(BEING CONTINUED FROM 16/05/15)
1.2. Multilateral cultural diplomacy: U.N.E.S.C.O. and the 150th anniversary for Cavafy’s birth
The United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization is the leading
international organization dealing with the potentials of this soft power on a multilateral basis.
As Katalin Bogyay points out (Katalin Bogyay 2012), UNESCO has identified the global
ethical norms that shall reign over all its 195 Member States; however, when talking of
cultural diplomacy, especially in a multilateral context, we should not concentrate our
attention solely to the Western Civilization as the one and only historical factor that
influenced its development; attitudes of peaceful and non-violent ways of resistance, infused of philosophical, social, cultural and/or political ideas come under the scope of cultural diplomacy, as well. Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr or J.S. Mbiti are some of such examples that shape and influence the ramifications cultural diplomacy may take. Of course, we could also add the musical contribution in this kind of soft power, as a special part of cultural interplay, since music is recognized as a vector of international peace and can indeed operate upon a global sensitization over cultural diversity as an always open channel of communication and respect between cultures.
Another significant contribution UNESCO offers to the field of international cultural
diplomacy is the commemoration of historic events and anniversaries of eminent personalities around the world. Due to this initiative and UNESCO’s constant vigilance, its Member States and Associated Members have the opportunity to exercise soft power over crucial circumstances, spreading elements of their own culture across the globe. 2013 was dedicated,among others, to Constantine Cavafy (1863-1933) and the 150th anniversary of his birth,recognizing the Hellenistic Universality of the Greek poet from Alexandria who left his indelible mark to the backbone of the Modern Greek Poetry18. If for Yannaras19 the ideal of cultural diplomacy lays on the distinct identity and the imperative need of self-determination by countries that resist to a global homogenization and alienation, Cavafy’s oeuvre embodies it and can have a direct repercussion to the very human psyche for quality of life, while it still retains elements of the different nature of the Hellenic personality among cultural traditions and as such it can lay the ground for a fruitful global dialogue, enhance communication and improve interaction and cooperation on reciprocally cultural support.
Concerning our perspective of approach, Cavafy is considered to be the foremost Greek
poet that has been widely translated and set into music. Notwithstanding the opinion that
music cannot endue his words, Professor Vassilis Lambropoulos and Dr Pantelis
Polychronidis have concluded that Cavafy’s poems still include numerous possibilities for
musical elaboration. It is estimated that they have already inspired about 50 Greek and 30
foreign composers to write music in many different styles (songs, symphonies, cantatas,
opera, ballets, even cabaret), for various instruments (solos or electronic music), in 20
different languages (albeit the existed inconsistencies in the use of language) with diverse
arrangements taking place, as far as their translation or paraphrase is concerned, their orchestration, the combination of the poems or even the total absence of Cavafy’s words. The Cavafic oeuvre represents the outmost tool if the Greek cultural diplomacy and its integrated proposal are to take place. Despite all difficulties Greece deals with, Greek Culture, with the encouraging support of UNESCO, had the opportunity to display one of its most conspicuous representatives throughout the world during 2013 and many pages could be written to note down or describe the events of this unique opportunity in such rough times. However, at this point, we could only underline for once more that “Cavafy” does not anymore constitute an isolated poet or a national symbol with limited breadth of capability or even an exceptional monument surrendered to its fate; on the contrary, it is still, and perhaps ever after, a multidimensional field of energy, action and inspiration, full of challenges and inflamed with reflection for any kind of creators: composers, musicians, arrangers, orchestrators, translators,philologists, historians, critics etc. As supported by Lambropoulos and Polychronidis, Cavafy is the author of the universal centrifugal Hellenism, which, after decades of its Greece-centralistic introversion, comes to the forefront and brings out how the dialogue among the Arts can serve as an excellent lesson of cultural literacy (Vassilis Lambropoulos and Pantelis Polychronidis 2012). Besides, Cavafy himself, instead of trying to become a Pan-Hellenic or even a universal literary cultural representative, insisted to be rather cosmopolitan and diasporic, intentionally denying being set into a purely collective whole:
what concerned him the most was his very being of literary personality in the spectrum of
artistic substance. His peculiar style is open to many interpretations and thus a further perusal may always occur both on its scientific comprehension and diplomatic efficiency (Vassilis Lambropoulos 2013). Perhaps, it is Cavafy’s marginality, as noted by Vrasidas Karalis (2006 and 2012) that renders him an excellent example for cultural diplomacy, given that any such approach is directed by the desire to “search not for the real Greek Cavafy, but for the symbolic universe expressed by Cavafy in his poems”.
