An oil painting of a picturesque village of a soft sun-kissed rural landscape of a Cypriot village hangs on the wall of the Ledra Palace Hotel in the buffer zone in Nicosia. Alongside the painting, a screen displays images of folk dances during a ceremony held at Nicosia Turkish High School for Girls on 3 May 1963.
219 paintings were presented by the Turkish Cypriot community to the Greek Cypriot community, as part of an agreement made by the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mr. Mustafa Akıncı, and the Greek Cypriot leader, Mr. Nicos Anastasiades on 26th February 2019 for the Turkish Cypriot community to return paintings by Greek Cypriot artists from their archives.
As part of this exchange 76 TV and radio archives from the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CyBC) of the Turkish Cypriot community, from the 1953-1963 period, was presented to the Turkish Cypriot community as part of confidence building measures between the two communities.
The artworks and audio-visual archives were on display on 3 February 2020 in an exhibition entitled, ‘In Culture We Trust’, in the presence of the Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı. The event was attended by over 400 people and celebrated a historic cultural milestone and important confidence building measure.
This was the result of years of effort by the Technical Committee on Culture; a group of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots involved in the fields of culture and art who devote their time to preserving and celebrating shared culture through organising bi-communal initiatives and events to encourage friendship and cooperation between the communities of Cyprus.
In 2015, the two leaders jointly agreed for the Committee to be established. It was made up of 18 professionals working in the field of arts and culture from both communities.
“This exchange is of particular importance because these cultural objects point to the past and evoke history and aid us in the creation of lasting identities. We often hear that art and culture unite people” said Ms. Androula Vassiliou, Co-Chair of the Technical Committee on Culture.
“I personally am very proud of having been part of this accomplishment. We hope to continue our efforts in this committee to use the universality of culture and art to heal our wounds, bring us closer and ultimately achieve peace,” Mr. Kani Kanol, Co-Chair of the Technical Committee on Culture said.
The event was hosted by the Deputy Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus, Elizabeth Spehar, who added: “For me, personally, today’s exhibits are an incredibly vibrant window to the shared culture and storied history of this island for all Cypriots. This can be especially powerful for young people, many of whom have grown up without any visual reminder of their united past.”
The activity is one example of the work of the “Support facility to the bi-communal Technical Committees” project, which aims to address issues that affect the day-to-day life of people, through encouraging and facilitating greater interaction and understanding between the two communities. Established in April 2019, this project is funded by the European Union and implemented by UNDP.
“It is not for no reason that the motto of the EU is ‘United in Diversity’. Our common cultural Heritage allows every European citizen to identify his or her diversity in the unity of our continent. Cyprus represents a unique blend of cultures with a shared past and we hope a common future,” said Ierotheos Papadopoulos, Head of Representation, European Commission at the events press briefing which took place on the same day.
The exhibition was accompanied by a detailed publication catalogue. Four months in the making, the publication documents the stories behind the artworks and archives and provides a unique insight into diverse tapestry that makes Cyprus such a unique cultural hub of inspirations and influences.
“Over the past few months, UNDP has again witnessed the benefits of working together in order to achieve a common goal,” said Ms Tiziana Zennaro, Head of Office of UNDP in Cyprus.
“The exhibition of artworks and archives is indeed impressive and represents a truly remarkable milestone in preservation and celebration of culture."
For more pictures and information about the art works and audio-visual archives, click here to access the In Culture We Trust publication.
See more photos from the event here.
Watch the press briefing from the exhibition launch below: