OAK BROOK, IL – The Greek Women’s University Club (GWUC) hosted a lunch and talk on Saturday, September 21, dedicated to the topic of inspiration derived from culture. Leading the presentation were Anthe and Vasiliki Mitrakos, editors of Portes Magazine, a print and digital cultural publication celebrating Greece and Greek ideals through original stories and images.
“It is with much happiness that we have the editors of Portes here today, because they are a real credit to our community,” said GWUC Co-President Harriette Condes-Zervakis.
Attendees listened to the interesting story of one of Greece’s most mysterious and world-renowned locations – none other than that of Delphi – and learned how an American woman contributed to a wave of Philhellenism with one of her life’s major projects inspiring a “return to ancient Greece.”
The presentation also noted the research and writing of archivist, archaeologist and historian at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Dr. Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan, and Professor of modern Greek and Chair of the Department of Classical Studies at the University of Michigan, Dr. Artemis Leontis, author of the first biography of Eva Palmer Sikelianos (2019), who was highlighted during the event.
Eva Palmer Sikelianos (1874-1952) was arguably the most famous American woman living in Greece in the 1920s. Married to the famous Greek poet Angelos Sikelianos since 1907, she had abandoned dressing in western clothes and adopted ancient Greek dress as her everyday attire, becoming known for her study and promotion of Classical Greek culture, weaving, theater, choral dance and music.
Palmer Sikelianos took after the example of Sikelianos’s sister Penelope and her husband Raymond Duncan, brother of the famous American dancer Isadora Duncan, who took inspiration from the classical Greek arts to form a new philosophy of dance, in opposition to traditional ballet.
According to Dr. Vogeikoff-Brogan, the Duncan and Palmer Sikelianos couples were members of a generation that had “lost itself in Europe” as new American philhellenes who shared a common dislike for the then modern America, a search for primitivism, a love for Nietzsche’s philosophy, and a willingness to experiment with socialism.
“Captivated by the mystery and allure of ancient Greece, Palmer Sikelianos was inspired to revisit and recreate the essence of the ‘Greek Idea,’ and found no better place to draw inspiration than the sacred grounds of Delphi,” Anthe Mitrakos said.
In 1927 and 1930, Palmer Sikelianos and her husband hosted the Delphic Festivals, a celebratory affair that included tours of Delphi’s sacred grounds, athletic games, folk exhibitions, music, and theatrical performances of two of Aeschylus’s tragedies, featuring unique costumes woven on Palmer Sikelianos’ very own loom. A tremendous feat for the time, the Delphic Festivals were attended by an international crowd.
“Much like Eva Palmer, my sister and I were inspired by Hellenic culture to create something unique, both from within, and from without,” Anthe Mitrakos said. “ We hope that this effort will be an inspiration to you all, and prompt creative thought, dialogue, and even further engagement in creative activities and journeys.”
Portes Magazine is celebrating its seventh year with the release of its brand new edition. Printed in Greece, the publication threads together interesting historical and contemporary pieces of information, accompanied by aesthetically pleasing visuals paying tribute to Greece. The full color, 100+ page book includes features on culture, history, the arts, ecology, destinations, cuisine, people, poetry and more. Subscriptions are donation-based and support academic scholarships, this year in collaboration with the National Hellenic Student Association of North America.
Established in 1931, the GWUC promotes education among girls and women of Hellenic descent, maintains a benefit scholarship fund, and encourages the arts, literature and sciences among Greek people. As a supporter of music, the GWUC will in April 2020 host their 29th annual music competition open to young men and women, 20 to 29 years of age, and of Greek descent.
“The presentation was well-researched and insightful,” Zervakis-Condes said. “Though many of us are familiar with poet Aggelos Sikelianos, very few had information about Eva Palmer Sikelianos and the extent of her involvement with the Delphic Festivals.”