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MIMIS “If you do not see where you are going, you go where you see ...”

Mimis -Dimitris Martoulas “We live in a society that only consumes. And I think the crisis is an opportunity to change something.” Three years ago, people were worried about the crisis, asking what to do … And I told them, welcome. “If you don’t want a lot from your life, you don’t understand the crises.” Most people are still angry, they think it’s somebody else’s fault.

"The crisis in Greece is technical. No one can afford anything, taxes are too high, the cost of living is too high, and many, many people are closing business. People working in production want to close their business. People who have animals are mostly selling them. The situation is very difficult."

Mimis was born and has lived all his life on the island of Chios, only 6 miles from the Turkish coast. He never traveled out of Greece ...

"Because of the crisis, my friend Antonius turned to paper restoration. He worked in Athos for many years, and now he works in library on book restoration. He also has chickens now, before he never even had a pet. He came from Athens, and he never thought he was going to have a chicken house. His friend Jorgos helps him with stone building. And he has olive trees. When it’s time to harvest the olives, all the friends come and help. When I started to restore ground floor, all my friends came to help. Our ‘family of five friends’ all help each other out with whatever is needed."

Mimis' "know-how" about farming and helping if a hand is needed surely comes from his father.

My friends have a different life than most people. They care about people next to them … But our society is not there yet.

The first morning ritual is coffee.

We started to grow biologically. But biological farming is very difficult. We didn’t spray with anything, but other farmers around did, so all animals came to our farm, haha. And there’s no price for the products, you work for nothing. It only makes sense if you make products for your household, your own use.

"When I realized my land cannot grow anything, I bought sheep and goats. If you have 5-6 sheep for your house, for milk and cheese, it’s OK. What you give to them is more than what you get, but what you get it’s high quality. If you calculate all your work in the field, it’s more than what you get. But the quality is different. So if you do it for your home economy, it good, but if you do it for sale, it will destroy your economy. With friends, we have an exchange economy without money, with products or help in the field, at home … We feel stronger if we have people who care…we are not alone.“

It is hard to be sustainable on this land. The first thing is water: without water, you cannot do anything, When my grandfather’s brother lived here, there was no water, they had to go down to the river, about 1 km from here, and bring back water with donkeys … Tap water came here 30 years ago, the road 20 years ago, and electricity in the early 1980s.
“The memory of sheep is 3 days. In these three days, I can change everything. For three days they complain, and after that they forget what happened before. The donkey, on the other hand, has very good memory. That’s why it is a difficult animal.
The freedom is a state of mind, I think. The less you want, the more free you are.
"In the 11 years living in the house with my family, it has been difficult to become sustainable, because you need money. The state taxes you for the house. I tried to make some money from the land. 7 years ago, I planted 200 plants, mainly tomatoes and other vegetables. I did’t make money from that, because you have to follow a particular way."
"When I’m in my house, I open the door, I feed animals here or I work on olive trees and feed them with the branches. I have a different way of life. When I have to collect money to pay taxes or have to do something in the house, my life changes for a while. And if I have to go out to do some work to earn some money, I try to do something I like, for example, making mosaics." His family is the only one making mosaics on the island of Chios.

Mimis has a class in making mosaics at the Center for Crafts, teaching up to 20 students. For the next year's class, he wants to do something new, he wants to connect all crafts classes there to collaborate in one common project. He has a church in mind, to make it from the beginning, build it, make paintings, icons, mosaics ….

