Reinventing the Ancient Across four Cultures, One Ocean

By and | 1 February 2013

What We Must Burn

(The artists embody the Phoenix myth by asking themselves: What must I burn in order to continue? What is the twig that I must bring to the nest in order to release it into the fire?)


(Ting’s offering to the nest – seven lines about being seven years old and experiencing the Cultural Revolution in China.)

I come home from school. The sleeve from my one and only jacket is torn.
I do not tell my mother how this happened. She knows.

The Red Guard took my father.

The Red Guard came to my home.

Seven days and seven nights I could not take a shower.

My mother takes out her needle and thread to sew back my sleeve.
My father is returned. He sits in his armchair and watches in silence.

(Ting places his childhood jacket into the nest.)

Stitch by Stitch – Yiayia Maroulla’s Book

(Costi’s offering to the nest – her heritage of struggle to survive given to her by her foremothers, Yiayiathes, particularly Yiayia Maroulla who sings an old Cypriot song; she weaves in and out of this song as she is reading from her embroidery.)

Hvta ftaisa tees teehees mou
                         Gai kourtise mou theekee

Jai mia mera eeseehee
                         Then thelee na me afeekee

Eemoun jai yw mia bertheeka
                         Mes ta thentra tou thasou

Jai zwntanee ee gynoiee
                         Hthelan na me biasoun

This is my book, each thread a letter, each pattern a story
stitch by stitch the sun rises over here, sets over there
this story begins in the middle of the day,
after my birth and before my death,
how I found my hands, my fingers, my luck
you see there is the tree, where I sit with my friends
and we stitch by stitch, some faster than others,
How many stitches make a lira? One thinker asks,
five hundred says one, one thousand says another
and I stitch here our ancient tree, for my friends to see
how we have aged from 10 to 60 thinking about the lira.

Evasaneesteeka bolla
                         Jeento klouvee na spaso

Na fko to kosmo na haro
                         Leeyo na eeseehaso

Ma obou baw jai statho
                         Ee teehee gyneea me

Thelee me banta os bou jw
                         Vasaneesmenee na me

Here is my sea of squares,
pictures larger than their frames,
people larger than their lives,
here is where Leonardo da Vinci visited our village
and saw my Yiayiathes
stitch by stitch lacing their stories to Venetian times
he held the embroidery to his face like a lover
made a village grow into a factory
as we work the weave of Venetian ladies
into praise and grace to drape and dress
what we will never see.

Na baw mesa sta vouna
                         Kaloyrea na yenw

Ton Xaron va ton bantrefto
                         Mono va bereemeno

This corner is unfinished
there are large holes between thread and fabric
there is more to tell but my fingers started to tremble
they cried like little babies every time I brought them here (referring to the embroidery)
I soothed them with tablets and creams
told them – Struggle is Life – finish
to pay the mortgage
to pay the doctors
to pay the nursing home
my fingers hobbled and crawled to work the weave
pinned to walking frame I tried to remember
my design, my technique, my stitch by stitch
to honour my Yiayiathes
and our lives of
struggle to make …

(Costi places her Yiayia Maroulla’s embroidery into the nest.)

Forced Language

(Kazue’s offering to the nest – her memories of burden, discipline and control as her mother taught her the piano.)

At four years old I began learning the piano

the etude, to gain fundamental technique,
took an hour, every day

my left hand was clumsier than my right
and so I had to repeat more times with my left

my little finger was weaker than my thumb
and so I had to train it to be just as strong

the exercises were an infinite formula of running up and down the scales

applying staccato, tenuto, legato

of major, of minor, of 24 keys

of control of the timbre, tempo, dynamic

of control

of control…

(Kazue places her piano music book into the nest.)

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