In a heart-warming act of compassion and solidarity, Nikos Nikolaidis, a Greek artist from Thessaloniki, and Mikail Akar, an eight-year-old art prodigy of Turkish descent, have collaborated on a large-scale painting in the wake of the disastrous earthquake that hit the Greek island of Samos and the Turkish city of Izmir (Smyrna) in early November.
Their striking new abstract work, “Samir,” sold at auction for 15,000 euros ($17,747.25) to a Greek citizen living in Germany — after being on the market for just two hours.
The artists are splitting the profits down the middle, sending 7,500 euros ($8,873.63) to both Izmir (Smyrna) and the nearby Greek island of Samos, to help provide the victims of the Samos earthquake with financial relief.
The massive Samos earthquake, which originated from under the Aegean Sea just north of the island, razed many buildings in downtown Izmir, Turkey’s third largest city, killing 115 people and injuring over 1,000.
In Samos, some extremely old buildings were left damaged after the earthquake, measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale, rocked the island. Two teenagers were killed after the wall of an unstable building collapsed, tragically crushing them as they walked by when they were going home from school.
Coming together after their ancestral lands faced this new tragedy and destruction, Nikolaidis and Akar, who is referred to as the “pre-school Picasso” because of his exceptional artistic ability, created the piece, as they say, to “stand against war and aggression and in favor of peace and collaboration between (their) nations.”
Speaking to Greek Reporter, Nikolaidis asserted that the two artists found inspiration in their shared belief that “interpersonal relationships between different nationalities are not based on political issues,” referencing the centuries-old ill-will between the neighboring countries of Greece and Turkey.
Nikolaidis contends that “the most recent conflicts between Greece and Turkey are neither comprehensible nor do they serve the interest of the Turkish or the Greek people,” and that the two nations share many values, such as “respect, honor and family.”
The two say that they recognized in each other the “same unconditional love for the arts,” a bond that Nikolaidis believes is “stronger than just a shared nationality.”
The artists respect and appreciate the important historical, artistic, and cultural legacies of both their home countries, and try to incorporate them into their work.
By fusing both their artistic styles, with Akar being a noted abstract artist and Nikolaidis working in the tradition of pop art, and their cultural backgrounds, Nikolaidis and Akar created a poignant work that is not only aesthetically moving, but also has implications for the contemporary geopolitical situation in the eastern Mediterranean.
The two artists recognized their similarities, both as creatives and as ancestral neighbors, and bonded together to help those whose lives were forever altered by the devastating earthquake. On their canvas, Nikolaidis and Akar create a world in which Greek and Turkish collaboration, even peace, is possible.