Blazing her own trail


Category: Exclusive Interviews / People

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ARTIST/WRITER DORA KITINAS-GOGOS. – BY SAVVAS TSESTOS LIMNATITIS

 

Dora Kitinas-Gogos. Dianna Karezi. The latter is a well-known artist with a quite a few exhibitions under her belt and a vast number of artworks having found great homes in houses across Australia.  The latter is a new beginner, someone who is venturing for the first time in the amazing world of literature.  The connection?  Two sides of the same coin really. But in what way? As in mother and daughter?  Yes, but not in the conventional term of the world. Yes. Kitinas did give birth to Karezi. But in a metaphysical sense. Karezi was Kitinas creation, a nom de plume, if you like, when the latter decided to spread her wings and take on literature. When she realized it was high time she took a dive into the turbulent waters of writing. The result? Surrender. A love story. With a difference. A love story set in the mythical land of the Greeks on an island shrouded in history. But peel back the protruding layers of sexual awakening, of desire and passion, of longing and fulfilment, and what do you have? Yet another story knocking on the doors with all the might it possess, demanding to be let it. A story of longing but not of the sexual kind. A story about longing for a place where your roots can grow. A place you can call your own. The name of the protagonist gives the game away: Elpida, Hope.  Hope our dreams will be full filled, our prayers answered. Will they? You will have to buy the book and discover the answers on your own. (By the way: Surrender is available at all eBook providers)

Kitinas was born in Greece on the island of Lemnos from a family on both sides maternal and paternal from Asia Minor. Even on the island they were outsiders. A feeling that will remain the common factor of all the stages of her life so far. ‘I came to Australia as a 7 year old with my family’ she says. ‘I was educated in Sydney. I then married a man from Melbourne and have since lived here. When my children went to school I went to university to study art amongst other subjects. I continued with art lessons while lived in Greece for a time but I found Greek art school conservative’. She then hooked up with some like-minded people from America educated women, and the rest – as they say- is history. ‘We did some great art projects together. When I came back here I was lucky to be picked up by Jackman Gallery in Melbourne and showed with them for several years with other projects parallel. One f these projects was through Multicultural Arts Victoria a group of three women artist were involved, the project was travelled to Greece’. Alas, no happy end ahead. Not for the time being anyway. Frustrated and limited by the lack of space the flat she had moved in having left a big studio behind attached to her previous home, she packed brushes and paints away. And then? Then writing entered her world and filled up the void all artists feel when they are not allowed to express themselves.

 

When did the idea for the book first present itself?

About 4 years ago I was talking to a girlfriend who makes short films and she asked me to write a short film script instead it became a book that I wrote just for myself

 

And then you decided to share! The book talks about longing of the sexual type. Is it fair to presume there’s another theme bursting to break through? That of a longing for a country of your own. A land you can call home.

The sharing is complicated. I did not think it was good enough but the same friend who spurned me to write insisted I send it off to editor and publisher. I did, they liked it and that was an adventure in itself. Even though they liked it, it sat around for 8 months and it was only on my insistence that I get the edited version back with changes that in retrospect I should not have excepted which I did simply because I lacked confidence and had no knowledge of how the publishing industry worked. Till then I had not signed any contracts, the contract was sent to me and it was then that I was lost in legal jargon and had no idea what to do and reluctantly went to my son. We talked about it he and I both decided to self-publish. He helped me a lot. He was adamant I should use my real name.

 

But you did not listen!

I told him there were graphic sex scenes in the book. His answer? “so what, were all humans”. But I still did not use my own name. So I published under Diana Karezi. The practical reasons for Diana were that if you Google Dora all sorts of other things come up. Now as I look back it didn’t matter if I was Dora. But the real reason for the aka was I have never come to terms with the conservative Greek community. At this point I do not wish to go deeper in the matter. As for a land to call home I’m happy in Australia. Greece really just upsets me, I have nothing in common with them there I lived there for 13 years after my divorce and it almost killed me literally and metaphorically. It’s not the Greece that my family came from. As for longing? Yep I have always longed to belong but never have. That’s why I picked an island that I loved when I was living there (which by the way has been ruined now). As for the love affair I had a very long relationship with a man 13 years younger them me in Greece and I left him when I came back here because Greece had driven me crazy. I have also had my own issues in the past, and points where I can say I was blessed. I’m also very much a feminist not in an Anglo way but in a human way: that a woman’s wrinkles can be just as attractive as a man’s wrinkles. As a modern society I believe we are going backwards. Back to the belonging: For me at least I feel like I don’t belong anywhere, I hate living in Greece, Australia is stifling in many ways so I’m happy around my children. I keep to myself a lot. I’ve always been a loner and I’m ok now but it took a long time to admit that I don’t belong in either country.

