The Finnish Committee is globally perceived as one of the most active committees for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles as you keep reminding and raising awareness on the issue to the Finnish nation. Even though it’s only a year since the opening of the New Acropolis Museum, are there any new actions, schemes for the reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures scheduled for the near future?
Our actions are mainly concentrating on “London 2012” campaign that we have promoted both in Finland and abroad.
You have launched several campaigns for the reunification of the Marbles in the past. What impact did the transmission of those campaigns have on the public?
In May 2009 as the President of Greece was visiting Finland we got a lot of publicity for our campaign in Finnish Media. Also, at that time Ms. Tarja Halonen, the president of Finland, gave her public support for the return of the Marbles.
In addition, “London 2012” campaign got publicity in June 2009, with the inauguration of the New Acropolis Museum, both in Finland and Greece.
The occasions of the Olympic Games in Athens and the opening of the New Acropolis Museum were two significant international events. However, on that basis no actual, political movements for the assertion of the Sculptures occurred. Would you like to comment on that?
In my point of view the main problem in 2004, was that the Acropolis Museum was not finished. I think that now, considering that the New Acropolis Museum is open, it is putting more pressure to the British Museum. Let's hope this will be enough.
As far as the dialogue on the reunification of the Sculptures is concerned, despite the debates and the official meetings that have been carried out on various occasions, an important progress or a political decision hasn’t been formed yet. Shortly after the opening of the New Acropolis Museum, which is the proper strategy to strengthen the dialogue between the two countries, in your opinion? How can a solution be achieved between the two countries for the repatriation of the Sculptures?
First: international pressure. The more people know about the marbles in different countries and more they push the British Museum, the sooner the British must react.
Secondly: Negotiations must be kept on. Keeping positive and trying not to insult each other. I think that when warm-spirited feeling is made, the solution can be found easier.
Thirdly: We must find a win-win situation, where both sides feel (or at least can keep their face by publishing) that they have got some advantage. That's one point of the “London 2012” campaign and what this London Olympic plan is about.
More explicitly, London could give a unique temporary exhibition about ancient Greek sports history, as an "exchange gift" for the Marbles. That could be something special for Olympic guests.
In your opinion, considering the Greek side on the matter, which argument on the demand of the reunification of the Sculptures do you consider as the most important ?
The cultural heritage belongs to the country of origin. Especially one like this with immense symbolic value as the kind of incarnation of pan-European cultural basis created in ancient Athens.
Conservative press worldwide holds a harsh, unbending attitude towards the debates for the repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles. Why do you think such an oppositional behavior against the reunification is held?
Two reasons: on the one hand there is, in my personal opinion, an un-conscious snobbish attitude about the superiority of Anglo-Saxon culture. On the other hand, I think, there is a fear about making the Marbles first case in the line of many upcoming (like Rosetta Stone, Benin bronzes etc.)
Public view in Europe and US clearly supports the matter of the repatriation of the Sculptures. However, the administration of the British Museum states that the Parthenon Marbles are in fact cultural monuments, part of the ecumenical cultural legacy and that the narrow context of national identity or origin does not appeal to them. The British Museum argues that their mission is to elevate the global cultural heritage through the ages. What are your thoughts on the matter?
The marbles are a part of common pan-European cultural heritage, not only of the Greeks - far less of Britons. But this doesn't mean that they could be placed just anywhere. They belong to a certain context (which is not the imperialistic show case of the British Museum Greco-Roman collection): Ancient Athens.
“BRING THE BACK” campaign starts for the very first time from Greece. Which is your message, that you would like the whole world to know through this campaign?
The Parthenon Marbles are world heritage. It's our common task, for our common benefit to help them get back to where they belong: Athens.
