Saturday, 3 October 2015

attica or cultural studies

Though best remembered international for stellar performances of roles that were not able to contain her energy and talent, stock-characters in good but less acclaimed films like the happy hooker in Never on a Sunday, the good-time girl-type, naughty nun, or gal Friday in Topkapı, Greek singer and actress of the stage and screen, Melina Mercouri, had another equally impassioned calling as a politician. Finding herself exiled, stateless—her passport having been revoked for outspoken socialist sentiments against the junta government of a cadre of conservative colonels who overthrew the liberal government in 1967, while away on performing on Broadway, Mercouri—along with other prominent members of the Greek diaspora focused attention and shame on the military coup d’état.
Despite tepid support in Greece and an overall laughable platform that no one took seriously, the junta lingered on and on for seven unbearable years—not ousted until their adventures with a one-Greece-policy by invading the Cyprus that was so poorly executed and resulted in the partition of the island nation rather than its annexation. Once Mercouri could return to Athens, this “last Greek goddess,” as she was nicknamed, decided to focus her energies on rebuilding her homeland—which had suffered considerably in the intervening years with dismantling of cultural capital and censorship. When questioned on her credentials for entering politics as an actress, Mercouri retorted by questioning what qualified lawyers to represent the people. Mercouri went on to become the Minister of Culture, and lamenting that it was always just the chiefs of finance that met and that money was not certainly everything—a pretty bold truth to speak, especially in the present atmosphere where Greek financial ministers are characters people might actually recognise by name—and called together, for the first time, all the European ministers of culture and the arts. The legacy of this summit survives today in the rotating European Cultural Capital and the open dialogue it invites with a less rarefied form of diplomacy that everyone can appreciate. Mercouri was also the first voice in a growing choir of protests and calls of vandalism to have the so-called Elgin marbles returned to the Acropolis and for the protection, stopping trafficking and the repatriation of other national treasures.