was torn down from its plinth in the city of Bristol in England and thrown into the waters of the harbour where the slave ships used to anchor. Bristol, aware too well of its past, has decided that the statue should now be placed in the city museum with a full explanation of how the trader became so rich. Visitors can then understand that the defaced bronze figure is not just a benefactor of the city but a man who grew rich on other people’s misery, by exploiting the cruellest of white supremacies – the slave trade.
 
“And in Greece, the end of the Ottoman Empire’s occupation will be celebrated next year. Taking over bits of the world and ruling them according to your own values is an occupation that the British know only too well; at its height that Empire ruled a third of the world. So when Lord Elgin, British ambassador to the Ottoman court, decided he wanted to send back bits of the Parthenon to adorn his house in Scotland, he didn’t bother to ask the subject Greeks, he greased the palms of functionaries from Istanbul, persuaded his own king to provide a ship and made off with the glory that was Greece. They landed up in Room 18 of the British Museum and for 200 years have been one of its star attractions.
 
“So we need to ask the British Museum, hiding from the tsunami of anti-colonialist feeling sweeping the whole world, whether they would have the decency to provide visitors with the full story: how did these incomparable pieces of sculpture torn from the greatest building in the western world get to sit – out of context – in the grey grandeur of Room 18? Reunification of the Marbles would seem to be a move away from white British exceptionalism and a move towards a world the survivors of Soweto are desperate to see. White supremacy stole them away and a white sense of justice should see them restored. But until that time comes, as it surely must: tell the story. Let the people judge the fairness of their captivity in London. There is a museum waiting for them in Athens.”

Posted in British Museum, Greece, Parthenon, Parthenon Marbles, Parthenon Sculptures | Tagged | Leave a comment

Celebrating the 11th Anniversary of the Acropolis Museum

This state of the art museum is the future home for all of the sculptures from the Parthenon. For too long the Parthenon Marbles, that Elgin had removed from the Parthenon, have languished in an entirely inappropriate place.

The British Museum By Comparison

This decrepit hall is where the Parthenon Marbles are exhibited in London.

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The Acropolis Museum

We can’t compete with such a beautiful presentation, our budget does not permit it. This is an exquisite presentation of the Acropolis Museum.

Directed by Konstantinos Arvanitakis, with an original soundtrack by Yiannis Drenogiannis, with post Production by digimojo Production House
Copyright: Acropolis Museum.

Stay tuned for our humble sequel made on a very low budget

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Celebrating the 11th anniversary of the Acropolis Museum

Visit our new Acropolis Museum @Pinterest gallery in celebration of the museum’s 11th anniversary. Time to return the Parthenon Marbles to this world’s best practice museum, beneath the Acropolis.

Click the image and be linked to our gallery.

If you have a Twitter account there is more you can do.

Tell The UK Prime Minister @BorisJohnson, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport @OliverDowden & the cross-party Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, @CommonsDCMS , that it is time to amend the British Museum Act 1963 & send the Parthenon Marbles back Athens and the Acropolis Museum

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Virtual Tour of the Acropolis

Though museums & historical sites are opening in Greece, we can’t simply board a flight and fly there, at the moment. So, here is a virtual tour of the Acropolis from the Acropolis Restoration Service & Hellenic Ministry of Culture.

#greece #acropolis #athens #culturalheritage #parthenon #bringthemback #reunitetheparthenon #acropolismuseum

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Dame Janet Suzman Responds

The BCRPM concurs with our Australian colleagues in their eloquent plea to the Director of the British Museum and would add: “Yes, Mr Fischer, as you say, indeed there is much more to do. The movement unleashed in the world today needs to force those who have profited by peoples deprived of their selfhood by force Majeure, to acknowledge that fact, and make restitution.” Dame Janet Suzman

Dame Janet Suzman is Chair of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.

Support since the beginning

BCRPM has been campaigning for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles since 1983 and has had our consistent support from the beginning of its campaign.

We value their tireless efforts.

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