says a traditional Minor Asian song that talks about immigration, travelling and new homes.
Last Saturday, I wandered in the narrow streets of Upper Town along with several other people. A different tour came to my attention and I decided to follow it, as it sounded different and I wanted to learn more about an area I thought I knew quite well. The purpose of the tour was to raise awareness on the issue of the so called ‘Kastroplikta’.
We met at 18.00′ in Ano Poli (the Upper Town of Thessaloniki). We were promised an artistic intervention in the neighborhood of ‘Kastroplikta’ through dramatized narrative and Aphrodite Foutris, who had undertaken the research work (University of the Aegean), in collaboration with the School of Fine Arts (Florina), within the framework of the project «Clinical Sociology and Art», was there to welcome us.
Under the first arch, the actresses took their position and started singing an old traditional song of Minor Asia. We soon followed them as they started walking towards the houses of the area and while still singing.
Adjacent to or located directly in front of the Byzantine wall of the Upper Town of Thessaloniki and extending to a large part along the wall can be found humble abodes, built by refugees who came to Thessaloniki after the Asia Minor Catastrophe (1922) and several of these are still inhabited until today. When these refugees started building them in the beginning of the century, they built them on purpose against the Byzantine wall , using the wall as part of the building to save money. The result was that the walls ended up partly ‘hidden’ by them , which is why, in the recent years the Municipality of Thessaloniki thought they deserved more visibility. It was therefore decided that they had to be demolished (after 2010) amidst reactions from their dwellers.
The specific tour promised we would witness the special history of the locals who are now called to leave the historic neighborhood due to its remodeling. Aphrodite Foutris interviewed several inhabitants of these historic homes and then dramatically processed their testimonies. At specific instances during that one hour and a half, a few performances took place. In these we could experience the inhabitants’ opinions, feelings, reactions and suggestions to fight back against the State’s decision to demolish their homes and recreate the area.
Indeed, reaching the area of these humble abodes our first stop was in front of one of the houses where the landlady was expecting us and started singing for us an old traditional song in Turkish.
Mrs Osia welcomed us in her yard, where we gathered around her and the actresses started reenacting an imaginary dialogue bringing into light the reactions and opinions of the inhabitants. ‘The historical memory has to be preserved through the existence of these same houses’ was their prevailing opinion.
The actresses read out words of the inhabitants that expressed their opposition to the destruction of their houses and the neighborhood and proposed some alternatives. ‘The houses can remain and we can open them up to the people who want to see them and learn about them’. ‘We can renovate them but we need money to do so’. ‘We also need a clear cut framework that will respect our presence here and the historical memory’. ‘This can be turned into a cultural neighborhood’.
Soon afterwards we were called downstairs for another performance. At the Makedonikon’s yard, an old taverna now closed down.
Off to our final destination : an open air area behind the Byzantine wall where the last performance took place, more singing and dancing under the blue sky.
A wonderful way to inform people about social issues in their town and to raise awareness! A dying world and area that is crying out for help. One of the many. However, finding a more creative and artistic/theatrical way to reach out to the people of the city can perhaps help. But it has to be repeated and find more supporters. A well spent afternoon indeed.
Theatrical direction : Lefkothea Pylli, with the participation of: Osia Kazana, Maria Katsia, Sofia Kostantopoulou, Irini Mougiou, Savina Romanou, Eleni Tsianaka, Tatiana Christiadoudi, as well as the inhabitants of the castles.
I first heard about the specific tour/intervention here : https://parallaximag.gr/agenda/events/monadiki-ksenagisi-sti-thessaloniki-oi-katoikoi-ton-kastroplikton-anoigoun-ta-spitia-tous