Saturday, August 26, 2023


Recently, according to the United Nations, angry Turkish Cypriots punched and kicked a group of international peacekeepers who in accordance with their duties, legally obstructed crews working on a road that would encroach on a U.N.-controlled buffer zone in Cyprus.

Around about the same time, angry members of Greek-Cypriot origin Labor State MP for Northcote Kat Theophanous’ state party faction, who, voted to have her suspended indefinitely, for having the temerity to make a speech in parliament, in which she spoke about a recent resolution passed by the World Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Association’s general assembly:

“We condemned the illegal occupation of Northern Cyprus by Turkey, which contravenes international law and UN resolutions, and we called for the right of return for Cypriot refugees to their ancestral homelands. The resolution appeals to all parliaments, including this one, to fully support the UN-led efforts for a peaceful, just and viable Cyprus settlement.”

It has widely been reported that the motion to suspend Kat Theophanous, was heavily supported by parliamentary colleagues and faction members that are of ethnic Turkish origin. Melbourne Turkish News has suggested in a social media post that her suspension comes as a result of “Turkish community pressure.” If this is accurate, it should not surprise us. Unlike Greeks and the rest of the world, who see the events of 1974 as an invasion, and the subsequent occupation of the island and the enforcement of an apartheid regime as illegal, Turks see the same event as a “peacekeeping operation.”

What should surprise us however, is that while Kat Theophanous is being censured by her particular state faction of the Australian Labor Party, the language and contents of her speech are eerily similar to official positions on the issue published by the Australian Labor Party, which has always formally supported the territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus.

For example, at the ALP National Conference in Hobart, in 1994, the Conference voted to adopt the following position:

“Conference condemns the continued presence of foreign armed forces and foreign military personnel other than UN forces on the territory of the Republic of Cyprus and the fact that 37% of its territory is still under foreign military occupation. Accordingly, Conference :

a) commends the policy pursued, so far, by the Australian Government and urges continued involvement until a fair, just and viable solution is secured;

b) calls for the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops and settlers from the Republic of Cyprus and for the repeal of the secessionist declaration of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, an act which Conference considers illegal and invalid;

 c) calls upon all concerned parties to resolve the Cyprus problem which would guarantee to all its citizens the three freedoms of movement, settlement and ownership, and a unified, independent and non-aligned Cyprus, and the right of all refugees to return to their homelands in safety; and 160 calls on the Australian Government to use its influence to have the relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions effectively implemented, including Security Council resolutions 939 (1994), 550(1984) and 541(1983).

In July of 2000, a resolution was passed which stated: “Labor reaffirms its longstanding and unequivocal support for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus.”

In a news release on 15 November 1983, then Foreign Minister of the Australian Labor Federal Government Bill Hayden condemned “the establishment of a so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and a declaration of independence,” going so far as to state that “Australia will be taking immediate steps to urge upon the government of Turkey to use whatever influence it may have… to withdraw this declaration.”

On 16 November 1983, the Labor Prime Minister of Australia Bob Hawke stated in Parliament: “The Australian Government has no intention of recognising the illegal State declared by the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus. We continue to recognise only the legitimate government of the Republic of Cyprus.”

That this position has not changed can be evidenced by a cursory glance at the relevant webpage of the Department of Foreign Affairs of Trade, headed by Australian Labor Federal Minister, Penny Wong. On that page we find the following declaration:

“Australia supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus and recognises the Republic as the only legitimate authority on the island. Australia does not recognise the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus'.”

Given the ALP’s unswerving and continuous support for the Republic of Cyprus and a just solution to the Cyprus problem in accordance with International Law, it clearly makes no sense that Kat Theophanous should be punished by a Labor Party faction (not by the ALP itself), for basically reiterating a position that the ALP has held since 1974.

Indeed, the suspension of Kat Theophanous from her faction is highly problematic because it raises questions as to whether:

a)     (a)The members of her faction are actually acquainted with ALP National Policy; and if so whether

b)     (b)The members of her faction actually respect ALP National Policy (considering that there have been no substantive efforts made to alter that policy);

c)     (c)The members of her faction appreciate that Kat Theophanous occupies a marginal seat that she just managed to win for Labor at the last state election after a superhuman effort;

d)     (d)The members of her faction appreciate the “optics” of their suspension of Kat Theophanous.

