Following the death of her father four years ago, Ioanna Sakellaraki returned to her homeland of Greece and began The Truth is in the Soil. As part of own grieving process, she explored her mother’s grief in relation to their country’s social and religious norms, before expanding her research to traditional mourning rites. She was particularly drawn to the ritual laments of the last professional mourners in the Mani peninsula of Greece, an area known for its breathtaking scenery.

portrait of photographer Ioanna Sakellaraki
Ioanna Sakellaraki. Dream collaborator: ‘René Magritte because of the conversational dynamic of surrealism in his practice that placed his artworks in the crossroads of different discourses.’

Families would hire these women to passionately lead in lament at funerals, offering both emotional release and a celebration of life. Sakellaraki explains how mourning as a profession dates back to ancient times, with roots in Greek tragedy. It is now, as it were, a dying art.

Sakellaraki’s work highlights the ways in which memory and grief go hand in hand. She also explores the connection between professionally performed emotion and photography, as an image often captures a staged moment. Whether impulsive or deliberate, an act is manipulated the moment it is photographed, turned into a scene to be viewed like theatre. She concludes, ‘Greece is a constant inspiration and encounter in this work, but the way it is depicted is imagined.’ §

Above: Moirologia (fate songs), 2018. Below: Moira Thanatoio (destiny of death), The Truth is in the Soil, 2018
Thysiasterion (sacred altrar), The Truth is in the Soil, 2019