Adamantios Kafetzis is rather bemused at how his debut exhibition at the Kappatos Gallery has been interpreted so far. But then again, knowing that all but one of the photographs depicting people mostly of African origins in prayer were taken in Athens, there is a lot of room for interpretation. At a glance, Kafetzis is presenting a side to Athens’ immigrant community beyond the bustling streets of Omonia or Kypseli. However, according to him, this is not the case. “I’m not interested in immigrants, I’m interested in religion and people’s need for it,” he insists.
This interest stems from a six month trip to Senegal, where he observed the dominance of faith in daily life. “It was a different world, completely different to what I know.” The lure of the unknown he experienced in Africa is clearly expressed in the only image in the show taken in Senegal; the man in white, with his back to the viewer. “I find African subjects more interesting visually, and it also has to do with the fact that it is foreign and something different. This happens when you go to another country, which is what happened to me in Senegal. And you can find that in Athens, too. To some its nice, to others, it is frightening.” For Kafetzis, this is simply his reality.
“In a way, these images reflect what I see everyday. Some of my oldest friends are immigrants, so I don’t see them as such. I grew up in Pagrati where the first wave of arrived in the late 80s. At that age we connected over two things; football and music.” This multi-cultural upbringing obviously affected Kafetzis in a profound way. A DJ and collector of African music ever since, the effects are also evident in his photographs. The only image lacking an overt religious context in the show portrays an African footballer crouched down in the locker room. “That footballer is a player for AEK, but if people see him on the streets, he’s just another immigrant. The population of Athens tells us it is a global city, but look closely and there is a lot of separation.”
On the other hand, Kafetzis reveal that his project, which took one year to complete, was only shot in Athens as he did not have the money to travel. Many of the images were in fact staged by Kafetzis himself, at locations that often took him months to find and his own friends as models. “I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do.” For Kafetzis, his curiosity lies in the divine connection between faith and the faithful, and he chose his locations specifically to not look like Athens. Pointing at the image of a man crouched in prayer before a sketch of a saint wrapped in white robes that Kafetzis drew; he identifies a spot on the wall that has been painted white. “There was an anarchy sign here, as the room is located at the University. I had to wipe that off.”
Nevertheless, whether Kafetzis wanted to link his project to Athens and its multi-cultural make-up; he inadvertently did, and the strength of the show lies in that very ambiguity. By photographing the ethnic Athenian community alongside the Greek community, Kafetzis has indirectly given us an insight into their world as it exists next to the Greek one. “We know nothing about immigrant experiences in Athens and we say things about them because we don’t understand where they come from.” Take the collection of images captured at an Ethiopian Orthodox church in Polygonos. Led behind closed doors into the personal and private space of a local community, “look at the women and you can see they are covering their faces.” Could it be that we have intruded on their spiritual and cultural refuge in a foreign city? Kafetzis gives no answer. “I will accept whatever people want to say about the show because there is no right or wrong way to look at it. But what I wonder is this; if I hadn't been honest about where these images were taken, would people have noticed the difference?”
Adamantios Kafetzis, Mysticism and Art at the Kappatos Gallery, Athinas 12, Omonia, Athens
Tel. 210 3217931, Open Tu – F, 12:00 – 20:00
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