Culture in Kythera
Kythera is located in a very strategic position, since literally supervises and guards the entrance to the Aegean Sea. As a consequence has received a large number of visitors, settlers, invaders throughout the prehistoric and historic periods.
However, despite the several conquerors, mainly the Venetians (1238-1797), the marks they left behind have not altered the cultural background of Kythera and its people. The Greek language has never ostracized or receded. On the contrary, it still retains many of the early ancient elements, some of which are still used by the locals in everyday spoken language. The dominant culture has always been and remains Greek (customs, traditions, social, family life, common religion to all ancient Greek and since the time of Christianity residents have followed the Greek Orthodox Church).
Based on this mainstream and cultural backgrounds the Kytherian culture was developed. Especially during the years of the Byzantine Empire, but even in the period that the island was dominated by the Venetians and their Art cultivated extensively the dominative culture was the Greek one.
The excellent examples of Byzantine and post-Byzantine wall paintings in the Churches of Kythera are currently being studied and admired by scientists and the many visitors.
The same happens in the field of Architecture, both in ecclesiastical buildings and castles, as well as in homes and generally in all monumental structures, like bridges, or even in simple and unimpressive ones, such as farmhouses.
This rich tradition continues to the present with the recent buildings to keep on the local character of old buildings with simple lines, small volumes and unpretentious morphology.
But there are other aspects of culture that still survive without changes throughout the centuries, like the beautiful Kytherian folk music and dances. The dominant local traditional instruments are the violin and the lute, while previously the Cretan lyre was played much. Among the most beautiful local folk dances are: the Papadopanagiotaina, the Bourdaris, the Balos, the Mesaritikos, the Karavitikos, to name some that are danced blended with the Panhellenic folk dances, such as Kalamatianos, the Syrtos and Tsamikos.
Another element especially remarkable, is that of the traditional female costume, known as spaleto, which is impressive with vivid earthy colors (purple, bright yellow, violet).
It is worth mentioning that the majority of Kytherean men, although islanders, long before the end of the 19th century stopped wearing traditional breeches and waistcoat, characteristic garment of all islanders even for many decades after. In contrast, ladies used to wear the purple spaleto with the traditional scarf (kerchief), usually in bright yellow color by the end of the 40s, while Kytherians ladies of all ages used to wear the traditional scarf until the end of the 60s, not to mention that most of the elderly ladies included it in their dressing code until the 90s.
Studiousness is another characteristic of Kethereans. When schools were founded by the English conquerors in the mid-1820s , Kethereans students were very diligent and made the best impression to foreign rulers. Later, after 1864, primary schools were multiplied and also were founded senior schools in Potamos and Chora.
The progress of Arts and Sciences resulted to many Kethereans to emerge out of the confines of the island. Well known are the Hellenist Christopher Kontoleon in the 16th century, the Bishop of Philadelphea Gregory Fatseas, the doctor and philosopher George Mormoris and Spyridon Vlantis Director of the Flagiano Venice School, all of them lived in the 18th century.
A distinguished figure of the 19th century was Antony Fatseas, a strong advocate of demotic lanquage and the scholar of poet Solomos Emmanuel Stais. Great scientists like the famous professors of dermatology George Foteanos (academician) and Ioannis Strateagos, the archaeologist Valerius Stais and academician Gregory Kasimatis honored Kythira due to their contribution to science. The famous Kythetian cavers John Petrocheilos and his wife Anna also did a great work in Greek Caving.
Well known Kytherian artists were also George Souris, the librettist Kleon Triantafyllou (Attick), the engraver Basilhs Charos, the singer Maria Farandouri and many others that proved that Kythera was and is a hotbed of talented people.
Worth mentioning is also the local poet Panos Fyllis (Treaffilis), who in his work highlighted the local dialect, which is influenced at the same time by the Cretan and the Peloponnesian dialect. The famous photographers Panagiotis Fatseas and Manolis Sophias sensitively recorded scenes from social life, landscapes and monuments of Kythera for nearly the entire 20th century.
It should furthermore be noticed that the national poet of Japan Lafcadio Hearn or as it is known in his country of the Far East, Yakumo Koizumi, from his mother side Rosa Kasimati is of Kytherian origin.
