From Othoni through the Paxoi to Zakynthos - journey goes on. This time meeting Therianos family again - that was an important stop in our voyage.
We came to Zakynthos to pick up new member of our crew - Ida Glušič, which joins us - MEDlanders, and also to meet Dimitrios, who leads the family farm. (About Dimitrios you can find out more here in the story.)
It's about six years ago when Bojan met Yannis for a first time. Nearly every year Bojan come again on the boat with the MEDland crew to visit him. Each time he sees incredible improvements - on the Othoni island and in Yanni's life as well.
This time surprised us availability of the clean water - water source was drilled...Aslo ferry boat regularly coms to the island what was not the custom before. And another progress which amazed us touches the attempts to extract petroleum oil in Ionian Sea - for now everything have stopped and oil stays in the earth.
Throughout the years Bojan and Yannis became good friends and visiting him again this year was exceptional beautiful experience. You can also get to know Yannis via links below.
Look inside of busy beggining of our cruise...through the eyes of new member of the crew - slovak film-maker/graphic designer Matej Michalec. He will tell you what MEDland project means for him and what brought him to the Mediterranean sea.
Despite great challenges, our expedition is going on. Waves are bringing us to the island Korčula and Mljet.
Get your copy of the NEW photo book on Venice, featuring photographs taken in 2020, which will be officially released on May 7th. You can secure your copy if you are an active Patron of the MED Land project or shop on theMED Land page!
Venice is the tip of the Mediterranean and the starting place of the MED Land project. I lived in Venice on Nalu (the project boat) for a year, and the outcome was different exhibitions and the book ”Water Dragon of Venice”. Seven year later, I felt the urge, a call to come back and witness Venice again. THE RESULT IS ALREADY PUBLISHED IN a photo book with English text by Marko Pogačnik. This time, it was a a simultaneous call of two, Marko Pogačnik and me. No wonder, really, since we already collaborated on 5 book projects about Venice. During 2020, Marko has been visiting Venice mostly telepathically, and wrote and drew a completely new vision of Venice, titled VENEDIG – EMBRYO DES NEUEN ERDENRAUMS (VENICE –EMBRYO OF THE NEW EARTH SPACE). The second book, which is complementary to this one, features a selection of 92 full-page images which were also created in 2020. This 2-in-1 bundle is published in German by Neue Erde.
The English version is a photo book with short introductory text by Marko. It is a limited edition of 99 copies and a very high-quality print.
English Version - ONE book > 92 photos/144 pages 27x20,5 cm, hard cover: VENICE-EMBRYO OF THE NEW EARTH SPACE
NOW is the right time to get involved in the very important 2021 chapter of the project.
Ikaria Island is like a crown chakra of the vast Aegean sea, the Mediterranean and beyond.
Can you sense that on the internet?
In 2018, I came here to meet Christodoulos Xenakis, and from the first moment, he shared with me and the MED Land team at the time (Melania and Kubilay) his heartfelt and passionate relation with Ikaria, taking us around and explaining past and present footprints on this ancient land. Christodoulos is 85 year old now, still running an organisation – the Institute for Ikarian Studies (IFIS). One of his compassionate idea was for each EU country to have one container house as an art residency place on Ikaria island. IFIS actually got one which was “waiting for the first“ country to make it happen for more than ten years …
The friendship with Christodoulos, as well as with other Ikarians that MedLanders met in 2019, has grown to this day, which is well reflected in the stories about the adventures of Christodoulos and other Ikarians such as Urania, Dimitris, Vangelis and others. The Med Land team also facilitated a land‑art stone sculpture project on Ikaria by international group of artists-geomants, which is still ongoing.
Here are some links to stories and news related to Christodoulos, Ikaria and Ikarians:
Ikaria has at least 15,000 years of continuous history of their own specific civilisation. Their main god is Dionysus. During the 600‑year period of pirates, they hid and lived untouched in the middle of the 1,000m high island. The communist ideas are still legit here to this day. Living with less, in a sustainable way, with a lot of music and dancing is what they like … the Dionysus way … Ikaria is also known for many people that easily reached 100 years of age … The recipe is not to live alone.