Secretary of the Finnish Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Scupltures
Eight Reasons: Why the Parthenon Sculptures must be returned to Greece
by Nicolas Mottas
The date has been announced. On June 20th, the New Acropolis Museum of Athens will be inaugurated, opening its gates to the public. Crouching at the foot of the Acropolis rock, the brand new Museum is consisting the forefront of Greece's continual effort for the restoration of the Parthenon Marbles. The opening of the 130 million Euro ultra-modern building, which covers almost 14,000 square meters of exchibition space, dismantles the years-long argument that there isn't a proper place to host the ancient Sculptures in Athens. But, actually, the new Museum isn't the only reason which advocates in favour of Parthenon's Sculptures back to Greece - there are, at least, seven more points:
1. Lord Elgin action's illegality: Thomas Bruce, then British ambassador in Istanbul, did not have the legal right to remove (in 1801) the ancient masterpieces from the Parthenon. Officially, Elgin obtained a 'firman' from the Ottoman authorities but when the British Parliament asked to examine it, he couldn't submit it. What he submitted was an italian translation of the official document. I reproduce from an interesting article of the American Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, Inc: "Specialists in Ottoman Law point out that the document does not carry the signature and seal of the Sultan or his customary invocation to God, and without them, Elgin and by extention the British Museum have no legal evidence of ownership of the Parthenon Sculptures" (Newsletter, Nov.2008).
Therefore, the argument of the British Museum's administrations that the Sculptures consist "legal property of the museum" is doubted. How proper is to base the 'legality' of Parthenon Marbles' ownership on a translated version of a letter probably produced by a low-ranked Ottoman official?
2. The precedent cases of artifacts restitution: Two years ago, the Los Angeles-based J.Paul Getty Museum returned to Greece a 4th century BC Macedonian gold wreath as well as a 6th century BC marble statue of a woman; eight years ago, in 2001, the same museum had handed back to Italy almost 500 ancient objects. Going back three years ago, in September 2006, the Heidelberg University of Germany handed over to Greece a small piece of Parthenon's north frieze.
In 2008 the Vatican decided to give back a Parthenon fragment, while on the same year a British court ordered the return of a Byzantine icon which had been stolen 30 years ago from a Greek monastery. Furthermore, during last September, in a gesture of meritorious goodwill Italy gave back to Greece a fragment of the Sculptures which had been acquired by a museum in Palermo, Sicily; its worthy of remark that the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano personally presented the restored fragment to his Greek counterpart Karolos Papoulias.
3. Complete view of Parthenon: Almost 99% of what survives of Parthenon's masterpieces is exposed in London and Athens According to Professor A.M Snodgrass of Cambridge University, "among these pieces, the British Museum possesses fifty-five of the fifty-six frieze slabs, all twenty of, the pediment figures and fifteen of the sixteen metopes, nearly 98% in total" (Appendix B, British Committee's submission to the Select Committee of the House of Commons). But the removed Marbles consist core part of the whole architectural environment of the Acropolis and their position is in sight of the building to which they actually belong and not in the hall of a museum in the other side of Europe. As Professor Snodgrass writes "if the aim is to investigate the meaning attached to the original design as a whole, it would be a huge gain to have virtually all the surviving material in one location" - that location is the New Acropolis Museum, in the shaddow of the Parthenon.
The visitor in the renowned British Museum sees some random parts of the Parthenon, along with other ancient masterpieces of other civilizations and historical periods. But if the Sculptures will be exhibited in the modern Acropolis Museum, the visitor will have the great opportunity to appreciate them in their original environment, in sight of the Parthenon and very close to other known ancient Athenian sites (e.g. ancient market, Olympic Zeus Temple etc).
4. A UNESCO World Heritage Site dismembered: The Acropolis' Parthenon consists a unique case of a crudely dismembered ancient building. What Lord Elgin did in the start of the 19th Century was an action of disgrace, against a monument which stances a landmark of Western Civilization. Because the actual meaning of Parthenon's appreciation is in its unique universal value as a great symbol of Democracy - therefore, a gesture of respect which would cancel Elgin's irreverent act would be the restoration of the removed artifacts and the reunification of the twenty-four centuries old monument.
5. Public Opinion's stance: If the restitution of the Marbles was fully dependent on what people think, then the British Museum should have handed them back to Greece. According to a poll conducted during 2008 by the British Ipsos-Mori firm (2,109 persons in 198 UK locations), 69% of those who were familiar with the issue were in favour of Sculptures' restitution to Greece, while only 13% expressed opposition. In comparison with a poll conducted in 2002, there is a 7% increase in the number of the British people who support the Marbles' restoration.