The question of optics is a pertinent one, for there exist other precedents of articulate and passionate Greek-Australian State members of Parliament being censured over public stands they have taken on issues pertinent to the Greek-Australian community.

I would submit however, that the issue of Cyprus, its sovereignty and its illegal occupation are not issues pertaining to the Greek-Australian community per se, nor are they seen as such by the ALP. Australia’s steadfast support for Cyprus, in place ever since the time of Australian Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, is based upon principle, and in particular, the necessity of upholding International Law and it is Australia’s contribution to that cause, ever since Labor luminary Dr Evatt was elected President of the General Assembly and presided over the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This mind you, is the same Dr Evatt who in Parliament in 1956, called upon the government of the day to push the British to moderate their stance on Cypriots fighting for independence.

Kat Theophanous, in condemning the illegal invasion and continued occupation of Cyprus, calling upon a just solution of the Cyprus problem and drawing upon her own family background in order to highlight the enormity of the problem, is not playing ethnic politics. Indeed, anyone who knows anything about the Greek-Australian community knows that far from being directed or manipulated by the diplomats of our countries of origin, as some other communities may be, we are constantly at odds with them, for our interests lie in Australia, and we approach international issues as Australians, seeking to uphold Australian values of decency, fairness and adherence to International Law, rather than slavishly following the dictates of others.

Far from being censured, Kat Theophanous should be commended for remaining true to Labor principles and practice, ensuring in the words of the great Australian Labor Prime Minister Ben Chiefly, that she never loses sight of: “the great objective – the light on the hill – which we aim to reach by working the betterment of mankind not only here but anywhere we may give a helping hand.”  Again, in the words of Chiefly: “If it were not for that, the Labour movement would not be worth fighting for.”


First published in NKEE on Saturday 26 August 2023

Saturday, August 19, 2023


How does one bestow words upon sorrow? In which language can one speak to the dead? There are key questions raised by Vrasidas Karalis in his elegiac “Farewell to Robert,” an outpouring of grief at the loss of his partner of twenty-nine years, Robert Meader.

“My lament is for my love, be near me, eternal void, I will call out of the depths, keep my heart warm, make my soul light. I am engulfed by waves of the netherworld, I am thrown into the depths of darkness, I want to fly, I want to see your face… and Robert, the man I love.”

Few understand better than Karalis, the dynamic of suffering by which the proper words are sought in order to reach across the void, to say the unsayable: “I struggle to orchestrate in words, what is beyond language.” Highlighting the author’s plight is that departed Robert was a noted musician, whereas the author has devoted himself to the written word. “My purpose,” he confesses, “for there is no other purpose anymore, is to deliver your existence to the sanctuary of language, erect your monument against futility.”

Finding the correct words to address Robert is vital, if the author is to successfully undertake his νεκυία, the ancient Greek rite by which the dead could be called up and questioned about the future, for without them, Karalis admits: “I am lost, have no language, cannot announce things, and call them into existence.” If Carl Jung holds that “the Nekyia is no aimless or destructive fall into the abyss, but a meaningful katabasis ... its object the restoration of the whole man" then Karalis’ nekyia is “a redemption hymn...” albeit in the form of a “threnody to appease the panic of mortality.”

Significantly Karalis has little to say about the afterlife. If Shelley, while weeping for Keats in his pastoral elegy ‘Adonais’ feels carried “darkly, fearfully, afar” to where the soul of Keats glows like a star, Robert’s metastasis to the resonant emptiness of the hereafter is viewed from the perspective of the topos he has left behind, as if the memory of that topos will ensure his continued existence. There is no rebirth or transformation. Spiritual metamorphosis is of no importance, nor are the remnants of his corporeal manifestation, with Karalis’ superseding his Pieta-like lament over Robert’s body with “Dust and fluff and dirt, which I can see time and again and care not to remove. I am afraid that anything I do could erase your presence from the world…” In the face of the greatest of changes, all that matters then is that nothing changes.

Whereas Marina Tsvetaeva, in writing her “Elegy for Rilke” insisted on seeing the dead poet continue his normal routine in the afterlife, for Karalis, what is of priority, is that Robert’s routine remains unchanged in this life. Karalis hears Robert’s words as sybilline oracles, he reconstructs him in birds and wind and salt and in the flight of aeroplanes and while this periphrasis grants us the illusory confidence to dare to yearn that his beloved is with him still, a constantly repeated, heart-rendering refrain, reminiscent of those  brings us crashing down from the soaring heights of hope: “He has moved on… He has gone elsewhere….You have moved on. You are elsewhere. Yet you are here. You left all these birds behind.”