Mimis is also respected for old house restorations work that he does to earn money “Buildings, objects … they have their own soul and do everything they want, It’s not up to me to change something, it is about what they want …Some things were here before me and will stay here after me. I’m too small to change them … If the owner tells me to change something, and I don’t agree, I don’t do it. There are other people who will be very pleased to do it …”
"When I was a child, I grew up in a house with a field behind it, about 200 m2, and my grandfather had everything in this small patch of land: plants, rabbits (on Sundays, we used to eat rabbits). He collected rabbit excrement and used them to fertilize the plants, he took seeds from his plants and used them next year, he made wine from some grapes … and all that on the 200 m2. Our family had 7 members (3 boys, parents, grandparents). We had tomato juice from this field throughout the year. This kind of life didn’t impress me, I didn’t know any other way, it was normal for me (as is normal for my son to say that bathroom is outside the house). My children, who grew up in this field, with the liberty I gave them, they have a different side of the life to show. In school, they have problems with teachers, they ask questions, they think differently. And the teachers don’t want this …"

"When people lived in the field 50, 60, 100 years ago, they had to dig the earth, a big field, with a fork, and now we have tractors. If you had a goat, you had milk and cheese, otherwise you didn’t have that. There was one goat here and another one at the neighbor's place, and if you didn’t produce enough milk per day to make cheese (because you cannot keep milk more than a day), they measured it with a wooden pole and gave it to the neighbor. Five houses in the area were giving the milk to one person to make cheese. The next day, they measured the milk again and gave it to another one, so that every day one house could make cheese. The same was with the oven outside: if everyone had his own oven, they would use it once a week. But if 7 people in the area used one oven, each one needed much less wood to keep it warm. And the oven was warm every day and every one could use it to bake something … They collected almonds, figs, everything. The women from the villages collected plants from the mountain; thyme, oregano, mushrooms … everything. People built village to come together, to feel stronger, have each other, to work together for the food and not to make money. Until the seventies, people here were still self-sufficient for everything, clothes, food, tools, everything. There was no field on the island that was not taken care of. Now everything is abandoned. If the ship wouldn’t bring food from the mainland, we would have serious problems in one week. Everything comes from the outside. 80% of beef is imported from Germany. We have a lot of goats and sheep in Greece, but for Easter, they import lamb from France … There were two mutton processing plants in the eighties, and they both closed. We had two car factories, they both closed, too.

“My grandfather was born here, my grandfather's father came here to work and fell in love with the daughter of the owner of the house. They married and stayed here. This was in 1819. The family of my grandfather had 9 children. The oldest one got this land, and my aunt didn’t have children. I have the name of her father and she wanted me to have this land …”

In the 1990s, Greece opened its borders for the migration from Albania to Greece. In that decade,it was very easy for everyone to get a bank loan. Because of that, people didn't have to work a lot, and everyone paid low-cost immigrants to do work. The nineties were the decade that broke Greece. Everybody started to just look for money, for an easy way of life, big houses, big cars. It all started at the beginning of 1980 and escalate in a big crisis 30 years later. They forced people to choose this way of life; to come in the position they are now. This is a forced position.

All the big personalities were ready to do something at the age of 8. Now we live in the society where you live in your parent’s house until you are 30 or 40. It’s a pity.

Mimis was thinking of having a land as early as at the age of 16. "My vision at the time was to have a land like this, to be free, self-sufficient, and to have time to be an artist, to be involved in art. And yes, I’m already involved in art, art is the way of life, it’s an attitude … I believe everyone has his own way of doing things." Mimis plays guitar, and he also plans to start making them. His brother makes bouzouki. He offered Mimis to teach him how to make guitars so they can have business together. “When I was a child, I drew. He wishes to do it more. Last year, my challenge were mosaic classes. This year, maybe it will be to make a guitar."

Through the eyes of a child, it is possible to see more purely, so if we would do everything through the paradigm of what is better for the child, the world would be a better place.

“I believe that everything we do in our life is connected with everything else, everything is connected. I said that art is an attitude. And the attitude I follow is the identity of a sailor. It’s not only important to know where you want to go, but also the weather, the wave, the boat that you have, the wind, it’s about everything. We start to go in one direction, and eventually, we probably end up somewhere else …”

“When I'm doing nothing, like right now, I do things in my mind, I think about what to do in the winter. Last year, when I finished the mosaic class, it was my first year, and there was a question … In Greek, it's called erotima, the main of eros, erotas means love … There must be a question, the important thing is the question, not the answer. There are a lot of answers, every one has one, but there is only one question …”

"The secret is doing nothing. By doing nothing, you can think better, you have the power, you are more focused. Because if I want to start something, I must lead my thoughts to a specific point. Like when you go to the sea: you are going into the unknown, so you first have to stop, look at yourself, look at the sun, the land, the wind, the weather, the depth of the sea, what does the sky look like, and then decide where you’re going."