 

For what I can gather there’s a great dichotomy between being Greek and Greek Australian. How has that schism shaped you as a person and as an artist?

The angst of art is very complicated my friend. It touches all artist no matter who they are and where thy come from. It’s hard talking about art and not spilling personal stuff. Keep in mind that I grew up in Australia. I came here when I was 7 and I still did not fit in. Back to the art. When I was painting my theme was always. TIME VIA MEMORY AND HISTORY … So I made art around Greek themes and around my memories as a child in Greece. I could never make art around Oz themes. Saying that though, my art sold well as the images were not always real. I was what is called a femage artist. Look it up! I painted and used fabrics and did a lot of sewing, trying to sew the different layers of my cultures. Asia Minor, Greece, Australia … With writing I’m finding its difficult, I seem to have only Greek names on my author’s page as likes, which is very frustrating even though I advertise with FB in English speaking countries … My only schism with making art in Oz is the ignorance. I painted the ILIAD (some of it) and when the gallery owner mentioned Homer to some knob head he came up with Homer Simpson … As I get more comfortable with my writing I hope to have characters from broader backgrounds and it’s what I’ve struggling with what I’m writing now. Hence the 3 different versions. Broadly though film, TV and books are all about white anglo Aussies, hate most of Australian authors. The likes of Tim Winton that everyone loves and I find I can’t past the first chapter. And on TV “ethnics” are in there as tokens or as comic relief.

 

I know you were worried about how the Greek community was going to react to the sex scenes? Do you still feel the same? Granted, we are not the most forward looking of societies, but how backwards can we be?

No now that the first book is out there I’ve come to terms with the fact that it will be read by some Greeks and suddenly I don’t give a toss, lol.

 

What has been the reaction so far?

Well I’ve only spoke to people I know and it’s been positive but then maybe because they know me. I don’t know what strangers think, there are some reviews on Amazon which are good but a DEIDRE (an Anglo, huh) only gave it 2 stars.

 

Hope it’s all a learning curve. Better stick to your guns second time around. How is the second book coming along?

I’ve followed may romance writers on FB and the way they advertise their books is by posting extracts of the love scenes and pictures of nude men and I don’t want to do that. The second instalment will be out before the end of the year. I have had an independent editor look at it and the comment was “not written in the traditional style but very emotional”. Personally I think it’s better structured and I have developed the secondary characters more.

But I need to get out of that miserable ‘oh me look at me I’m Greek’. I can’t do that so I’ve changed things around in the one I’m writing now. She’s only half Greek (as are my grandchildren) and he’s a Greek who was educated in the UK and lives there. So I’m slowly moving away. I’m learning, a lot of the first book was a big lesson in writing so let hope I do better this time around.

 

As you have admitted you are primarily an artist and writing is only a hobby, a distraction. What are you working on at the moment?

I don’t paint anymore for all sorts of complicated reasons

 

How frustrating -not to mention dilapidating and restricting- to be an ethnic artist in an Anglo Saxon world?

Very frustrating. I think I answered that by saying that the art world recognises us in a tokenistic way. It’s as if they are doing us a favour. I have many examples of this in my life: One that stands out. Main stream galleries had issues with my work because of Greek themes, got into one by the skin of my teeth. But I had sent out many CDs with CV and they did not even bothered to send me polite rejection. Two galleries I showed with I was personally introduced. On the other hand a show was on (I was not in the country with this but friends who saw told me) with the theme of Persephone by an Anglo woman she had a lot of write ups and I was told the work was mediocre. So there you go. We have a long way to go yet.

 

 

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