To Rebrand Itself, Greece Digs Deep Into Its Cultural DNA

A gold flower-and-myrtle-leaf wreath, thought to have belonged to one of Alexander the Great's stepmothers, is now on display at the National Geographic Museum.

A gold flower-and-myrtle-leaf wreath, thought to have belonged to 1 of Alexander the Great’s stepmothers, is now on display at the National Geographic Museum. National Geographic Museum hide caption

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The news out of Greece in the previous many years has been fairly bad. An ongoing financial crisis has resulted in an unemployment price that’s hovering around 25 % — at present, there is a main exodus of young, educated Greeks. And far more than a million refugees and migrants have poured into the country in the past year and a half. So what is the Greek government carrying out in response? For one factor, it is sent a big art exhibition to Washington, D.C.

The show, which opened in June and runs by means of early October, is named “The Greeks: Agamemnon to Alexander the Fantastic.” It is a survey of 5,000 years of Greek art and artifacts. Most of the products have in no way left their homeland ahead of. This quit in Washington is the last on a tour that also included the Field Museum and two stops in Canada: at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, near Ottowa, and the Pointe-à-Callière Montréal Archeology and History Complex in Montreal.

“We wanted, in the starting of the economic crisis in Greece, to show actually what Greece is, and genuinely what Greeks are,” says Maria Vlazaki. Vlazaki is the secretary basic of Greece’s Ministry of Culture and Sports. She’s also an archaeologist, and she is a single of the curators of this show some of her finds are on show in “The Greeks.”

Vlazaki has been planning this exhibition considering that 2010 — not lengthy soon after the global financial meltdown started.

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She points out the Greek government lends things all the time, and the National Geographic Museum originally suggested that they work with each other on an exhibition of ancient Greek artifacts. But she is also quite simple about 1 of the factors that this show of far more than 500 objects is touring the U.S. right now: She wants to inspire tourists.

Three figurines from the Cycladic islands, which are roughly 5,000 years old, are on display at the National Geographic Museum.

Three figurines from the Cycladic islands, which are roughly 5,000 years old, are on display at the National Geographic Museum. Mark Thiessen/National Geographic Museum hide caption

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“They see so numerous masterpieces and also factors of daily life, that I consider they will be extremely interested to go to Greece, simply because they will see how Western civilization has been inspired by Greece,” says Vlazaki.

Amongst the oldest products on show are mysterious, angular little figurines from roughly 5 thousand years ago, from the Cycladic islands.

“It appears like modern art,” says archaeologist and National Geographic Fellow Fred Hiebert. Hiebert is the co-curator of “The Greeks,” and he says that he is nonetheless stunned by how prepared the Greek museums and archaeological internet sites had been to lend out some of their most worthwhile treasures.

Hiebert and Vlazaki lead me via the show. “We’re coming to a section here which is from a internet site museum that I never, ever believed we would ever borrow from,” he explains, “due to the fact it is the royal burials of the kings of northern Greece at the time of Philip the Wonderful and Alexander the Great.”

We’re standing by a case that consists of a finely wrought wreath made of dozens of tiny, quite delicate and detailed flowers and myrtle leaves, cut from thin sheets of gold. It was thought to be produced for Queen Meda, one of Alexander the Great’s stepmothers.

“When we were putting this in the case,” he says, “it glimmered and jiggled with each and every slight breeze. It’s absolutely the most amazing piece of work I’ve ever observed.”

But will visitors who see these treasures then want to go to Greece on getaway? Could the show even aid foreigners reframe their perceptions about this struggling nation? Peter Economides thinks so.

“You know,” says Economides, “Americans are bombarded with all the news about Greece’s negative news. I believe it’s a reminder, a really palpable, tangible reminder, up close. It is at the core of what Greece is all about, and it creates extremely, quite constructive impressions.”

Economides is from South Africa, but his loved ones background is Greek. These days, he’s a brand strategist primarily based in Athens. He was portion of 1 of the most higher-profile rebrandings of all time: Apple’s reboot, and its renowned “Here’s to the crazy ones” campaign.

So Economides knows a issue or two about how organizations — and even nations — put themselves out into the world. And he says that looking to ancient Greece may not just coax Americans to reframe what they know about the nation nowadays.

“Greeks need to re-comprehend who they are, so they can get their act together,” he says. “Branding begins inside. It’s not anything you speak. It’s some thing that you do. It’s something that you are. It really is some thing that drives behavior, cultural behavior.”

Tourism to Greece is really up — in fact, the 2016 statistics are set to break records. But Economides says the nation demands to reimagine itself as one thing much more than a vacation paradise of low cost villas, abundant sun and sea, and some intriguing archaeology. It really is about Greeks themselves getting inspired by that ancient history do much more — to produce a 21st-century country that is as innovative as it was thousands of years ago.

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