“The main goal is to be happy, to feel free. I prefer to keep that feeling than to leave it behind to do something. I prefer to do nothing than to do something ‘half way'. Because to sit, to do nothing, it’s an art, you must know how to do it, if you don’t, you have a problem.”
“People say that when you’re born in a prison, you look for a prison. It’s about the way of thinking, if you’re born in a particular place, you’re looking for it all the time … Everybody is looking for what he knows, for the place he has begun from. I have never been out of Greece, I’ve been in the Aegean sea with the boat, and to very few places in the mainland, for some jobs.”

“People must love themselves, the people that surround them, and the nature. There must be love - without love, we cannot go anywhere, nothing works. If we only follow the profit, we are bound to end up like now once again, there is no other way. We must show the positive side of the life and go in that direction … If we don’t see where we want to go, we’re going where we see … nowhere …”

A print of Saint Nicholas' hand and head miraculously shaped by the fire, caused by a candle forgotten by a worshiper (Psara island, next to Chios)

The state should care for the people first, for the good of the people. Now, all that counts is money, the costs … That’s wrong, we have to change our values. The only reason I started the mosaic class was to bring art closer to the people, for people to start seeing other things …”

“I think that humanity must be closer to nature, this is what development means. If it would be closer to nature, it would do less damage to the planet. When people go to the city, they don't feel what is happening around them anymore, and they follow the way of life that only damages the planet, but they cannot feel it … There are good opportunities on Chios to make money and have a better way of life: we have mastic, very good quality wine … But these things on their own cannot make a difference. We need a different way of living.”

“I think we’re living the wrong way. Our societies are in pieces … I’m a builder, he’s a mechanic, the other one is an architect - these are all jobs connected to building, but there is no connection between them. There’s a lot of knowledge, but this knowledge is divided, not connected … Our societies want to have the knowledge in pieces, because if you have the whole knowledge, you are the problem, you are not dependent …”

Life balances by itself. The problem with our society is that we’re physically in a different place from the place we have our minds. We think we are somewhere else. We are going down and everyone thinks it’s OK. They think that if they have a car, a TV, a phone, their needs are satisfied. But the global society is in a downfall, and we think we’re flying. I think there will be a crash ... Like in the myth of Sisyphus, now the stone is going downhill and nobody can stop it. We live in an economical world - if they lose control of that, we will go to war. It’s very close. There is a lot of power in the hands of some people who are not in the state to control it.

“The problem begins and ends in humans. We’re talking about our physical side of living. The earth will continue to exist when we are not on this planet anymore. The planet will continue to exist in his own way - if we don’t follow it, it will throw us away. If we are not connected with the planet, we will not exist anymore."

The Spiral of Archimedes says that everything happens in a cycle, but every cycle is moving forward, further in a never-ending spiral movement. Society makes a cycle of living, and when the cycle is going to make a step forward, they stop it and make the cycle repeat again, without going to another level. They want to make a cycle with no beginning and no end, they want the things to be stable to be able to control them. But they cannot, because this spiral movement is in the life itself. This is what our society is doing wrong, they don’t let things flow. We are living in the tower of Babylon - everyone speaks the same language, but everybody has something else in the head. That’s what we are living now. There is a lot of knowledge, but the pieces of that are not connected … Most people don’t want to talk about these things … they are afraid … They don’t want to think about things, so they put labels on them. It is easier like that, and they feel safe. People don’t live for the question, they want an answer, any answer. If there is no answer, then there is a problem.