My top tree virtues of Ikaria that made me become its fen are:
the perception of time on Ikaria as one big “now” … Every day is a new day, and a reset of “priority and schedule list“ is normal, acceptable, a way of living;
awareness of the values of the Ikaria continent with the positive attitude towards sharing them. It is about being grounded and connected, not only on a human level;
openness to the rest of the world.
In 2020, Christodoulos offers us – the “Slovenians“ – a tiny container house to use it for the “project residency“.
In February/March and November/December 2020, four of us made it liveable! The idea is for people with creative aims to be able stay on Ikaria, live, experience, interact, and create something out of it.
"The measure, the aesthetics and the human are three different keys for happiness and balance in our lives, because you can see all aspects of all these three things in our lives."
“When we started the agency, I remember my mother saying to do it in a way that would not spoil the island. I use my skills, art and knowledge in tourism …"
Urania is dedicated and native Ikarian. Her father opened the first tourist agency on the island, which upheld the values of sustainable tourism from the very beginning.
“All aspects of our life come from aesthetics. Aesthetic is not just about art, it's about how we choose the people around of us, our environment, how how we dress, what we eat ... Aesthetics is also very much related to harmony, and harmony is based on the human proportion. The purpose is to be in balance, in which case we never go against the natural flow of energies in other words ... Aesthetics will make us better, will make us happy, because according to our taste, we choose our partner or lifestyle, a glass of wine we enjoy, and finally, it's the meaning of life ... But we don't pay much attention to aesthetics. We have to teach children to watch, to observe and make their own choices. For me, this is the beginning of a person's personality. All this has to do with our lower instinct, but if we don't use aesthetics, we cannot be masters of our instinct logic and soul. Brain and soul, these are two potentials we have to balance. We must respect our contribution, or our existence in the universe, and not try to force the change of the rules, because then it really becomes toxic and catastrophic. Aesthetics is about the big chapter - it's a big part of philosophy. This could be the applied philosophy in life, this is the key to making us open windows, to seeing things differently, to reestimating our position as humans, as individuals, as a smaller group, as well as people as part of the universe.”
Aesthetics is very much related to harmony, both are universal principles, and harmony is based on human proportions. If we are balanced, if we follow these principles, we never go against the natural flow of energies ... In other words, aesthetics will make us better, will make us happy.
Aesthetics is underestimated or ignored. Many people think it has to be linked to a specific field, when we talk about art, but in Greek, aesthetics – αισθητική (aisthitikí) – is a big chapter of philosophy, and I think this is applied philosophy in life, this is the key to making us open the windows to see our position, to reestimating our position as humans in the universe, starting from smaller groups and environments, such as community, the people of one's country, the people of one's continent, the people of the world, and the people as hearts of the universe.
Let’s go back to the fundamental unit, the human: aesthetics will make us better, will make us acceptable in a community, will make us happy, because we make our choices according to our aesthetics and our taste.
In my opinion, everything starts with this, and we have to teach the children to watch around and to make their own choices.
For me, this is the beginning of building a personality and a more complete human being.
The soul has to do with the lower instinct, but if we don’t use aesthetic, we cannot be master of our instinct, brain and soul. Logic and instinct are two of our potentials we have, and we have to balance them.
We need knowledge, aesthetics, and awareness about the people, because if we only care about ourselves, we cannot move forward (when I say about ourselves, what I mean is about ourselves and the people closest to us), we have to be more open and caring. It doesn’t mean we need to become victims, but to be generous.
To combine logic and instinct, one must have knowledge, awareness of one's environment, and aesthetics. These are the five boxes that enable us to move forward as personalities, get developed and be a member of community or a member of the universe.
All the rest, money, respect and everything, come later, because if you are aware and you have aesthetics you can respect yourself, other people, the nature, the environment, everything.
If we change our aesthetics, we will become more aware of the environment. For example, we will not accept so much plastic around us, we will be aware to preserve traditional style of the architecture, to keep our tradition, our costumes and our culture alive.
We can be more sensitive and protective if we have a very concrete idea about what we want our environment to be and if we can clearly see ourselves in a specific environment.
In order to achieve that, we have to be very precise according to our aesthetics. for example “Kitsch environment” comes from someone who ignores the term “aesthetic”, with all the expression of his life: environment, behavior, generally.
on the practical level
Years ago, I was invited to a council in the capital of Ikaria, where we had a meeting to talk about tourism. Our usual common problems are: lack of transportation, very bad ferry connections, especially back then, old abandoned cars beside the road, cleaning the beaches, and generally the way we handle waste and how we could train the people involved in tourism to treat visitors more professionally and carefully.