Previous polls, conducted in the United Kingdom during the 90s, had similar results, proving that the majority of Britons (who are familiar with the issue) are in favour of Sculptures' restitution.
6. International Pressure: The campaign for the restoration of the ancient masterpieces back to Greece has gained international recognition. From Australia to the United States, significant celebrities from the political and cultural scene, as well as distinguished scholars, have favoured the Parthenon Sculptures' Restitution. International organizations such as the European Parliament and UNESCO have formally supported that aim, while politicians from various countries have expressed their keen interest towards the reunification of the Parthenon.
For example, in the UK, the late Robin Cook, MP and Secretary of State (1997-2001), was in favour of Sculpture's restoration. The former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, had said that the Marbles "should return home once there is a proper place for them there", while the Labour Euro-MP Alfred Lomas has repeatedly urged the British government to take positive initiatives on the issue. Moreover, in 2000, U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois introduced a resolution (S.Con.Res 127) in which he expressed the "sense of the Congress that the Parthenon Marbles should be returned to Greece".
7. A European Cultural Heritage Issue: Except from a bilateral issue between Greece and the United Kingdom, the case of Parthenon's reunification is a matter of E.U.'s common Cultural Heritage. On January 1999, the European Parliament adopted a declaration in which it assured its support "for the return of the Elgin marbles to Greece, reflecting the view held by the majority of the British public on this matter and international instruments designating the Parthenon a world cultural heritage site".
According to Professor Francesco Buranelli, the head of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage (Vatican), Lord Elgin's act "left a deep wound in European cultural sensitivity". That needed sensitivity on Europe's Cultural Heritage is mentioned in Article 151 of the E.U. Treaty, which stipulates that the Community must support and supplement action by the Member States in order to conserve and safeguard cultural heritage of European significance. The Athens Parthenon is definitely Europe's landmark monument, epitomizing its historical, political and cultural roots.
Nicolas Mottas is a columnist with an MA degree in the Diplomatic Academy of London. This article was published on the American e-magazine American Chronicle on 23.2.2009 )
Columnist with an MA degree in the Diplomatic Academy of London.
This article was published on the American e-magazine American Chronicle on 23.2.2009 )
Repatriation of cultural objects
By Elissavet Menteti
(In the article below I analyze thoroughly the reasons why the cultural heritage should be repatriated in an international level in order to avoid any unilateral, polarized nationalistic view concerning the issue of the return of the marbles of Parthenon.)
The best omen is to fight in defense of your paternal land (Omeros, 800- 750 B.C., Ilial, utterance of Hector)
“A nation without a past is impossible to have a future” (Greek saying). Past is a puzzle which consists of history, traditions, customs, cultural remains, ancient ruins, human achievements. In this essay the word past is used with reference to cultural heritage. Cultural objects should be repatriated for a number of reasons including nationality, religion, tradition, cultural identity, aura, history and human existence itself. It will be demonstrated that cultural artifacts which had been illegally exported have to be returned to the ‘rightful owners’ under the purview of temporary property law.
The term “repatriation” refers to the restoring or return to the ancestral country. It is a compound word consisted of the prefix re- signifying the repetition and the suffix patriation which comes from the Greek word πατρίδα (country). Etymologically, it comes from the Latin word repatriatus (Merriam- Webster’s, 2009). This essay focuses on the repatriation of objects of artistic and cultural value taken from the host countries without consent.
From the national or folklore point of view, cultural heritage is important for the determination, ratification and consolidation of the cultural identity of every nation. According to Thorleifsen, ’Repatriation is inextricably bound up with the restoration of cultural pride and identity’ (Thorleifsen, 2009). Ethically, these cultural artefacts are pieces of history for the place which created them and vital for the way a nation defines its character. Mariam introduces the term of ‘self- determination’, a very current approach nowadays that globalisation tends to extinguish every national attitude or special tradition different countries have (Mariam, 2009). These individual national characteristics tend to be eliminated because of the extended mass culture and the homogeneity of current lifestyles.