“The difference between English and Greek is that in Greek language, where there is a meaning, there is a root … English language is a symbol language, and that’s a big difference… In Greek language, every word has a value. And when you put it into a sentence, every word has several different meanings by the way you pronounce it, and the way you combine it with other words …”

“We see things in our house, in our island, in our country, and that’s it. We don’t see further than that … We don’t see that chips in most electronics are mostly made in Kongo by children ... It is very wrong to be so dependent on the slavery of people, animals, land … I have to protect and care about the land for future generations, to use it like I do. Because if I damage this, we cannot continue in time.”

“As much as I can see in the past, I can see in the future.”

“My feelings confuse my thoughts. I see for the future the things I want them to be. My emotions show me the road which is not a true road, it is in my mind. I know that I can’t predict the future, and I don’t want to … What are we doing today is our life now. The art is to live now. If you live now, you have a beautiful life, you have a beautiful past, and you will have a beautiful future. It is very simple. This is the reason for good memories: the fear, the pain and the happiness … whatever you feel in the past doesn’t let you feel free to live now …”

“The biggest mistake that people make is that they think they can change some things. Humans are the only species in the planet who can lie to themselves, fool themselves … When they are in trouble, they never ask for questions they seek an answer … I leave myself free to believe in things, because if I wouldn’t, I would be crazy.”

“The secret is to know who you are. Because if you know who you are, you can put yourself to the community, stand in the right place … I try to know who I am, I know that I’m fooling myself, but I'm trying … I’m a human, I’m fooling myself :)”

“Most people say, 'let’s go somewhere' … But where? 'We’ll see, we’ll see …' And we never see anything …The big difference between humans and animals is that people value their actions too much … You today live, you die tomorrow, who cares? The most valuable is to make some people happy … I stand here and I see traces … the traces of this land from my grandfather, in this house, I see traces from the river down, because the stones for the house were taken from there. I see my traces from the last 10 years since I’m here ...”

“Before the cooperation comes a feeling, everyone must feel that. If they don’t … It’s how we feel, it’s not what we are doing, but how we feel about things that happen around us. It’s a thought that makes the right decision. I think this is the most important thing, to know where we are, what we are standing on (a boat, a land, a car) …”

In the period of 1919-1922, during the Balkan wars, when Izmir was burnt by the Turks, they collected the refugees from Greece and put them in camps. My grandmother came to Chios when she was 1, in my great grandmother’s hands. And 30 years later, in 1941, she took his one year old son back … When they crossed the sea and came to Turkey, people were collected like today (the refugees between Turkey and Chios) and sent to Syria. They didn’t leave them in Turkey because Turkey didn’t want the refugees, and Syria welcomed people. And now, 70 years later, they are coming to Chios, and people don’t want them … The majority does what television says. What it says, I don’t know, I don’t watch it."

“In Greek, 'beautiful' is omorphos. Morphi is a form and ‘os’ says I’m impressed …"

“From the day you are born till the day you die, you are the same person. You can’t change. That you change through your memories, your action, it’s very small. You must be very high pragmatic mind to change the attitude of yourself…I don’t try to change my attitude. I live my life around my character. I’m sure I cannot change it…

On Chios, Nalu (our boat) had a major breakdown - the engine cooling system broke down, and Mimis insisted to help me and repair it. It was a complicated 5 days operation, since we used our spare parts, which were not from an original Volvo engine, and even restored some other parts. It was a BIG job that even a skillful mechanic would not like to do!

“I’m very pleased when I make other’s people dreams real. I don’t make dreams, I don’t believe in dreams ... It’s like glory for nothing (metadoksia - doksa - the good name you leave behind you. metadoksia - try to get glory without the reason.)

Dimitris Martoulas

We actually left Chios together to visit his soul brother Dimitris on Samos island, which was also our destination ... And the story continues on Samos with Dimitris and Mimis (the "making of" film by Melania Geymonat)

Melania (a work-away MED Land program from Uruguay), Mimis and BB in pleasant wind conditions on the way from Chios to Samos.

Released by MED Land project / photography, audio conversations, editing: BB / cover photo: self-portrait by Dimitris Martoulas -MIMIS / on-location team: Melania Geymonat, BB / transcription: Melania Geymonat / text editing: Ivana Petan / proofreading: Tadej Turnšek

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