When it was my turn to talk, I said that the priority was to reevaluate our aesthetics of the island, because if we manage to do this and we train new generations, showing them that there are other standards of organizing life, we will never need to talk about all those practical things separately, because they will simply choose much higher quality environment to live in, which would affect the visitors as well.
If we create a little paradise in the middle of nowhere, people will know that they will discover a diamond, it doesn’t matter if there is one boat for months or for weeks, they will come just to experience this environment with us ... They didn’t get it.
I saw that all these people were raising children.
The role of Greece
Everybody was talking about the Greek crisis, the economical one, but it wasn’t only economical, it was also general, political, cultural.
There is a book called Ikarian Utopia, written by a French philosopher Étienne Cabet in the early 20th century... He’s describing the ideal society. Ikaria was a very special society, underground, because it was based on different values compared to other areas in Greece. Compared to other Greeks, the Ikarians were snobbish. But they discovered that we are happy and with less stress here.
They started looking for us again, to see what’s going on here. So I think that Ikaria is an example of how people can reevaluate their lives. And this is a great example, not only for Greece, but generally for people. Because there are people from all over the world – from Europe, from America, from everywhere – who know Ikaria as a good source of knowledge to reassess their lives and to change their priorities in order to achieve wellbeing, to achieve well-living. I think that Ikaria could be a very good example of wellbeing and well-living for all the countries in the Western world, not only Greece. Everybody was talking about the Greek crisis, meaning the economics. But it wasn’t the economics, it was a general crisis: political, cultural, parental ... If experts would examine the phenomenon of Ikaria, they would see that Ikarians were less affected during the period of the crisis, because of the way they organise their living.
One of the values we have here is ‘less is more’. Not quantity, but quality. The roots. There are different keywords that if we were to gather all together, I could explain the dream that I have: being in a human environment, having real, good communities with other humans. Human communities, not isolated but open, in their own way. My dream is to keep the values and the measure as we know them, because it is not by coincidence.
The important thing is that we create the time. Not the other way around … This is what happened today. I was busy in the office, I had many commitments. And in a magical way, without struggling, I ended up spending the entire day with you. I enjoy it, you enjoy it, and there was no stress of ‘oh my god, what’s going on’. With a couple of phone calls, everything is possible. Everything needs its time. And it finds its time, finally. Whatever it is that you want to sort out. I think the point is to get in a no-time situation. Sometimes it works better than to force things, to make plans, to try to make things happen. Somehow we use time as the measure to organize our lives. If we just start doing the things that we want to do and just let time follow the activities, rather than setting deadlines, it seems that it works much better for our mood and the achievements that we get.
For me, development means improving our lives in terms of quality, convenience and respect. Respect for balance, for tradition, for costumes, and for the specific characteristics of the environment and its people.
For me, art is the filter of our lives, our expectations, our experiences and viomon, through which we can look into the mirror, improve our ego, improve ourselves in what we wish to communicate with our environment.
You cannot create art if you don’t have viomon, the life experience that has been transformed into the very essential part of our being, a part of us. This is what I call viomon.
If you don’t have that, if you don’t have expectations. If you don’t have a vision of life, you cannot make art. You are flat. You don’t have anything to say or to communicate.
So, how are you using these things to create, if you want to be creative? What does it mean “to create”? I create something through which I want to show my improved self, my filtered self.
I filter myself through art, and I am here, ready to show you another aspect of me and to communicate with you.
People have the need to communicate. Why don’t they communicate only by talking to one another? Because their art, what they have created, is something new, is a new body, a new creation that they present to others.
This is the improved self: a self that also includes more magical elements and less realistic ones, which they could not use in different other ways.
I am quite active; I hate the phases “I belong” or “I am a member”, I believe in freedom and action, and I have done it many times. I took action whenever I felt that it was necessary to do something.
I feel a great responsibility and duty to act, whenever I can, for the rights of the people, for the humankind, for the environment, for this place.
I strongly believe in the values of the unit, the will of the unit and the freedom of the unit; because we are units with a free will that can move things forward, it’s exactly the opposite of a community.
