Whenever I walk through Sydney Hyde Park, past the Archibald Fountain, along Art Gallery Road, and up to the steps of the Art Gallery of NSW, I remember our six-year-old son, Joel, asking why the names of the Ninja Turtles were displayed at the top of the facade. He'd just had a six-year-old Teenage Mutant Ninja birthday party with green costume and a turtle birthday cake. It was difficult to explain that Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Donatello were the names of very famous Italian Renaissance artists.
[caption id="attachment_14463" align="alignleft" width="400"] Cover Photo: the Popular Café Cootamundra 1952[/caption]
A recently published book by two researchers into the role of Greek families in the cultural history of Australia, got me thinking back to my childhood in the Clarence Valley of the forties and fifties. Effie Alexakis and Leonard Janiszewski have been researching this topic for decades. They now work at the Macquarie University in Sydney.
In the early 20th century, many migrants from Greece emigrated to Australia, often to escape war and its aftermath, and to find economic salvation. Some of the milk bar and café owners who came to Grafton, my place of birth, were from the island of Kythera, lying opposite the south-eastern tip of the Peloponnese peninsula. Their descendants back home, called Australia “Big Kythera”, and even today, the islanders often speak English with an Aussie twang.