Today Culture in Kythira has a clear development.
Since 2012 in Kontolianika, at the center of the island, operates a remarkable Municipal Library
(Photo1), with books and some events directed to children and adults. It is open every evening, except Tuesdays and Sundays. On Saturday morning events for children usually take place. A small Library also operates in Potamos’ Cultural Center
However visits should be arranged with the President of the local community or the vicar of the church of Virgin Mary Ilariotissa in the namesake village. (Photo.2)
The fairly rich folklore collection
of the island is temporarily housed in an old municipal building in Chora on the road to the Byzantine-Venetian castle, but is planned to be housed and enriched with other objects in a renovated municipal building in Mylopotamos.
The entrance to the exhibition is free, during the summer months is open from Mondays to Fridays from 09.00 hours to 14.30 hours. People interested in science should also visit the Local Historic Archives
housed in the area of the Venetian Castle in Chora. Its rich archival material covers a period that started in 1584 and lasted until the early 20 th century. It includes wills, marriage contracts, all kinds of contracts, censuses, church ledgers with baptisms, marriages, deaths, financial data for the agricultural and livestock production of the island and more.
The remarkable Philharmonic
, located in Potamos, always offers its service on a voluntary basis to all kinds of events and national holidays. Its members usually reach the 18 volunteers, while "the soul" of the Band is undoubted the musician - conductor, Mr. Efstratios Theodorakakis.
There are also several amateur theater groups in music-creation, traditional dances, puppet shows etc.
We must not omit to mention the local folk orchestras
operating on the island, which perform at folk festivals, religious festivals, shops and private events such as weddings and christenings or the name day of some locals. The instruments which are typically used are violins, lutes, guitars, bouzouki, drums, harmonium and percussion (drums).
Throughout the year several cultural events
take place, which of course multiply in the summer time.
Main religious festivals take place to honor local saints and of course the other major religious feast of Orthodoxy. Specifically, on 12th of May the Saint Theodore of Kythera is honored, on 1rst August Agia Elesa and on 24rth September the Virgin Myrtidiotissa. Also major religious holiday, common to all Greek Orthodox, is the Transfiguration on 6th August and the Assumption on 15th August.
Popular festivals and musical evenings take place in Avlemonas on 6th August, in Potamos on 15th August, in Karava either on 17th or 18th August, in Fratsia usually 20th or 21rst August , in Mitata (Wine Festival) usually on 9th or 10th August, in Katsoulianika, the former Community Logothetianika on 20th or 21rst July e.tc.
Also important cultural events are organized by the Municipality of Kythera and local Cultural Associations. These include theatrical performances at the Open Theatre in Potamos, concerts, puppet shows, Karagkiozi e.tc. During the last eight years famous artists performed in Kythera as Dionysis Savvopoulos, Yiannis Markopoulos, Mimis Plessas, Helen Tsaligopoulou, Pantelis Thalassinos ,Phoebus Delivorias, Socrates Malamas, Costas Tournas Sakis Boulas, Vasilis Papakonstantinou, Christos Thebaios, Alkinoos Ioannidis and many others.
Also classical music concerts, serenades, concerts of many other traditional songs are performed.
Additionally, scientific lectures and workshops take place in the Hall of Kytherian Association in Chora, in the Hall of Cultural Center in Potamos and in the Cultural Center of the Metropolis of Kythera in Keramoto. Also, handicraft of art amateurs and well-known artists’ exhibitions often take place in Chore. Of the most important exhibitions was that recently organized by painter John Spiliopoulou and the internationally known artist and religious painter George Kordis.
In Kythera the options for past time activities are plenty and generally remarkable.
One can attend performances of modern dance with allegorical meaning, as the play «The Cave» referring to the allegory of Plato's work “Cave” to traditional dance like the ones of the Ikarian Group "Artemis Tauropolos."
Finally, in sports games, not only local amateur athletes from Kythera (runners, swimmers), participate but also athletes from Crete, such as those from the Cretan Association of Marathon Runners.
Without doubt the rich cultural program that take place in Kythera, mainly in summers will satisfy even the most demanding guests.