Here Karalis, in Davidic psalmody is subverting the traditional elegiac genre in that in order to achieve a metastasis of the deceased, they must first be acknowledged as being so, and thus capable of being transformed, as in the case of Milton’s Lycidas within the natural world, whether this be as “the ocean murmur” or as “fallen leaves.” Yet Karalis’ both acknowledges and denies the death of Robert, the undulations of his vacillation paralleling the undulations of a voice and of a chest wracked with sobs. Karalis’ Nekyia may require the correct words for its invocations, but it is above all else, a visceral process, as visceral as the Greek laments which call upon the dead to turn their nails into hoes and their feet into shovels and to dig themselves out of their graves. Karalis in turn calls upon Robert not to abandon him, in a manner that evokes Psalm 38, for Robert is not only his love but also, his deity. (“By you, with you and in you, I received my instruction and my creed”). He may be gone, but he is omnipresent, and it is Karalis who has been uprooted, lamenting his expulsion from a Promised Land of love, as if in Babylonian exile: “I sing in a foreign language in alien shores uprooted from the ancestral burials of my homeland. Who will deliver me from the wastelands of exile What clemency, what mercy, what pardon will release me from the mists of this perpetual purgatory?” Such a deliverance is necessary for in Robert’s absence, “I will never be given rest now, my unconscious will take over my being, my iniquities will devour my face….My body was deformed. My soul regained its fallen nature.”

While Kochanowski in the boundless grief of his  “Laments,” a work with which Karalis’ Farewell is intertextually linked, pours scorn upon his his previous writings, which had advocated such values as stoicism and presents himself at a moment of crisis when he is forced, through suffering and the stark confrontation of his ideals with reality, to re-evaluate his former humanistic philosophy of life, Karalis also presents Robert as a “true stoic,” in the eyes of others, transcending the grief of Kochanowski by implying  “you were more than a Stoic,” and compelling himself too to reassess his philosophy of life. While “the world of grace… is much more intriguing than the margins of the terrified or the abyss of the damned,” “life itself is the enemy now.”

Ultimately it is memory in connection with Robert, that Karalis identifies as being potentially salvific. Yet it is not clear whether he means his own memory of Robert, Robert’s memories of him, (“Only your memory, only if you remember me,”) or indeed a confluence of both: “Hold on to our memories,” he entreats. “Do not throw me into the pit of oblivion.”

Whereas in the traditional elegiac form, the death are lamented over, due deference is given to their daily life and habits, and an extensive enumeration of the all of the causes of grief is undertaken, only for the dead to be relinquished or released, Karalis’ “song” is unable to resolve itself, not only because his process of simultaneously relinquishing and retaining Robert is ambiguous, but also because Karalis negates the entirety of his undertaking: “Mourning is alien to my nature. Less than three months after you left, it has grown roots in me, it has become a poisonous weed which destroys my vision, my gaze, the smile that we both cherished so much on our face.”

At a time when youth is fetishised and the public, communal rites of mourning are increasingly relegated to the private sphere, Vrasidas Karalis’ “Farewell to Robert,” reminds us of the essentially public nature of the elegy. As we participate in his rites, something about us is revealed in the process, delineating the ties we have to each other and to the world which frames our perception in a reciprocal fashion. According to Karalis’ favourite saint, Augustine who famously wrote: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You,” human longing and desire find their true fulfilment in a loving relationship with God, he seeing human desires as reflections of a deeper longing for the divine. Karalis, will in turn reflect that what holds people together is the quest for completeness: “Love answers the only question worth pursuing: “What is it that us human beings really want from each other? Sometimes, unexpectedly and unconsciously, love offers us the answer.”

How then do we preserve the integrity of the self when those who have beheld us no longer do so? Herein lies the central abiding paradox of Karalis’ complex farewell to a beautiful man. “Love subdues us to the dominion of the unseen and the ineffable… Death is our atonement for aspiring to regain our wholeness…the last reconciliation with our own ephemerality.”

On the flyleaf of my copy of Karalis’ Farewell inscribed in pen are his words: “Love is Strong as Death,” for more than an elegy, more than the moirologi it becomes at times, more than a threnody, “Farewell to Robert” is a love lyric, one’s soul set in motion, as the poet Joseph Brodsky once wrote, the place where “Love crucifies time and makes space for our transfiguration.” And in that place, the very concept of Farewell is confounded.