In addition, these cultural objects do not have the same aura when they are not in the environment which created them. Art and environment interact and are interdependent on each other. Speaking within a romantic and humanistic framework, the genesis of the culture is signaled with the first completion of the genesis of human and the creation of society. Zisis states that human societies from their beginning mould the base of culture, rudimentarily, acquiring cultural entity (Zisis, 2008).
Through all its forms culture is connected with the human creativity. From the classic antiquity it emerges that the person has approached the environment as an extension of his internal world constructing a ritual relation with nature. This magic relation constitutes the way of internalization among environment, human and culture. Similarly, holistic philosophy constructs the same idea, that human and society are closely and dynamically connected with the environment which means that the internal world of the person or otherwise the anthropogenic environment interacts with the outer natural world (Zisis, 2008).
Likewise, Benjamin evaluates the culture by its ‘presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be’ analyzing its ‘authenticity and the history experienced’ as a basic presupposition for the transmission of the real essence of art. Specifically, he introduces the term of aura as a parameter ‘beyond the realm of art’ because art cannot be reproductive as technique, opening thus a horizon of unique feelings, stimuli and experiences resulting from the energy of the artistic creation. Finally, Benjamin, influenced exclusively by the aura of the cultural artifacts, supports that the ‘creative rehabilitation’ of cultural elements is mandatory for ‘the sustainable management and prospect of environment as these elements are resources of values for the person and the society’ (Benjamin, 1936).
Trying to identify the meaning of cultural heritage from the relativistic point of view it is obvious that its notion is changed when it is closely connected with religion as a significant number of cultural artifacts were used as symbols. Yew mentions that “what may at one time have been a tribal religious statue may have existed in a relationship with its native possessors in a way that cannot be articulated outside of modernity and capitalism” arguing that the contemporary use of these artifacts is just to “adorn the Western Museums” (Yew, 2002), whereas for some nations their use and function are vital.
For instance, the great Zimbabwe Soapstone Bird which for Zimbabwe was a national emblem but it is now held in Germany consisted only of a decorative object. Four out of five Birds were returned to Zimbabwe by South Africa after independence in 1981, but the last one still belongs sold to the Ethnological museum of Berlin (BBC, 2003). Mariam also supports this issue speaking about the ‘sacred symbolic dimensions’ cultural objects have (Mariam, 2009).
Correspondingly, the same reflection of the repatriation is clear in the statement of Vrdoljak who says that ‘the underlying purpose that binds all rationales for the restitution of cultural objects in international law is ensuring the continuing contribution of people and their culture — not cultural objects per se — to the cultural heritage of all humankind’ (Vrdoljak, 2008: 300). Specifically, in her book she poses the significance of the ‘sacred’ grounds the cultural objects have for their original owners while she analyzes the whole philosophy of repatriation answering why the cultural heritage is associated with cultural identity and why its preservation and protection enforce the need of restitution to its state of origin (Vrdoljak, 2008).
Undoubtedly, cultural heritage cannot have the same meaning for the nation which created it and for the nation which just ‘owns’ it. However, who really owns culture? According to Scadifi ‘there is a system and a way structures and values are reflected. The objects and entitlements of ownership vary across legal systems’ (Scadifi, 2005: 159). The ‘cultural capital’ has to be taken into consideration as the cultural knowledge, competences or dispositions vary from country to country. In ‘Distinction’, Bourdieu defines ‘cultural capital as a form of knowledge, an internalized code or a cognitive acquisition which equips the social agent with empathy towards, appreciation for or competence in deciphering cultural relations and cultural artefacts.’ (Bourdiew, 1979: 53-54) The competence to decode the culture owns to the nation which created it as the cultural capital is ‘the code in which it is encoded’ (Bourdiew, 1993: 7).
In general, the global capitalism tries to convert the intellectual value and the cultural capital into monetary value, price and economic capital as west can own the history of east. Said’s overall statement about cultural discourse is that ‘it follows a purpose, a tendency, in a specific historical, intellectual, and even economic setting’ (Said, 2003: 325). He also appraises that ‘historical confrontation and sympathy presence depend on the specific intellectual and institutional structures of modern Orientalism’ (Said, 2003: 120). By this he justifies the meaning of social influence and political power west societies have on east ones. Similarly, Yew, influenced by postcolonialism, interrelates the right of possession with the financial power pointing out that they address specifically to the “upper class”. He justifies his opinion referring to the “public edification” and the “cosmopolitan ownership” which poses the art like it “belongs” to museums (Yew, 2002).