Cooperation is necessary, contribution of a team with ideas and actions is necessary, but I will never accept to be a member of a union and act as a part of a union because I will not accept to lose my freedom of expressing my ideas, I think that it goes against the actions.
I will give you an example: if I am painting or cleaning the road and someone comes to me and says: “Listen, as you are cleaning the road, maybe you can join our club, you can be a member of the union, 'Cleaning with the rainbow'.” If I say yes, they will say, “Oh good, you have to come, read the statement, sign and come to the council to have meetings, and clean with the rainbow”.
Maybe it wouldn’t be acceptable to clean someone’s house if the person was a refugee and he should become a member of the community , he’s not paying the annual fee, so he’s excluded, “and after all, we don’t need refugees, because they don’t speak the language … So, we don’t clean”.
I wouldn’t agree, and I would go there and clean the house.
The next day, maybe the council would have a meeting to decide whether to expel me from the club.
This action would take my freedom to act as an activist away, whereas otherwise I would be able to do it without any consequences.
So, we are back at the beginning: if you want to do something, just do it. If you have people that need support, do it.
I do not belong in any council, in any local community.
One day, a union asked me to help them build a road to connect Therma to Nealia Beach.
They worked with some volunteers, but they need thr money to pay for the wood and some workers with the machinery.
At that time, I was broke because the season had not started yet, so I gave them one of my painting, a big one, and I suggested they make a lottery.
They managed to collect 1,600 euros, and that was more than enough to cover the wages. Then, they said to me: “We only need 800 euros, so you can have the rest”. I said: “No, because you made all the effort, I gave you my painting, all the profit is yours. If there is money left, just keep it, have a big party, feed the people who work as volunteers”.
They made the party, they bought the food and at the same time and at the party, they also collected extra money.
So they asked me if I wanted to be an honorary member of the association, and I said: “No, I am here, if you need something just call me and if I can do something, I will do it, but don’t put me in the difficult position of becoming a member.
I offer as much as I can. If you believe in that, you don’t need to make your life very complicated and make up rules everywhere.
Eleonora Pauli, Urania Mytika geting ready for self portrait, BB
Released by MED Land project / photography, editing: BB / cover photo: self-portrait by Urania / audio conversations, BB and Eleonora Pauli / transcription by Laura Mangumba and Giacomo Colonnelli / text editing - proofreading: Tadej Turnšek, godfather of the story: Barbara Ćeferin
In april 2017, Omar – 26-year-old Syrian refugee – founded an organization refugee4refugees on Lesbos and Samos, two of Greek islands with the most immigrants. The organisation, that is, mostly Omar himself, runs programs to improve the lives of refugees on the island, like education, free shop, programs for kids, engaging volunteers from all over the world. He himself is also a volunteer! The organisation is one of the most notable on the two islands. “I can see the Mediterranean full of blood, since people can not escape from the violence at home.” refugee4refugees
"In my experience, the EU played a game, which later became too much for them and they lost control. Nobody was expecting this ... Nobody could ..."
"In fact, just today at 7.30 in the morning, a boat had an accident at Bodrum, and there are still nine people missing. Last week, seven people headed to Lesbos lost their life …”
“'Imagine' was my point of view when taking photos, being someone who just came across from Turkey and wandered around Mitilini, the main port of Lesbos."
“I am a refugee myself, so I have a different story with the EU. When they create a war ... In my experience, they create a war, a war doesn't start by itself ... I am here to save my life. They were trying to fix my leg, I went to school, had friends, led a normal life. One day, they came to my house at 6 a.m. I opened the door and gun was pointed to my head … There were policemen who were supposed to have information about me. In the end, they told me I was working for ISIS. Anyway, they fucked my life, since they took my ... and friends. When I got this paper that said 'We are sorry', I decided to go back to Syria … Our government does the same ..."
The island of Lesbos became famous for the most unbearable refugee camp in the world, as they call it here. Here in Moira Camp, people are waiting for years to, maybe, get asylum rights. Originally set up for 2,000 people, the camp is now home to some 14,000.
