It may not be Athens, Paris or Rome, but Eleusis (or Elefsina) is one of ancient Greece's most sacred places and the city to become a European Capital of Culture in 2021, as was announced (November 11) by the selection panel of independent experts responsible for assessing the Greek cities competing for the title. With this decision, Greece's heavily industrialized and for decades “polluted backyard” wins -against all odds- the title of European Capital of Culture for 2021 (along with Timişoara in Romania and Novi Sad in Serbia) and is getting ready to celebrate a new era!
Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner responsible for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, stated: “In 2021, Greece will host its fourth European Capital of Culture after Athens in 1985, Thessaloniki in 1997 and Patras in 2006. […] I congratulate Elefsina on its successful bid. I look forward to seeing Elefsina give visitors from Europe and all over the world the opportunity to discover the city and its cultural assets but also to appreciate the diversity of cultures in the EU as well as our shared values – this is today more vital than ever.”
Following the European Commission's announcement, the mayor of Elefsina, George Tsoukalas said: “The work starts now. All together, the municipal authority and the citizens should unite our forces for the success of this important obligation we undertook". At the same time, he stressed the need "to bring Elefsina in the European scene and to give the city what it deserves".
The main concept of the Eleusis final bid book is summarized in the phrase “Transition to Euphoria”. The vision for the artistic programme is incited by the challenge of sustainability and nourished by the belief that art and culture are the “keys” to building a sustainable future. Thus, it seeks to answer the question: What would a city be like if art and culture were at the heart of every human activity? Both Eleusis and Europe, at this point in time, are invited to reinstate the concept of “EU” in daily life, to redefine a model of sustainability in order to proceed towards the future with optimism. To this end, the Eleusis program draws inspiration from the history and significance of Eleusis and uses the city as a mirror, which reflects the issues that concern Europe today.
It is worth noting that year 2021 marks the 200th anniversary of the Hellenic Revolution, which led to the establishment of the Modern Greek state. Revolutions are times of transformation and transition. Eleusis and Europe are both faced with the challenge of a new transition, the need to redefine concepts such as development, social cohesion and, eventually, prosperity. The role of art and culture in this process is decisive, as Art can open new roads and offer new prospects for the future. The “Transition” programme includes five key events; using the myth of Persephone as a metaphor, the events focus on the transformations of Europe and its societies.
As for the “EUphoria” programme, the organizers’ vision emerges from “eu”, the meeting point of Eleusis and Europe, which means “good»” in the deeper sense of the term. Thematically, the programme focuses on the three great challenges that the concept of sustainability is currently faced with, which also correspond to the three main categories of relationships that need to be redefined. First is the challenge of people’s relationship with the environment and nature (EUnvironment). Then comes the challenge of their relationship with others in the framework of society (social sustainability), which is approached through the contemporary city (EUrbanization). And finally, there is the challenge of the relationship between the individual and oneself (personal sustainability), which is crystallized in the individual’s relationship to work, i.e. to the need for survival, creativity and recognition (The EU Working Classes). Each of the three themes includes four events, resulting in 12 major programmes, as many as the months in a year.
The European Capital of Culture programme started in 1985 on the initiative of the then Greek Minister of Culture, Melina Mercouri, and has developed into one of the most ambitious cultural projects in Europe. The original motivation of the project is now more relevant than ever. It is to provide Europeans with an opportunity to learn more about each other’s cultures, to enter into intercultural dialogue and to enjoy their shared history and values: in other words, to experience the feeling of belonging to the same European community.
The formal designation of Elefsina by the relevant Greek authorities is expected to take place in the coming months.
More info: Visit Eleusis 2021 official website
See also: “Mourning Rock”, a documentary about Elefsina by Philippos Koutsaftis. A meeting with the inhabitants, a tribute to the sanctity and also the impression of the destruction as a result of the industrialization
Watch video: 2021 |Eleusis: Dead Can Dance musical Composition