On the other hand (according to the usual assertion of the nations which illegally acquire the cultural monuments), these transfers may have saved the cultural objects from possible loss or destruction as most of the past monuments have been taken during war periods. Due to belligerent time the climate prevailing supports such actions. According to Vrdoljak the period which reconsidered, evaluated and recognized the significance of the cultural heritage is the period from the post-Napoleonic period till the end of the First World War, the main period of mass looting (Vrdoljak, 2008).
Concerning Marx’s dialectical materialism 1818-1883, developed societies’ social conscience spring from economy and production (Tzonos, 2007: 28). So, if it is impossible for a nation to protect and preserve its cultural heritage, it has to be carried out by another nation as the fundamental role of the museum from its creation in 15th century till now is to collect, maintain and protect the cultural heritage. To these traditional roles new ones came to be added, the promotion of natural or cultural objects, the confirmation of social-political values and the approach of mass population purposing to the education, entertainment, consumerism and evolving to cultural production (Tzonos, 2007: 60). In our multicultural society any museum can include any exhibit from any civilization. As far as the role of the museum is concerned, Hooper-Greenhill supports Taylor’s view that there are not ‘direct ancestors’ (Hooper-Greenhill, 1992: 187). In the same way, Cannon-Brookes compiles the same argument stating that there is not any ‘national fundamental role’ (Cannon- Brookes, 1984: 116). Museum is a dynamic organization whose identity, purpose and functions change according era, scientific or cultural context, correlations of force and power into the concept of society (Hooper-Greenhill, 1992: 187). Besides that, Foucault evaluating the radical dynamic of culture points out that what counts is the perpetual, endless opportunity of understanding its meaning (Foucault, 1977:151).
Repatriation of cultural objects is a controversial and sharp issue. Cultural heritage according to Scadifi consists of a matrix, a combination of material and intellectual property ‘enmeshed in a web of communal rights and responsibilities’ but ‘property is a social system up to governmental decisions’ (Scadifi, 2005: 159). Unfortunately, sometimes, state cases can bring about destructive effects to inter-country relations when each part holds an undivided interest in the entire property as the political advantages are opposed. Said supports that ‘all cultures have a view of other cultures that may be exotic and harmless to some extent but when this view is taken by a militarily and economically dominant culture against another it can lead to disastrous results’ (Said, 2003: 325). From the one hand, democratic ideologies created a cross-national and multicultural pattern of participation and national affiliation (Almond and Verba, 1963: 238) but on the other hand this does not secure a cooperative political behaviour or a mutually acceptable system to this process. However, there are numbers of examples of already repatriated cultural objects.
recommends the example of the ‘utimut process’ which is the name of the partnership between the museum of Greenland and the museum of Denmark as during the period 1982-2001 they cooperated creating an ‘ideal platform’ concerning the repatriation. The museum of Denmark returned 35000 cultural objects owned to Greenland introducing a new model concerning future transactions or exchanges (Gabriel, 2009). Another case is the re-erection of Axum Obelisk which was annexed to Italy for 68 years before its final acquisition by Ethiopia in 2005. As far as the legal aspects, this process introduced new principles of international law as the “principle of non-impoverishment of the cultural heritage from the states of origin, the principle of non-exploitation of the weakness of other countries to obtain cultural gain, and the principle of preservation of the integrity of cultural sites” (Scovazzi, 2009). Last but not least, the repatriation of the Kwakwaka’wakw transformation mask from the British museum back to Canada in 2005 was also an important step characterised as a “reunification with cultural soul”
In conclusion, should cultural objects be repatriated? I will not respond to this question as the answer has already been given by large international organizations. This ethical issue has created concern for UNESCO and UNIDROIT which considered the restitution of cultural property to countries of origin a necessity establishing ‘legal instruments as the 1970 UNESCO Convention or the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention . Both conventions ‘enable the preservation of cultural heritage and consequently the memory of humankind’ (ICOM, 2006). History, cultural identity, religion, aura are basic elements for the meaning and function cultural objects have. Consequently, I will concur with Munjeri that the issues of ‘permanency of loan’, ‘legal ownership’ and ‘national symbols’ have to be mobilized in the world globally and establish a international standard (Munjeri, 2009).
