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Lecture: Imagine a Palm Tree

A conversation between Navine G Khan-Dossos and Mina Moraitou

April 20, 2016

Benaki Museum, 1 Koumbari St. & Vassilis Sofias Ave / Museum of Islamic Art: 22 Ag. Asomaton & 12 Dipilou St.

Navine G Khan-Dossos, the artist behind the project Imagine a Palm Tree, and Mina Moraitou, the head curator of the collection, will discuss the making of this mural, which is currently on show in the cafe space of the Benaki Museum, as well as their wider shared interests. There will be wine on the terrace and a lovely sunset to accompany the event.

As Khan-Dossos explained on the blog, she has heard a curious story, told and retold in different ways, since arriving in Athens. It is about the removal of the palm trees from the urban landscape of Athens as a way of visually ‘re-orientating’ the city towards Europe rather than the ‘Orient’. This urban legend has been told to her three times: once as happening at the end of the Ottoman Empire’s sway over Greece, the second time at the end of the Second World War and the last at the time of the Junta. She is still trying to work out if any of these different versions are true.

Imagine a Palm Tree is a work in many parts. It is a performance of painting (the process is open for visitors of the museum to watch and interact with), as well as being a floor-to-ceiling mural on the top floor café at the Benaki Museum.

But foremost it will be a place in which the palm tree can exist in paint, away from the disastrous red beetle that is munching its way through thousands of its brothers and sisters in the city below. It will no longer be a symbol of overspending in the Olympic Games of 2004 (imports of palm trees rocketed as a way to provide shade and a look of luxury. It also brought the red beetle). It won’t be uprooted in favour of metro ventilation shafts (as was the case in Omonoia Square in 1927) or pulled apart for local holy days that feature palm leaves. It will no longer be a symbol of East or West.

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