Bojan Brecelj: "Before I even entered the official zone of Moira camp, I had an incredible flashback situation. Ladies from Afghanistan around perfect killeen for their traditional bread and the smell that I still have in my memory from when I was traveling through Afghanistan in the 1970s. At that time, before the Russian and Americans destroyed the country, it was the most friendly and gentle place in the world - hospitality was the keyword. Even the police at the border first gave me some good hashish for the welcome, asking for my passport. These people who treated me so nice and taught me sooo much in my life are now in deep trouble, because of us, first of all! And we do not welcome them??? The Afghan ladies did not mind at all that I was photographing them! On the contrary, they gave me two loafs of very tasteful Afghan bread! Hospitality beyond imagination!"
Moira camp - Lesbos island
"It came from my family ... They taught me that if I see somebody who needs help, I will help. When I was living in Germany, I was doing the same, I was volunteering ... Before the war, I was working with my father in construction, I studied and also practiced swimming ..."
"Over 70 percent of NGOs have refugee volunteers, we call them community volunteers. I am from Syria and I know how I to help them! The same goes for people from Afghanistan, Africa ..."
OMAR: "In one of my projects, I run a free shop."
... where people can go and decide to choose what they like ...
... I am trying to show them that you are human and you can choose for yourself.
Refugee4Refugees volunteers working in Omar's free shop
"It is easy to fix the situation, but at the same time, it is difficult, because the governments don't want to fix it. There are many reasons. You have a lot of smart people in the camp, but to get asylum, you need to be crazy, you need to provide a paper stating that you are crazy ... It is a game."
Since the authorities did not allow Omar and his Refugee4refugies organisation to improve the living conditions in the Moira camp, Omar found another solution. He set up a playground with full program next to the camp, so children can easily come and live their playful life.
About the responsibility for the war in Syria:
"All the governments, such as America, Russia, Iran ... Everyone has their hands in Syria right now. If they take their hands and their feet out of there, we would go back to our countries and live in peace again. But they don’t want that, they want to continue, otherwise the war would be here tomorrow … The same day, they would start it in Turkey, and the next day it would be in Europe ... Because everybody is against Turkey. They will never stop the wars … It’s all about the money."
About future changes:
"Yes, something will change, but it is going to change for the worse … Because no one has enough money. Someday, if they have enough money ... You can get money in many way, smuggling people, having them in camp, creating the war, from the petrol … Everywhere …"
"I do not believe my dream will ever come true, but anyway ... To return home and also to see one day, or just for a few hours, that the people who work with us see that we are humans … And even if they believed we are animals, they would take better care for us. No one gives a shit ... I believe people get tired of the situation, of the government … I believe that A FEW PEOPLE CAN HELP EVERYONE IN THE WORLD, because if just a few people start to help others, those others can help another few ... This mean that no one in the world would need help anymore, and we would not have war anymore … If they would just start with explaining the situation in the camp, explain to the people why they are here and how long they will be here, people will wait, but no one explains nothing, because no-one knows.”
“For instance, I come from the north, there are three families ... One million people. We don’t know each other, but in some way, we are really close. If we see something wrong, we have the right to catch this person. We have the right ... that is what they teach us, but in EU it does not work the same. Now, the kind of people you have in Europe. I am sure it is pretty much the same in Afghanistan, Africa ... If you could just teach these people before you welcome them, everything would be different. They can be in control ... What is freedom in Europe? Alcohol, being with women, and freedom of speech. In Ethiopia, freedom of speech is 0,5 out of 10! Whatever you want to do, you need permission, and for me, this means control, no freedom at all. I cannot say I am Muslim, because everyone believes how a Muslim brings terror. At the same time, I do not want to generalize. I say, before you say something about another person, try to meet this person and understand what he wants.”
"In one of my projects, I have a free shop where people can go and choose what they like. I am trying to show them they are human and they can choose for themselves. I believe everything will be fine and that I can do more for them."
"EVERYONE BELIEVES WITH THE POWER THEY HAVE, WHEN THEY HAVE ENOUGH MONEY, THE WAR WILL STOP ... here! If someone who has power and information about what will happen to those people tells them the truth about what is going on, what they have and what they provide, those people would start their lives, build a new house, start business, live their life here ... But people don't have any info ... They are waiting all the time in front of the ferry, they just want to live here, you can't imagine this feeling ... My idea was to create a workshop here, provide free accommodation and small salary, and after six months, when I teach them something and they gain some experience, they get their own work and pay back from their salary ... But it is a huge project ... Imagine how many people would start their life."