Section 2: The Modern Greek Poetry set to music as a factor of Greek Cultural Diplomacy
In the recent past of the Greek history, there was a period, between the end of the Civil
War and the imposition of the Junta of Colonels, which can demonstrate and depict very
eloquently the potential and possibilities arising by the display of Greek Civilization across
the globe. Without highly organized efforts whatsoever, but full of talent and inspiration and above all with a selfless and sincere dedication towards their homeland, the Representatives of the Modern Greek Culture have gained an enviable acknowledgment worldwide. As Tzoumaka notes20, in an effort to plan and organize cultural activities outside the national borders, the contemporary agents of Greek cultural diplomacy seem to forget this generation of great cultural ambassadors of Greece, who through their oeuvre managed to delineate its very substance: a remarkable blend of tradition and modernism between East and West that absorbs and incorporates miscellaneous elements of its peculiar surroundings and brings them forth with its own unique way; they reflected very vividly Miguel’s Torga beliefs that the international is the local without borders and it is really a pity when pusillanimous perceptions often come to characterize their contribution by those involved in the cultural milieu nowadays21. The main target of contemporary Greek cultural diplomacy should find itself on the promotion and dissemination of Greek contribution during the 20th and 21st century in the fields of letters, art and science both on a regional and global level, while it also encompasses
the great opportunity of establishing the cultural continuity of Greeks that exists both in
empirical and scientific spheres, since the survival of the Greek Spirit throughout the years,could serve as a compass for the Hellenic self-determination and cultural literacy of the Greek people22; shielding its unique nature does not appear as a matter of national boast, but chiefly as a channel of peaceful communication and co-existence with the other Cultures within the international cultural mosaic.
When cultural diplomacy is seen through the perspective of artistic contribution, the
diplomatic context gets a ‘nonmaterial’ substance, approaching much more easily new
audiences, while verifying its soft power dynamism. Since any kind of art deals with emotions and emotions involve social interaction, being constructed and reconstructed through the sharing of experiences, they could argued to be much more effective than any political affiliation. J.C.E.Gienow-Hecht23 chooses to describe these informal relations created in the political and cultural interaction through the term ‘emotional elective affinities’, as used by Max Weber: “a mutual favoring, attraction and even strengthening (which) is involved whenever ideal types coalesce in a relationship of elective affinity”. Music serves such emotional elective affinities and as Moos supported, it also provides the guarantees upon distinction among nations, since it has been shaped up to the optimum throughout the years,whilst it now allows us to keep open the window for both contemporary and future generations to “disclose the innermost folds of its character”, reflecting national differentiations24. However, what is most welcome is the fact that art and more particularly music include the potential to provide a neutral platform for cultural exchange, which may transform cultural differences and unite people through emotions.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
M.A. in Art, Law and Economy, International Hellenic University. Ph.D. candidate,
International Center for Music Studies, University of Newcastle upon Tyne.
18 (George Christoyannis 2006, 201)
19 (Christos Yannaras 2001, 156-157)
20 (Eleni Tzoumaka 2005, 13)
21 (George Christoyannis 2006, 229)
22 (Ibid, 70-71 and 206)
23 (J.C.E.Gienow-Hecht 2009, 14,5 and 221)
24 (Ibid, 165)
25 (George Couroupos 2002, 3)