The Geraki Weaver Video Series

Part 11: Geraki in the 20th Century

Throughout its history as a village, Geraki has confronted economic fluctuations and challenges arising from wars. During difficult periods, villagers have often migrated in search of better opportunities. Over time, the Geraki community has extended its presence to various regions in Greece and other countries, including the United States. Expatriates from Geraki occasionally contribute to the village, supporting its prosperity and well-being. 

With thanks to the Cultural Society of Geraki, the Ephoreia of Antiquities of Lakonia, the Municipality of Evrotas, and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

Part 10: Women and Trade

As per Michalis Sovolos, Archivist at the General State Archives in Laconia, women from Geraki have distributed their kilims all over Greece, with the highest consumer presence in Athens and Piraeus. The pricing strategy these women adopt involves considerations such as weight, intricate designs, or the length of the kilim. According to weaving teacher Chrysoula Stamatopoulou, following the economic crisis, demand for weavings from Geraki diminished, as it is a product catering to a more affluent market due to its higher cost. Nevertheless, when buying kilims in Geraki, customers should also acknowledge the product's intrinsic value, understanding that their purchase involves more than just acquiring a kilim. They should consider factors such as the use of expensive materials, time, and labor invested in crafting the kilim.

With thanks to the Cultural Society of Geraki, the Ephoreia of Antiquities of Lakonia, the Municipality of Evrotas, and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

Part 9: Weavers and the Land

Mayor Dimos Verdos, of the Municipality of Evrotas, to which Geraki belongs, mentioned that Geraki is an agricultural community primarily sustained by income from olive trees, olive oil, and other citrus fruits. Despite the agricultural focus, there is growing concern about the impact of climate change on the region. Mayor Verdos mentioned that it is imperative to conduct studies aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change, addressing the apprehensions surrounding its potential impact on production, employment, and the way of life in the villages.

With thanks to the Cultural Society of Geraki, the Ephoreia of Antiquities of Lakonia, the Municipality of Evrotas, and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

Part 8: Weaving for Dowries

In Geraki, as in many villages, it was customary for kilims to be included in dowries. Dowries were frequently showcased to the community, serving as a display of the gifts exchanged between families. Weddings were once week-long celebrations, during which the dowries, including woven items like kilims, were exhibited in the village. Nevertheless, kilims from Geraki were sought-after items for dowries beyond the village. Individuals familiar with the reputation of Geraki kilims would specifically travel to the village to place orders. This was because the weavers in Geraki were renowned for their expertise in operating looms, utilizing high-quality dyes and materials, and demonstrating exceptional skill in crafting kilims of superior quality.

With thanks to the Cultural Society of Geraki, the Ephoreia of Antiquities of Lakonia, the Municipality of Evrotas, and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

Part 7: Weaving & Tradition

The connection between weaving and tradition is evident in Geraki. Weavings are often created for special occasions like weddings or funerals. Kilims also play a significant role in the Celebration of the Migrant which takes place in August in the village. During these events, immigrants returning to their ancestral land from places like the United States and Canada are welcomed by the villagers. This village’s warm embrace is expressed by hanging woven kilims from balconies, symbolizing a heartfelt welcome to the homeland.

With thanks to the Cultural Society of Geraki, the Ephoreia of Antiquities of Lakonia, the Municipality of Evrotas, and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

Part 6: Dyes

The dyeing process is intriguing. The residual hot water from washing the wool in a cauldron served as the base for creating the dye to color the wool. Natural ingredients were employed for coloring the wool, including walnut peels and dyer’s madder.

With thanks to the Cultural Society of Geraki, the Ephoreia of Antiquities of Lakonia, the Municipality of Evrotas, and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

Part 5: Processing Wool

In the traditional manner, women undertook the entire weaving process, including harvesting wool from sheep, cleaning the wool, and spinning it into thread. Michalis Sovolos, the Archivist at the General State Archives in Laconia, noted that approximately 1500 kg of wool was annually harvested in Geraki until the year 2000. Retired weavers Eleni Manousi, Chrysaphia Sini, and Georgia Davara reminisce about their experiences, including producing wool from sheep during their active weaving years. To gain insights into the complete wool processing journey, watch the video.

With thanks to the Cultural Society of Geraki, the Ephoreia of Antiquities of Lakonia, the Municipality of Evrotas, and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

Part 4: Patterns

This video will introduce you to patterns that are commonly woven in Geraki. According to Gianna Katsougraki, Archaeologist and PhD Candidate in History and Ethnology at Democritus University, one of the most common patterns is the plakaki, which is also seen in Roman mosaics in Sparta. The fleur-de-lys was inspired by Geraki’s medieval past. According to weaving teacher Chrysoula Stamatopoulou, one of her favorite patterns is the Tree of Life, which includes symbolic elements from the surrounding world.

With thanks to the Cultural Society of Geraki, the Ephoreia of Antiquities of Lakonia, the Municipality of Evrotas, and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

Part 3: The Loom

This video will introduce you to the traditional loom commonly used in crafting kilims in Geraki. The upright or vertical loom recalls the one used by Homer’s Penelope to weave and unravel as she awaited Odysseus's return. Loom weights uncovered in Geraki’s ancient citadel and its medieval kastro indicate that weaving held enduring cultural and economic importance in Geraki, spanning millennia.

With thanks to the Cultural Society of Geraki, the Ephoreia of Antiquities of Lakonia, the Municipality of Evrotas, and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

Part 2: Training

“The art of weaving is related to everyday life and their life stories. So, by unraveling the details of their history, they unraveled the weft and warp of their lives,” said Nikos Zacharakis, MA in Folk Culture, University of Ioannina. Beyond its cultural significance, weaving plays a crucial role in the village's economy, serving as a source of income for its residents. In this video you will be introduced to Geraki weavers and how they came to embrace the practice of weaving.

With thanks to the Cultural Society of Geraki, the Ephoreia of Antiquities of Lakonia, the Municipality of Evrotas, and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

Part 1: Our Community

In this video, we introduce you to members of the Geraki community, including modern-day weavers, experts who have studied the art of weaving in Geraki, members of the Cultural Society of Geraki, and the Mayor of Evrotas.

With thanks to the Cultural Society of Geraki, the Ephoreia of Antiquities of Lakonia, the Municipality of Evrotas, and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

Gefyra Presents The Geraki Weavers

In 2023, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Centers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Simon Fraser University (SFU) initiated a collaboration with the Cultural Committee of Geraki (Πολιτιστικός Σύλλογος Γερονθρών), the Ephorate of Antiquities of Laconia, and Geraki Archaeological Project (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) to investigate and relate the story of the history of weaving in Geraki, a village in the foothills of Mount Parnon.

This project is organized by Gefyra, a UCLA/SFU collaboration supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).

With special thanks to Mrs. Chrysoula Stamatopoulou, weaver and teacher. Video by Gregory Tsolakis.