"I don't want to live in this world anymore, because I do not see any future anywhere in the world ... Always control ... Before you even have an idea, they already know what you want and will never let you do what you want. Now I am trying to be against the control, of course, to respect the law but to do something they do not like. Now I am trying to change the living conditions, like cleaning their houses, the surrounding area, working in their garden. I am my own boss, and I'm not even boss to my volunteers. We have some rules in the NGO - if refugees fail to do the work, we try to do it. Personally, I get strength from refugees, they will never turn against me. For example, I was arrested three times in Samos ..."
"If i need to blame someone, I will blame the government. 99,99% of the problem is the government. If they would just explain to their people why those people came, why we have to support them, why we have to help them, welcome them to our country, everyone would be happy ... People who help, they believe their stories or just try to help them, they don't really know why. If you ask me, it is how we were taught. But people get tired, if you try me for one year it will be finished, I promise I would work 23 hours a day. But you don't know how long it will take. In the winter, you start to prepare for emergency, after the winter, you start preparing for the summer. When the summer ends, you start to prepare for the winter. Every day, you have something to do."
Omar Alshakalis is Director and Co-founder of Refugee4Refugee. He works on the ground on a daily basis and oversees the NGO’s entire operations. As a Syrian refugee himself, he brings invaluable insight when designing and implementing humanitarian aid interventions from a practical perspective, using a beneficiary approach to best serve the refugee communities in both Lesbos and Samos. In emergency situations, Omar’s responsiveness is extremely fast, often taking the role of mediator and always knowing what to do, who to talk to and how to keep everyone safe. Omar is an incredible human and humanitarian. He fights inequality every single day, and his drive to help everyone in need is extremely contagious.
Omar fled his home town of Deir Ez-Zor in 2014 after ISIS took control and he was severely injured during a missile strike. He swam for 14 hours from Turkey to Greece to reach safety and, after witnessing the humanitarian crisis that was taking place in Lesbos, he co-founded Refugee4Refugees in April 2017. Nowadays, the NGO is working in both Lesbos and Samos, growing step by step to increase the impact and quality of its interventions.
Released by MED Land project / photography, editing: BB / cover photo: self-portrait by Omar / audio conversations, BB and Eleonora Pauli, text editing / proof reading: Tadej Turnšek, godfather of the stroy Barbara Ćeferin
The first three days of 2020 we, MAD Landers, spend on island Hvar – THE home port of Nalu and main office for the project, located in Museum of Stari Grad (MED Land partner)
The trip started from the Split main ferry port.
Gregor Erjavec on January 1st 2020 in Stari Grad, Adriatic island Hvar. In 1996 Gregor and his friends started “Slovenia Tibet support group” NGO. He never declared himself as Buddhist practitioner, in fact he travels more to Arab and African countries…
Margi was once fisherman with her own boat… she likes jewelry and also draws. On January 1st 2020 she held her “first 2020 open exhibition” of some of her collections on the Helios hotel beach.
The “first three days of 2020 Hvar tracking team ” Ivana, Gregor, Petra (designer of MED Land logo)
Hvar island -view from Humac towards Sv Nikola 626m
island Hvar – or anywhere I move last days – my attention on emerging “more subtle organic new world” gives me another observation – beyond explanation-s
Sv.Nikola highest peak on Hvar island -626 m
Ivana Petan -ceramic artist is invoved, cooperate and support MED Land project from the beginig
Ivana Petan ceramict artist -is supporting and creating MED Land project from the beginning
Ivana Petan -ceramic artist is invoved, cooperate and support MED Land project from the begining
Island Hvar is 72 km long and has meadows all along the island. Walking here feels like moving along the Dragon back.
Humac – island Hvar – was once a rich village
Humac – island Hvar – was once a rich village.
Jane: “We were staying on the top of island Hvar, in the vicinity of Sv. Nikola peak, for three month and now we are going back to village Dol…” Jane moved from London many years back and runs Yoga retreat place in village Dol – island Hvar.
view on island Vis from island Hvar
island Hvar – or anywhere I move last days – my attention on emerging “more subtle organic new world” gives me another observation – beyond explanation-s