Anna Kortianou-Kagani

Interview: Avgi Kalogianni | Photo: Vaggelis Fragkakis

Paros is the island of ancient and modern culture

Anna Kortianou-Kagani has intertwined her name with the culture of Paros and is the person one is bound to run into in practically every event related to it. Whether it be an exhibition, a live performance, a concert, a lecture or a hiking venture, Anna Kagani is always present. Active, approachable and practically-minded, she has all the attributes needed for a plan to go forward and not remain just an aspiration.
In the following interview, she talks about culture and volunteering, and gives an account of the efforts to restore the ancient quarries to prominence, allowing us to hope that this dream may finally come true.

What is your concept of culture in the context of an island that is one of the most visited in the Cyclades?
My personal look at the culture of the island encompasses its people, the traditions they enact in their get-togethers and entertainment events, their dances, their music, their traditional occupations, and the history that each carries in relation to one’s homeland. In 1979, we set up the Naoussa Women’s Association – even as early as back then I believed that women’s and cultural issues should be addressed in a group setting. I have also dealt with parent associations. I believe that school is the space of education and edification of new generations that produces civilized, well-behaved and cultured persons.
Later on, my office as Deputy Mayor and President of KDEPAP (Municipal Cultural Development Utility of Paros) gave me the opportunity to meet people engaging in culture and the arts. I joined forces with them to bring to the fore the cultural and archaeological value of the island. Since then, I’ve been a member of the Institute of Archaeology of Paros and the Cyclades, whose conferences have offered Parians (and beyond) a treasure of local history. I also supported the creation of the Environmental Park, and I’ve been a member of its Board since its inception.
Answering your question, all the fields that I’ve been dealing with throughout all these years, define culture in the setting of an island, as I believe that globalization and uncontrolled –alleged– development force us to work harder in the field of culture, in areas (the environment, history, monuments, the arts, education, sport) that can showcase Paros as an island of ancient and modern culture.

Can volunteering fill in the gaps of the institutional state in the field of culture?
Paros has many associations, organizations and festivals, which highlight human values and contribute to the preservation of local traditions. The institutional state has rested on volunteering and neither breaks new ground nor practises policy making. What’s more, funding towards various proposed actions is small and hard to access. I just don’t know how much longer citizens and their associations will be willing to contribute.

Park Festival 2022, Naias, theatrical groups –what should visitors to Paros expect this summer?
After the limited version of the Festival, due to Covid-19, this year, we’ve put together a rich program of artistic and environmental events, which will feature in detail in your magazine. Naias, with which I’ve been involved as a member of the Board, is active all year round with the participation of our athletes in sailing competitions. This year, the club held the first workshop for the preparation and sampling of salt-cured fish, in the style of local fishermen. There was also a presentation on Poseidonia and a visual arts workshop for children, both of which received high attendance.

“But above all else, we must promote and support the artists who live and create on the island, regardless of their nationality, country of origin and orientation,” you stated during your office as president of KDEPAP in 2013. What do you think is the contribution of international artists who live and work on Paros to the island’s cultural scene?
There are quite a few and important artists on Paros who are well established in their countries of origin and have promoted aspects of the island that had been less known until now. Since 2005, when the House of Literature was founded, writers, poets and painters have been visiting and drawing their inspiration from this beautiful place and its people.
Every year, in the Park we host artists who live on the island for the entire or most of the year. Their contribution is useful and I believe that we should support them and they should support us.

You’ve played an active part in all the steps taken in recent years towards the conservation and enhancement of the ancient marble quarries of Paros.
How optimistic are you that these initiatives will soon come to fruition?
I am pleased to announce the establishment of a Nonprofit Civil Partnership that will deal with the development of ancient quarries and the creation of an archaeological park. This is a group of representatives of agencies which, I believe, will remain focused on and achieve its goals despite challenges.
After the successful sculpture symposium held in 2011, I have my mind set on realizing this project.
Barcoded interpretive signs are going to be placed this year informing visitors about this great monument which constitutes the matrix of ancient Greek art.

How do you see the island in 5 years’ time? What would you like it to be like?
Well, Paros is one of the most beautiful and easily accessible islands in the Cyclades, but I believe that, in recent years, it has had to bear the heavy toll of intensive construction activity. The large built structures have altered the character of the island. Paros urgently needs to be placed under protection ensuring its sustainable development. For me, it would be enough for both locals and visitors to respect the land, the laws and the peculiarity of the island. To get to know the other Paros, with its paths and monasteries, its people and its beaches, and to love the environment left to us by our ancestors; to unite into one community driven by the good of our native land.