It is our ambition that the museum which we have created at Elliniko, Ioannina, in the Municipality of Katsanochoria should be unique of its kind. Its uniqueness consists in the fact that it includes works which speak of our home, Epirus, and its history - about what has brought it glory and made it respected by every Greek who hears its name.
It is unique because it speaks about bread, the benefactor, the one who is exiled from his homeland, the man of the spirit and intellect, the Epirot craftsman, the shepherd, the farmer, the long-suffering Epirot mother - and about learning.
The Museum is housed in a fine school building, where we first learnt to read and write. It was built by skilled Epirot masons with money from the benefactor Nikolaos Mantelopoulos, from our own village. At one time it was a busy hive of 150 children, who brought life and joy to the place. Today, it has very few. And it is a cause of sadness, it is decline for a place that a school should wither away because of a lack of children. It shows that the place is dying. Nevertheless, it is a consolation to me that the Museum itself is a kind of school. Without being a substitute for an ordinary school, it will be a school of aesthetics and a cell of culture for our region, with particular concern for the protection and enhancement of the natural environment and the highlighting of the Epirot cultural heritage.
I could have offered these works to a more central museum in Athens or Ioannina, or anywhere else. But I believe that the best place is our village school. This is because the works which we exhibit directly concern this place. They were created by memories which have marked me and have kept me company throughout my life. They were created by powerful experiences which nourished my creativity. As I have written in an earlier text of mine: 'They sprouted like shoots among whatever else had accumulated upon them'. Nothing from my subsequent service in the course of art could prevent them from making their presence felt. They called for pressing plastic interpretation, they sought expression speak.
- • They speak of the exile and the benefactor.
- • They speak of the man of the spirit and the intellect, and about letters, about the flowering of the intellect which was produced in the difficult period of Turkish rule by means of splendid schools, with brilliant intellectuals as teachers, who kept alive the national consciousness.
- • They speak of the builder whose skill made him famous and sought-after to the ends of the earth. And I am proud to say that I am a worker of their guild!
- • They speak of the stockbreeder and the farmer, the farm labourer of the village, who apart from his main job, did a thousand and one others.
Among these works are many made from the burnt materials of the Polytechnic, elaborately combined and adorned with other recyclable materials. Objects in second use, thrown away, forgotten in junk yards, but with their own history.
All these together have produced tragic figures, to serve as a reminder of the tragic event, and to convey its message. This fine academic foundation was,you see, created by Epirot benefactors, and the state neglected it, as it did so many other benefactors' achievements.
In the Museum there are portraits of important people - and the figures of many ordinary plain folk. Their individual character lies in the fact that, with very few exceptions, they are terracottas with paint, which adds expressiveness; apart from the fact that the take up again the thread of ancient Greek painted sculpture.
In the showcases in the corridor is a unique series of casts of medals and coins, produced over a period of some 40 years. And so the visitor is able to see something which does not exist in any other museum in Greece.
A special subject and sight is the classroom with its pupils, the old desks, the teacher, and the onlookers. The class of learning, as we called it.
I wish to make a special mention of the drawings which have been enlarged and occupy a dominant position in the Museum. They have been selected from the whole of my artistic career, from the time when I graduated from the school to the present day.
We have attempted in the case of all the works to position them in space with extreme economy, as simply as we could, so that the space is functional and tasteful. I hope we have succeeded in our aim.