Is there anything more magical than learning about Greek culture, history and art in the birthplace of literature, philosophy, democracy and modern medicine? Being able to discover more about tracing Ariadne, the ancient Greek art collections in the Smithsonian Institute, and divine healing with reference to Zulu and Greek culture against a backdrop of sun-kissed mountains and blue waters on one of Greece’s most beautiful islands?
This is the exact opportunity academic power couple Marianne Vardalos and Anas Karzai, professors from Laurentian University’s Sociology Department in Ontario, Canada, is gifting to the world – an exciting blend of scholars, creators, performers, historians, artists, archaeologists, poets and economists descending on beautiful Paros to contribute their knowledge of all things Greek at the inaugural Symposium on the Greeks from 28 – 30 June.
If you find yourself in Greece, or more specifically Paros, from 28-30 June, you won’t want to miss this cultural treat. From the moment you make your way to the Poseidon of Paros at Golden Beach, you will be entering a world of knowledge and passion via twenty intriguing presentations that will explore everything from robots to medicine and literature to diasporic Greeks.
Marianne and Anas, tired and bored of attending formulaic, uninspiring professional development activities, designed the symposium to inject passion back into professional development. “We wanted to get back to the basics and thought – what better way to do that than to return to the Greeks?” Marianne said.
“We designed the symposium to be an international, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary event, so I’m most looking forward to seeing this theoretical design put into practice. I look forward to seeing future collaborations between people from different parts of the world in a variety of different fields, and I’m eager to see if we have succeeded in our aim of bringing a group together to explore and examine the relevance of the Greeks today from artistic, cinematic, ethical, literary, political, philosophical, social and religious perspectives. I’m also looking forward to answering the questions, “Did it work? Is there potential here? Could this be an annual event?”
“Greece, more specifically the people of Greece, has weathered an unfathomably harsh decade of economic, political and cultural turmoil. As academics, we understand our limitations and we know we can’t ameliorate that hardship. But we felt that what was within our power, was to start a discussion on the ways in which the Greeks, ancient and modern, continue to influence our present and inform our future,” Marianne said.
“Our intention with this symposium was to showcase the research of Greek nationals by bringing the world to them, and creating an environment that would be conducive to ongoing collaboration between Greek researchers/performers/artists, and those from all over the world.”
Deciding on a location for the symposium initially saw Marianne and Anas exploring places such as Nafpaktos, having spent years frequenting her father’s village on the mainland but, in the end, Paros won them over as the obvious choice. “My father is from a mountain village outside of Kalavrita in the Peloponnese, called Drimos. It is a beautiful, bucolic area and our trips to Greece over the last four decades have mostly been to that area with the occasional island-hop. So, when we started to scout a location for this symposium, we seriously considered Nafpaktos, Kozani, and Elefonisos. Then, it occurred to us, that getting to a Cycladic island might be a less difficult journey for a first-time traveller to Greece, so we went to have a look at Syros, Mykonos, Naxos, and Santorini,” Marianne said.
“All of them are breathtaking and dramatically beautiful of course, but Paros really stuck out for us. It has all the charm of waterfront cafes and sugar-cube houses but the land is less rugged, the heights less dizzying, and the size less overwhelming than the other islands we’d visited. The island also has the friendliest of locals, a comprehensive bus system and the greatest variety of ferry connections. Add to that the proximity of Antiparos as a “two-for-one” bonus and it became the natural choice, so we spent the last three summers focusing on Paros. We stayed everywhere from Parikia to Pounta, Naoussa to Alyki, discovered the state-of-the-art conference facilities at the Poseidon of Paros and everything fell into place.”
They have thought of everything. From the convenience of accessing the island, the minimal scheduling which provides enough unstructured time for impromptu meetings and spontaneity, to holding one presentation at a time so that participants don’t miss out, and choosing the single plenary Symposium Hall which enables everyone to engage and reflect.
There are twenty presenters from all around the world, from South Africa to Russia to Canada, including Smithsonian Institute curator Alexander Nagel, Greek Australian journalist and academic Helen Vatsikopoulos and Dr Leon Burnett from the University of Essex.
The symposium will close with a special presentation of Odysseus Returns, the signature performance of musician and artist Yannis Pantazis of La Ponta Symposium, Santorini. The performance recounts the journey of Odysseus, King of Ithaca, as he returns home from the Trojan War to reclaim his kingdom and free his people from their oppression, and is comprised of ten original music compositions, each featuring a different instrument.
Symposium on the Greeks
Free admission to presentations.
For more information including the Symposium presentation, see: symposiumonthegreeks
Photo credit: Steve K Simons