First published in NKEE on Saturday, 19 August 2023.

Saturday, August 12, 2023



The first time I became aware of the Caryatids was in the aftermath of reading the myth of Atlas, to whom I was convinced a historical injustice had taken place. Choosing the wrong side in the war between the old gods and the new, he was condemned to stand at the western edge of the earth and hold up the sky on his shoulders.

Similarly the Caryatids, who I encountered in my youth on a postcard sent by a friend holidaying in the motherland, stand upon the high stylobate of the south porch of the Erechtheion, six solemn maidens, who take the place of columns in supporting the entablature. One of the maidens is missing, the one second from the left in the front row of four, as she was appropriated by Lord Elgin, when he purloined the Parthenon Marbles and remains in captivity in the British Museum, where, even though she was scrubbed by masons who wishes to render her ”white” enough to be attractive to British sensitivities, is in better condition than her sisters upon the building, given that she has avoided two centuries of weathering.

From time to time, I see pictures of her bearing the caption: “I am Greek, and I want to go home.” When I visited her in person some years ago, my involuntarily sympathy for her plight was tempered by conflicting emotions. On the one hand, she remains an enigmatic, sombre figure, gazing at the viewer pensively, with an indeterminate expression that could be anguish, could be stoicism, or indeed could be utter detachment. She exists out of context, far removed from her sisters, and worst of all, utterly devoid of purpose, since even though she is no longer holding up the Erechtheion, she is still defined or framed by the capital for which she forms the chief support. Simultaneously awesomely beautiful as well as well as vulnerable and pathetic, she holds up nothing at all.

On the other hand, away from her sisters, she is no longer just one in a herd of identical architectural features but rather a distinct person with its own character, its own set of circumstances and its own sense of identity. This Caryatid for me, created as an Atlas to submit to and support an edifice not of her making, personifies the quintessence of the human condition: free and enslaved, captive and untethered at the same time, removed from her place of servitude and yet forever bound by the primary purpose she was designed for, wherever she may be.

The context of the original positioning of all of the Caryatids is also problematic, not in the least because we are still unaware as to the precise purpose of the Erechtheion, unique in the corpus of Greek temples in that its asymmetrical composition does not conform to the canon of Greek classical architecture. Installed in a building which possibly housed the statue of Athena Polias, and featuring friezes that depict the sacrifice of Erectheus’ daughters to save Athens, the symbolism of the Caryatids elude us. Most importantly, their arms, which could convey clues as to their original function, have been lost. Ancient copies excavated in Tivoli have that the korai carried phiale, suggesting that they might be either the arrephoroi, young female acolytes of Athena who lived for a year on the Acropolis and concluded their term with a mystery rite called the Arrhephoria, whereby they carried unknown objects into a cavern, and there exchanged them for other unknown objects, as well as being responsible for weaving the peplos for the statue of Athena, or kanephoroi, unmarried young women who were awarded the privilege of leading the procession to sacrifice at festivals. Now, instead of being in servitude to the various mysteries surrounding the worship of the gods, they constitute a mystery in themselves.

If the ancient architect Vitruvius is to be believed, the complexity of the ontopathology of the Caryatids can be explained by their back history, which he mentions in his work: “De Architectura.” According to him, their presence on the Erechtheion has nothing to do with worship of the gods but rather, evidences deeds dark and nefarious. In his work De Architectura, he writes:

“should any one wish for information on the origin of those draped matronal figures crowned with a mutulus and cornice, called Caryatides, he will explain it by the following history. Carya, a city of Peloponnesus, joined the Persians in their war against the Greeks. These in return for the treachery, after having freed themselves by a most glorious victory from the intended Persian yoke, unanimously resolved to levy war against the Caryans. Carya was, in consequence, taken and destroyed, its male population extinguished, and its matrons carried into slavery. That these circumstances might be better remembered, and the nature of the triumph perpetuated, the victors represented them draped, and apparently suffering under the burthen with which they were loaded, to expiate the crime of their native city. Thus, in their edifices, did the antient architects, by the use of these statues, hand down to posterity a memorial of the crime of the Caryans.”

