Ioanna Sakellaraki – Aidos
WORDS BY THOMAS DUFFIELD
“What makes us escape our own country and how do we live based on values we once learnt and always questioned? How do we struggle, allow and accept?” – Ioanna Sakellaraki
It’s physical distance from her homeland that forces Ioanna Sakellaraki to pose this question. She left Greece eight years ago – a turbulent time for the Mediterranean country that lead to significant change in the political and economical landscape for the whole of Europe. Sakellaraki was no stranger to these transformations and actively involved with the European political scene when she worked in Brussels. Sakellaraki adopts a multifaceted photographic style that uses portraiture, still life, and landscape. Through this approach she is able offer insight into her personal experience of Greece whilst subtly referencing Greek mythology and tradition.
“I was asked to grieve in ways that did not fit my emotions. So, photography became my choice for emotional expression. I first chose my family and then the country itself as the arena for producing these images. In a wider context, I find that this is the analogy with society itself. We are struggling to respond to what is presented to us as the right thing to do. We occasionally question but we always find it hard to break from the norm.”
Aidos began almost two years ago after the passing of her father, which prompted Sakellaraki to turn to her own and her mothers mourning and coming to terms with the loss. She became particularly aware of the cultural patterns she was expected to adhere to in order to uphold the codes of behaviour that have strong roots in Greek culture and tradition. This brings forth another prominent theme in the work, shame. “I grew up in a country where shaming is a lifelong tradition for positioning someone in society” she elaborates by saying that shame is like a moral discipline within Greek culture that is to be followed, giving the example: “not being dressed in black for forty days after a loved one passes away is an actual action of shame in contemporary Greece, deeply rooted to ancient mourning traditions”
“It began to develop like a Greek myth about life and death contextualising the idea of mourning in the wider field of Greek drama and psychology. The title of the series is Aidos and comes from the mythological goddess of shame, modesty and humility.”
In one portrait of Sakellaraki’s mother, her hands are raised to cover her eyes. Could this depict the humility and shame that forms subject to the project? This being both a response to her mothers process mourning and a reference to a rich mythology that sets a backdrop to the body of work. The pose in the portrait removes the returning gaze of the subject depicted, echoing the idea of humility. Despite the delicacy of the pose, there is a strength and stability in the expression and stature of her mother. Wrapped loosely around her head and shoulders a white veil creates an ethereal quality to the portrait, which elevates her mother closer to the status of Aidos herself.
The horse is a reoccurring figure in the series – a creature with a strong and long standing affiliation with Greek gods and heroes. Sakellaraki’s adept observations see this mythological symbol placed within the banality of a cafe, revealing the presence of this rich history and simultaneously posing us to question: How is mythology engaged with by contemporary Greek society?