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Astypalaea: Where History, Culture, and Traditional Costumes Meet


Astypalaea is a beautiful island located in the southern Aegean Sea, part of the Dodecanese island group in Greece. The island has a rich cultural and historical heritage, dating back to ancient times. I have visited to photograph the local women's costumes.

The adventure on the island of Astypalaea begins.

I visited the island during my trip to six islands in the Dodecanese, in search of the local traditional female costumes for my project 'Caryatis'.

Overlooking the castle and town of Astypalaea in the traditional costume, by photographer George Tatakis
Overlooking the castle and town of Astypalaea

Today, Astypalaea is a popular tourist destination, known for its beautiful beaches, traditional architecture, and delicious local cuisine. The island is also home to a thriving cultural scene, with numerous festivals and events taking place throughout the year.

A beautiful island with its capital on high grounds, as it was common to be able to defend against pirate attacks. The island keeps the traditional Cycladic architecture of bright white houses, despite being part of the Dodecanese complex. The whole town is built around an imposing castle that overlooks the archipelago.

The ladies wearing the traditional costumes of Astypalaea, overlooking the town and the castle, by photographer George Tatakis
The ladies wearing the traditional costumes of Astypalaea

Fun fact \

As I set out to find the perfect location for my work around the town, I quickly realized that the task was not going to be as easy as I had initially thought. Despite asking the locals for advice, I was met with puzzled looks and shrugs as they informed me that most of the traditional houses had been modernized over the years.

With no luck in sight, I continued to wander through the white-washed streets of the castle town, hoping that I would stumble upon the perfect spot. After walking for some time, I heard someone greet me in English from behind, asking if I needed help.

To my surprise, it was a German man who had been living on the island for some time. He offered to help me in my search and suggested that his friend's house, which he had kept in a traditional local manner, might be just what I was looking for. The irony was not lost on me - a German man was the one who had retained the traditional character of a house on an island known for its traditional architecture.

Together, we walked through the winding streets of the town and reached the German man's friend's house, and I was struck by how it perfectly captured the essence of traditional Astypalaea architecture.

As I set up my equipment and began to photograph the house, I couldn't help but feel grateful for the chance encounter that had led me to the perfect location. It was a reminder that sometimes, it takes a stranger to help us see what is right in front of us, and that true hospitality can be found in the most unexpected places.

Inside the newly found traditional house in Astypalaea, by photographer George Tatakis
Inside the newly found traditional house
Inside the newly found traditional house in Astypalaea, by photographer George Tatakis
Inside a local traditional house

HISTORY CORNER \

Astypalaea was originally named Astypaleia, after the daughter of Phoenix and Perimede in Greek mythology. The island was also known as Ichthys, due to its shape resembling that of a fish.

During the classical period, Astypalaea was a member of the Athenian League and enjoyed a period of prosperity. However, during the Hellenistic period, the island was under the control of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt.

During the Byzantine Empire, Astypalaea was an important naval base, and many churches and monasteries were built on the island. The island was also under the control of the Knights Hospitaller of Rhodes, who built the impressive castle that still stands on the island today.

In the 20th century, Astypalaea was part of the Italian Dodecanese and was heavily influenced by Italian culture. Many buildings on the island were constructed during this period, including the town hall and the impressive church of Panagia Portaitissa.

The ladies wearing the traditional costumes of Astypalaea, overlooking the town and the castle, by photographer George Tatakis
The ladies wearing the traditional costumes of Astypalaea

The local traditional costumes of Astypalaea are an important part of the island's cultural heritage. They are known for their intricate embroidery, colourful patterns, and unique designs.

The women's costumes are particularly elaborate, featuring long, flowing skirts, embroidered blouses, and brightly coloured scarves. The embroidery is often done in a style known as "sousta," which involves colourful geometric patterns and floral motifs.

One of the most distinctive elements of the Astypalean women's costume is the "kavadi," a headdress made of stiffened cloth and decorated with sequins, beads, and other embellishments. The kavadi is often worn with a veil and adds an extra layer of elegance to the costume.

 

Acquire a print from the work

Make a statement in your home or office with unique, one-of-a-kind art from the work in Astypalaea island, by the awarded photographer George Tatakis. Not only will you be adding beauty and interest to your space, but you'll also be supporting important ethnographic work. Click here

Acquire a print of the work from Astypalaea, Greece, by photographer George Tatakis
 
Inside the walls of the castle of Astypalaea, by photographer George Tatakis
Inside the walls of the castle of Astypalaea

The town around the castle in Astypalaea was built during the Venetian period in the 15th century. The castle itself was constructed earlier, during the Byzantine period in the 13th century, as a defensive stronghold against pirates and other invaders.

The town was built in a unique architectural style, known as "Kastellano," which is characterized by narrow, winding streets and houses built close together for added protection. The houses were typically made of local stone and had flat roofs to collect rainwater, which was then stored in underground cisterns.

Over time, the town grew and expanded beyond the walls of the castle, but the Kastellano architectural style remained a defining feature of the island's built environment. Today, the town around the castle is a popular tourist destination, known for its picturesque streets, stunning views, and historical significance.

Inside a local traditional house in Astypalaea, by photographer George Tatakis
Inside a local house in Astypalaea town

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