Consequently the presence of the Caryatids has to do with their ritual humiliation and abasement, in a manner which we would find most confronting today. It would have been the menfolk that would have taken the conscious decision to ally themselves with the Persians, the women of Carya having no say in the matter. And yet it is the most vulnerable of those women, young unmarried girls who have no one to protect or defend them and who have lost absolutely everything, their country, their loved ones and their very freedom, who are being made to suffer for the crimes of others. Viewed from this perspective, the Caryatids are not a mere decorative motif but rather symbols of sexualised violence against women, their abject dehumanisation personified in their transformation into architectural elements, like Atlas, doomed to hold up the constructs, whether physical or ideological, of their captors and oppressors. Viewed from this perspective, their gaze, serene and aloof is either one of suffering or contempt.

Despite such dehumanisation though, the six Caryatids of the Erechtheion are not all identical. Their faces and hair, the draping of the clothes and the manner in which they stand differ from each other, some supporting their weight on the right foot, the others on their left as if shifting their feet in order to bear their burden more easily. This, in my view, heightens their tragedy. They are all individuals, with their own hopes, desires, dreams and personalities. Nonetheless, despite their ostensible differences, they will be punished collectively, for eternity, for the sole reason that they are women who ‘belong’ to the wrong sort of men.

This sentiment of pity and of outrage at the perennial humiliation of the hapless Caryatids is not one that I share readily with my compatriots, for whom the Caryatids generally serve as a symbol of the cultural superiority of our tribe to the West. Yet I am consoled by the French sculptor August Rodin, who in my opinion feels their plight even more deeply than I. In his 1881 sculpture “Fallen Caryatid Carrying her Stone” which forms part of his immensely confronting Gates of Hell depicting a scene from the Inferno, the first section of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, he has carefully depicted a caryatid who has fallen. Robert Heinlein in his science fiction work Stranger in a Strange Land, describes this crushed individual far more eloquently that I ever could: “Now here we have another emotional symbol... for almost three thousand years or longer, architects have designed buildings with columns shaped as female figures... After all those centuries it took Rodin to see that this was work too heavy for a girl... Here is this poor little caryatid who has tried—and failed, fallen under the load.... She didn't give up…; she's still trying to lift that stone after it has crushed her...”

‘Our’ Caryatids have not fallen, neither have they been crushed, and whatever the vagaries in their condition they maintain their immense dignity in the face of their subjugation, permitting all of us to draw strength from their undefeated womanhood. Sometimes, especially in times of crisis, they serve for me as a fitting metaphor for the Greek experience, enslaved but invariably free, with a spirit than can never be broken. Other times they remind me of the indomitability of the human spirit and the necessity of emancipation; In Act 2 of his 1953 play 'Waiting for Godot', author Samuel Beckett has his protagonist Estragon say “We are not caryatids!” when he and Vladimir tire of carting around the recently blinded Pozzo. But most of the time, I dream of being able to affix a placard upon each of the amputated hands of the Caryatids that proclaims simply: “I am a woman and I want to be free.”


First published in NKEE on Saturday 12 August 2023

Saturday, August 05, 2023



You don’t get that many Toulas around anymore. A name that was once ubiquitous within the Greek community has now to all intents and purposes vanished or become disguised under more acceptable forms. This process of eradication commenced when Mark Mitchell saw fit to draw a monobrow on his countenance and parody the migrant Greek working class and their children.  

This was the observation turning in my mind as I attended my local souvlaki shop a few weeks ago, my three children in tow. The owners are Greek, and after chatting to them briefly, I took my leave of them. «Γειά σου Κων», the owner farewelled us. «Γεια σας παιδιά». As we turned to leave, a middle-aged Anglo-Australian, waiting to collect his order hooted: “Con? You don’t look like a Con. Where’s ya monobrow Con the fruiterer? D’ya shave it off?” Turning to my children, he shouted: “And who is this? Is this Toula, Soula, Moula and Agapi?”

“Who are these,” I retorted. “Are these Toula, Soula…. If you are possessed of the predilection to insolence, you might as well exhibit this with regard to the rules of grammar.”

The response is unprintable.

«Γιατί με λέει Τούλα;» my younger daughter asked me, as we exited the shop hurriedly, for she has been hitherto kept blissfully unaware of the apogee of Australian comedy.

«Δεν νομίζω να είχε καλό σκοπό», my eldest daughter responded. «Νομίζω ότι μας κοροϊδεύει, αλλά γιατί; Και τι είναι monobrow?”