Postgraduate student in (MA) Communication, Culture, Media ( Unicersity of Coventry)
She has worked as a researcher in: Politecnico di Milano, Coventry University, Herbert Museum.
There once was a daughter
By Natasha Oikonomopoulou, translated by Nancy Papaioannou
There once was a daughter
She had no sight, she had no voice
There once was a daughter
She had no finery, she had no money
There once was a daughter
She had no mind, she had no heart
But there was an identical daughter
And yet another one, and yet another one, and yet a fifth, and yet a sixth
Their beauty was unrivalled
Although they lacked in thought, in speech and breath
No they did not have these human features
But they had a faultless cut
Graceful movement and wavy hair
A fine and unadorned dress
A smooth skin and a feminine and slender body
Perfect analogies and a harmonious face
They did not have only those human features
When you would look at them
Even if they could not see
They gazed the world with discretion, optimism and contemplation
Even if they could not speak
You would hear words coming out of their lips, sounding like music
They would make wise propositions about life
Even if they could not touch
They felt everything, because their whole existence
Bore life like a womb, it pulsed like a cell
Within the endless flow of evolution
Even if they could not walk nor breathe
They did not stand aimlessly
They inspired with their face and poise
The support of a roof, the grating of an art
Their home was a temple and the sacred land was their bed
They did not want other food than the shimmer of the shining light
Their life, a pentelic marble script
Their nature, overbearing and unfaltering
Only to fit in the Attic sky’s embrace
The Attic sky revealed them
And a life-giving spirit baptized them
In immortal water, in a rigorous, inimitable voice
Like the one that throughout the world signifies
And bears and nurtures and reflects universal meanings
Thus their friends are many, both men and women
And they visit them from everywhere
Bearing many gifts
Jealous of their beauty, they desire their glamour
And try to share their fame and glory
Their enemies are many too
The greatest one of them all
Who wanted to captivate them
Had a double face, a friend and a foe
Elgin was his name and a lord’s title he bore
He was of British descent, with a pound for a soul
1806 was the year, when, with many ploys
He got to win one of the six daughters
Only to re-sell her 10 years later
To a “British” museum
That contained nothing British
Our story has no end
It will carry on writing history endlessly until the daughter returns
Given her divine substance she has to succeed
And since our story deserves no epilogue
There’s nothing left to say but her name and generation
Caryatid is her name
Her father, Mnisiklis
Her next of kin? The spirit
Height and weight? Ideal
Inhabitant? of the earth
Age? The age of the universe
Her motherland? Greece
Marble pieces lie about
burdened with century- old dust
and great deeds of the past,
polished with sweat and labour
AWAIT the return of
their counterparts, lost and gone
to faraway lands.
Handicapped the Parthenon stands
with a bright amputated sun
casting its light, always bright
on this axed colossal cradle.
The great Greek spirit immortal,
hovers restlessly above, seeking
the pieces of this great monument.
The parade of life-depicting figures,
so elaborately carved on marble,
are now sad, a vehicle of the past
they have now become.
The pilgrims to the gentle spirit
stand in awe before the Parthenon
and a sudden sadness fills their heart
when they see the Temple
handicapped and so brutally attacked.
Vasiliki Savvidou-Mihalarea is aTeacher of English- Translator/Interpreter
References "Repatriation of cultural objects":
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2. BBC news channel (14 May 2003) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3028589.stm (2009, October 10)
3. Benjamin, W. (2008) The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction / translated by J.A. Underwood, London, Penguin
4. Bourdiew, P. ( 1979) Distinction, Paris, Les editions de minuit (p. 53-54)
5. Bourdiew, P. (1993) The field of cultural Production, Great Britain, Polity press
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