KARAGIOZIS IS MY BEST FRIEND!
“Your art reflects the soul and spirit of our people and deserves to be treated with respect and seriousness. In it we find not only the purified essence of our people’s philosophical and light-hearted approach to the troubles of this world, but their reserves of strength in combating those adversities. In your work we see the God-given intelligence of a people that reaches the heights of heroism and incomparable courage, while never losing its attributes of humanity and truly civilized standards. It is these qualities which your art reflects so resoundingly. And that is why I believe it is a truly great art”.
(well-known Greek poet)”
Sotiris Spatharis, the father of the most famous shadow player in Greece and “Master” of this kind of art, Eugenios. An original and popular artist endowed with a unique literary talent. The edition of his “Autobiography”, his memoirs, was recognised as a real treasure of written speech. (1st edition in 1960, 2nd edition in 1976, 3d in 1978, 4th in 1992). He wrote his memoirs on a roll of kitchen paper. He taught himself to read and write by studying gravestones. In the simple telling of his own life he describes himself and gives a vivid picture of his world from 1900 – 1945 showing the hardships that he and the Greek people have endured. But he also wrote a second part titled “History and Art of Karagiozis” which was the first and a serious reason for many historians of art and scholars to start a research about the origins and the evolution of the Greek shadow theatre.
Sotiris Spatharis was born in 1892. His father was blinded by a stone falling on him while he was working as a labourer on the Acropolis. His mother took in people’s washing. After the accident he led his father out begging during the days. At night he sneaked off to the shadow theatre which was thought unrespectable. Karagiozis became his great passion. He worked first as a shadow player’s assistant and started to play on his own when a neighbour gave him a sheet. He made his own shadow figures, scenery, he painted his own sign – boards, he wrote his own plays and from 1909 began to perform them making a tour of the country with the help of a singer.
“Whatever I make is always connected with the puppets. Everything in my house reminds you of Karagiozis. The frame round my clock shows Alexander killing the cursed serpent… I have made a windmill that is turned by Karagiozis and Hadziavatis. Each morning Karagiozis speaks to me from my mirror and he says: Sotiris, just think of the time we have been together, from 1909 when you first took me in your hands until 1947 and think of the joy and laughter you have given to all those people who used to shout: Hurray for Spatharis and his Karagiozis!”