Cornucopia by Mary Chairetaki and Panos Charalampidis

Issue 88

Lassithi plateau, situated at 840m ASL on the island of Crete, is a natural fortress with a particularly fertile land, surrounded by mountains. History runs deep here. First inhabited during the Neolithic age, it became a major cult place of the Minoan civilization and the ancient Greeks. There, in the Dikteon cave, it was believed that Zeus was born, hidden in safety from his devouring father Cronus. According to the myth, the goat Amalthea nourished baby Zeus. Cornucopia (horn of plenty), the symbol of abundance, which is commonly depicted in western art, has one of its origins in this legend.  Similarly, this rich land has nourished the inhabitants of Crete for centuries.

The scenery is formed by both nature and men. Nowadays, the remains of wind-pumps are scattered over the valley, reflecting just a glimpse of its old glory when 13,000 of these white-sailed pumps dominated the view. The plateau has its own time pace, and the 21st century can be noticed only through fragmented pieces. Typical of the Greek rural areas, it has been under economic stress, long before the generalized debt crisis. Therefore, by exploring the plateau, we inevitably probe into the life of the Greek agricultural areas. Young people are fleeting away, and the population is shrinking. As a result, most people have become resilient to the ever-diminishing life prospects and live in their own self-sustained environments.

Being born and raised in cities we tried to perceive our relation with this agrarian world through our memories, or the absence of them. We photograph in order to understand, hopping in this process to complete a puzzle. We gradually realized that basic concepts in our life like food, safety and time were more quantified than qualified. Our questioning, while personal, has wider implications that challenge the urbanized life.

“Cornucopia” is an on-going artistic research attempting to form a contemporary photographic trace of the plateau’s elusive identity. As we persistently confront our experiences and knowledge of this place, we slowly shape an unintended path that is open to interpretation.

Mary Chairetaki and Panos Charalampidis live and work in Heraklion, Crete, Greece.
To view more of their work, please visit their website.