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Heidi Trautmann Column
Art and Creativity in North Cyprus
When my husband and I came here to live on this island in 2002, it was not easy for me to discover any artistic activities. The artists – be it Turkish Cypriot or of foreign nationality – kept to themselves and the foreign communities hardly knew anything about current Cypriot art activities, with very few exceptions. Encouraged by an American journalist, I took it upon myself to seek out local artists, talk to them about their work and their life and bring them to the attention of the foreign community in the English language newspapers here. It did not take long before I was right in the middle of the art scene, and I got to participate in many events initiated by the local art associations as a constant companion. I visited the artists in their studios and was subsequently introduced to other artists. It was a random experience, not really planned, a voyage of discovery and wherever I went, I was made very welcome and found in most occasions only friendship and the great willingness to open up and cooperate. Conducting an interview is not always easy as some people find it very difficult to talk about themselves and the reader will find in the course of this book that some interviews seem a little stiff but that is not due to a language barrier but to the shyness of the interviewee; however, this phenomenon should be a further indicator of his/her personality.
Artists are a big family, they are drawn to each other because of the common language and an automatic understanding they share. It is a language by itself spoken not only by academic artists but also by all other creative people who have learnt to use their senses and the tools they work with. Artists see differently and hear things others can’t hear. They have a highly attuned sense of perception. It is therefore not surprising that most artists are involved in environmental enterprises, social undertakings, works to raise political awareness, and many of them have made it their duty to give their time and talent for such causes.
I have experienced this especially in this country, this divided island with its seemingly un-surmountable problems. It has always been the case that there is nowhere where it is easy for an artist to work and live for and from his/her art, and at the same time earn a living. But on this part of the island to this day there is no museum or art academy, no centres or workshops, or even a regular exchange with artists from other countries, artists fight an extremely hard battle to survive. So it is astonishing to realize how many artists we have here in this country, artists of all disciplines and they deliver excellent work. Especially during these last four years, when young artists have returned to their home country, from wherever they were studying and working, to share these problems with their people.
Following my encounters with artists from fine arts, theatre, literature, photography, music and dance, it was only a step away from including other creative people and organisations who were undertaking the same effort for their country, supporting art by preservation and education.
When it came to giving the material I had collected a proper frame, the publisher and I concluded that the book would have to be published in two volumes. Volume I covers the visual artists including photography, the institutions and universities Volume II will cover literature and the performing arts: theatre, music and dance. This decision has given us more freedom and space to expand on the supporting texts and enrich further their visual accompaniments.
I want to thank all those who have helped me to make this two-volume book, the artists who gave me their time and their hearts, the newspaper editors for their patience and who cooperated excellently with me, my friends from EMAA and E.KA.TE, and many others. Special thanks go to Léonie Brittain who has made art in Cyprus her very special concern. I hope that I will meet with friendly understanding that my collection can only cover a cross section, as I have said, it was a random experience over a certain period of time. But I shall keep looking, and I suspect that this experience will never have an end!
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