Friday 10 October 2014

Salt: a romance. Missolonghi

I was intending to post a few of the images from Diane Katsificas' Salt: a romance. Missolonghi, as part of my previous post on the exhibition I saw at Ekfrasi Gallery in Athens but then realised that this would be inadequate as this work needs to be viewed in its entirety, so I have included everything that was exhibited. I feel that this does justice to the work. Katsificas describes herself as a visual storyteller, and these images and the accompanying story of Missolonghi, have to be seen/told in their entirety in order to be fully comprehended.. I have reproduced the images and accompanying text as presented in the exhibition by Diane Katsificas.

The images were photographed in Missolonghi, processed on Photoshop and then stitched on silk with a digital sewing machine.

'The lagoons are so shallow that only boats of the lightest draught can cross them, guiding their course by the piles driven at intervals into the bottom'. (Woodhouse, W. J.: Aetolia, its Geography, Topography, and Antiquities). 

In late summer, descending from the mountains of the western mainland, the wetlands of Missolonghi are hot and sultry.

The saltpans of the Missolonghi lagoon are extensive but do not appear well kept. Earthern dikes channel the seawater into a sequence of shallow pans.


The mosquitoes are plentiful.

In 1824, the British poet and philhellene George Gordon Byron was supporting the Greeks' War of Independence from the Ottoman Turks. He was one of many who died of fever while in Missolonghi.

His heart is buried in the cenotaph beneath his statue in the Garden of heroes.

During the Greek War of Independence, the Ottoman Turks tried unsuccessfully in 1822 and 1823 to capture Missolonghi. In 1826 the Ottomans returned with a larger army. They surrounded the land walls but were unable to breach them. The siege lasted over a year. Food supplies were delivered by sea but when these were cut off by an Ottoman navy, the Greeks devised a desperate escape plan. All able fighting men were to break out through the main gate. They were to be followed by the women and children. Meanwhile a diversionary group was to attack the Ottomans from the rear.
The plan failed. The Ottomans had been made aware of the plan, ambushed those who burst through the gate and then proceeded to enter the city. Of the 7000 that tried to escape only 1000 made it to safety. Within the walls, many Greeks killed themselves rather than surrender. The remaining population was either slaughtered or sold into slavery.
The slaughter of Missolonghi inspired great sympathy in the rest of Europe for Greek independence. Delacroix' painting, Greece Expiring on the Ruins of Missolonghi (1827) and Rossini's opera Le Siege de Corinthe, brought further attention to the cause. Eventually, Britain, France and Russia intervened on Greece's behalf at the Battle of Navarino. Greek independence was assured and by 1830, Missolonghi again flew the Greek flag.
(You can see the bay of Navarino where the battle was fought, here).


When the gates between pans are opened, water drains from one pan to another.
In the heat of the sun, the water evaporates leaving behind salt crystals that contain traces of the minerals iodine and bromine.
Plumes form.
The palette is mineral: yellow to red ochres...


Small mounds occur where testing salinity has occurred.
Untreated salt is irregular and gray. There are no anti-caking additives.
It is early September and the evaporation is well underway.
The harvest will start next Wednesday.

At the north end of the pans, a narrow road leads to a small island on which there is a Byzantine church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Panagia I Gorgoepikoos (Mary who Quickly Listens).

The original icon, dated 1684, is in Moni Doheiariou on the peninsula of Mt. Athos in northern Greece.
Simple icons of female saints abound in the church.
It is open for those who wish to enter and light a candle.

At dusk, people float in the outlying pans and channels to soak in the therapeutic waters. Sticks mark the paths in the channels.
People suffering from arthritis and skin disorders such as eczema find bathing beneficial. They cover themselves with the mud.

These marshy, salty wetlands are on a major migration route and have been designated a protected area of international importance.

The wetland is home to a large variety of birds, among them avocets, herons and stilts. Tracks in the mud record their abundance.


  1. Replies
    1. I liked the whole package, Olga: the text, which is a romance not just about salt but about the town itself, and the stitched images. So clever, and inspired and just absolutely lovely.

  2. Just lovely. I now want a digital sewing machine...