Culture Combined With Education Can Bring People Together, Says Greek Artist, Educator In Interview

Strolling through the galleries of Zappeion, one of the emblematic buildings of Athens constructed for the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, Greek classical music composer, conductor and educator Eugenia Manolidou is listening to what monuments have to say to pass on the teachings to her students.

Solid knowledge of the past and strong links to our cultural heritage make us stronger, enable us to face the future, acknowledge the beauty of different cultures and realize the power of collaboration, she told Xinhua in a recent interview here, citing the example of Sino-Greek friendship and cooperation.

“Culture combined with education can bring people together, build bridges and break walls. Only through studying very hard can one appreciate the beauty of different cultures,” she stressed.

An artist and educator, Manolidou has contributed in recent years to building bridges of understanding and collaboration between Greece and China through cultural exchanges.

In August 2008, when Beijing hosted the Summer Olympic Games, she was invited to give a concert at the Beijing Concert Hall. She conducted the China National Opera & Dance Drama Theater Symphony Orchestra and Choir, presenting her work titled “Two Cultures, One Spirit.”

That was her first contact with China and the Chinese culture. In order to create a work matching the spirit of the Games and the two ancient civilizations, she conducted extensive research into the philosophy, music and mentality of the Chinese people.

“I felt a very deep obligation to serve two of the most ancient civilizations of the world. So, I combined what I knew best, symphonic music, with the pipa, a four-string plucked lute, one of the most elegant instruments of traditional Chinese music, ” Manolidou recalled.

She finally composed a concerto for pipa and symphony orchestra. “We narrated a fairy tale that brought the two peoples together,” she said.

“Apart from their welcoming applause, the audience that day made it clear to me that they knew that those two civilizations, no matter the distance between them, are united in their values, their philosophy, and their beautiful past.”

Manolidou is also head of studies at “Elliniki Agogi” (Hellenic Education), an Athens-based private school that teaches the language, history and philosophy of the ancient Greeks to children and adults. At the school, she focuses on children, as she did during a Greek-Chinese cultural exchange event last November.

On the eve of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, the students of “Elliniki Agogi” and the “Beijing Academy” high school in the Chinese capital met through video link and recited excerpts of the works of ancient Greek and Chinese philosophers in the original language.

By building a bridge through philosophy, they reminded the world of the common values and ideas of the two civilizations and of their teachings on virtue, labor, friendship, truth, bravery, freedom and happiness.

She encourages other schools to follow in their footsteps because she believes there is much to gain from such initiatives.

“We only gain by learning about other cultures. We learn by sharing, talking, discussing and exchanging ideas, values, dreams and visions. The past is there to teach us. If we learn, if we know, if we respect the past then we can bring all this knowledge to the future.”

Greece and China, the cradles of the western and eastern civilizations, respectively, are also harbingers of exploration, and the world has a lot to benefit from their interaction, she said. “Together we are stronger. We have many more opportunities, many more chances to achieve what we want in the future,” she added.

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