Greek Masons in Africa: the case of the Karpathian Masons of the Sudan by Evangelia Georgitsoyanni

By Evangelia N. Georgitsoyanni

Published in the Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora, Issue 1 - Year 2003


From the article introduction:

The activity of the Greek masons (builders, marble-workers, carpenters, etc.) abroad, most of who originated from regions having a long tradition in these arts, constitutes an interesting aspect of the history of the Greek Diaspora.

The case of those originating from Karpathos - the second largest island in the Dodecanese, which lies on the southeastern edge of the Aegean between Crete and Rhodes - is characteristic.  The Karpathians were the most numerous, and also the most active, builders and carpenters among the so-called "traditional" masons, who lived on the Aegean islands during the period of Turkish occupation.  They worked mainly on the nearby islands - especially on Crete - and in Asia Minor; they were temporary immigrants who worked in groups every year from April to October and then returned home.  Following the creation of the modern Greek state their activity also expanded into the regions included within its borders, because of the work opportunities arising out of the building activity which was beginning there.  From the turn of the twentieth century onwards they started to seek work in Africa and Asia, and in America as well.  Several factors contributed to this migration.  Among the most important were:  after 1869 the gradual abolition by the Ottoman government of many of the "privileges" of the Dodecanese, the population growth of the island from the end of the nineteenth century, the Italian Occupation of the Dodecanese (1912), the Greek defeat in Asia Minor (1922) - after which the Karpathian masons were cut off definitevely from Asia Minor - and of course, the growing demand for skilled craftsmen in the countries of acceptance.

Thus, having learned of the new work opportunities in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan that had been created in 1899, many Karpathian masons left for that country.  The present article deals with the activity of these masons, the last of the traditional craftsmen, and their descendants, in the Sudan.  . . . .