My family has been in this country for seventy years and I did not particularly relish the opportunity of revealing to my offspring that in the land in which they are being brought up, in whose schools they are taught about “Reconciliation,” “Healing the Nation,” and “Harmony,” some people harbour fixed and oversimplified images, not only of what they should be called, but of what they should look like and of how they should act. I did not want to explain to them that such images are called stereotypes and that they are created by the dominant group in order to neutralise any subversion to the pre-established order through our trivialisation, and it is only by playing to or conforming to this stereotype that we are deemed to be socially acceptable. Most of all, I did not want to explain to young children who look upon the world with wonder and optimism, that they have absolutely no choice in this matter and that whatever they do in their life, whatever their achievements, for some members of the dominant class, they will never be more than caricatures.

For this reason, I ignored the question and instead launched into a long disquisition about the most famous of all monobrowed Greeks, the Emperor Alexios V Doukas, surnamed “Mourzouphlos” or “the mono-browed,” and depicted as such in the surviving manuscripts of the time. We do not know if it was his bushy monobrow or his sullen melancholy disposition that caused him to stage a palace coup killing his predecessors in the process. We do know, however, that he made vigorous attempts to defend Constantinople from the army of the invading Crusaders of the West, who having sacked and taken the City, propagated not a few racial slurs of their own about its inhabitants, none of which surprisingly, had to do with the pilosity of their eyebrows.

It is within this context that I viewed Australian television personality Karl Stefanovic’s recent Instagram post, wherein he uploaded a photograph of his young daughter Harper, with a black line drawn across her brow, effectively creating the “monobrow” for which apparently, all Greeks are renowned, even my aunt Soultana who has no eyebrows and delineates them with a pencil. Accompanying the photograph was a caption which read: “my daughter..Toula.” It is not known what purpose the two dots separating the words daughter and Toula serve, whether this be to create suspense in order to provide the punchline, or merely evidencing the author’s pregnant pause as he was trying to work out how to spell the name. Possibly, the doting dad was experiencing a moment of trepidation before co-opting his youngling into perpetuating a racial stereotype, in the process, seeking to humiliate all synophrytic people throughout the world.

As young Harper grows older, our community may ponder whether her father will take exception to her appearance, perhaps her coverage of body hair, or the shape of her eyebrows, or indeed anything that reminds her of the Greeks, especially those of the Toula variety, and compel her to make the requisite alterations so that she conforms to the stereotype set by her esteemed pater familias. After all, women  and increasingly, young girls, are constantly being bombarded with directions and expectations as to how they should look and act. Why should little Harper be any different?

By the time Harper reaches the age of majority, one of Toula’s cousins, Foula, will have lapsed into obscurity. Yet Foula, also known as Sophoula Hadjipanteli, a US model of Cypriot extraction, has turned her monobrow into a source of pride, even going to the extent of giving it a name, not Toula sadly, or Voula, but rather Veronica. While Karl Stefanovic may employ his daughter’s photograph as a means to sneer at the monobrow, Foula has appeared in Vogue, Elle, Harper's Bazaar, New York Times and Vanity Fair, her luxurious brow in no way hindering her from working for such fashion brands as Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier and Fenty Beauty.

In response to the Karl Stefanovics of the world and in order to address their public backlash, Foula founded the #UnibrowMovement to “normalise what society pressures us to hide or fix,” defining her  movement as “a safe space for people who want to share something but are scared”, not limited to brows but relating to “anything in terms of freckles, hair colour, body size, body shape or colour”. As a result of her spirited stance, she has received a barrage of insults and death threats because this is the kind of behaviour, violence and threats of violence against women, that “jokes” like those made Australian morning show hosts, have the possibility of enabling.

Despite such threats, Foula remains undaunted. “My parents taught me and my brother to value what’s in our minds, learning, and being a good person. I think that mentality has given me a thick skin,” she comments. For if we are dealing with stereotypes, here is one for Karl: The Toulas and Foulas of the world and indeed all Greek women are formidable. For millenia they have stood up to injustice, protected the powerless and feared no one. They are immensely proud of their lineage, the women who have come before them, and the struggles they have undertaken to keep their families and their people alive in the face of the threat of annihilation. It is these Toulas, monobrowed or not, who nod with understanding when Foula reveals: “I always say I’m Greek… above all because my family lost everything.” And they feel immense compassion, love and pity for poor little Harper, for tragedy too, is a Greek invention.


First published in NKEE on Saturday 5 August 2023