Heidi Trautmann

-- My thoughts to: The German Order of Merit for Heidi Trautmann in January 2015

By Heidi Trautmann

I have hesitated for quite a while whether to place the ‘event’ on my website because I have always been a backstage worker and am not used to see myself – as a private person - on stage in front of an audience but I thought better of it because it is not I who received the order of merit alone but it is for the work I did together with the artists of Cyprus. My motivation over the years has been to put a spotlight onto the art activities in Cyprus, with the emphasis on the Northern part because it is the part we have chosen to live in and as it has been overlooked for so many years. In this context I am deeply grateful for the trust and the honour I have been given by my country. 

When we arrived in Kyrenia in 1999 I was amazed that hardly any mention was made on the art scene in the local English press and as I as an artist was curious to find out about it I went to look for it; I went to exhibitions and started to get to know the artists and I ended up in writing reviews and in conducting interviews with them, first for Cyprus Times, the sister paper of Kibrisli, then I was invited by Cyprus Today to continue with this work; later I wrote many articles – and not only on art – for the English Zoom Magazine, then for the Pegasus Cyprus Sky and finally for Cyprus Observer together with old friend Ali Yaliman who died two years ago. In the meantime I had created my website www.heiditrautmann,com  where you will find today more than 1000 articles on art and culture, on environment and village profiles, on society, my experiences in this country and encounters with its people.  Often my Cypriot friends are telling me that I know more about their country than they themselves. When I gave Meral Hanim, the First Lady, a copy of my book ‘Art and Creativity in North Cyprus, Volume I’ she was shaking her head and saying …”Why don’t we produce a book like this…and I answered: Because you are too close…and I gave this answer to many similar questions… as it is easier to confide in somebody who is not directly involved.

It is true, I have been witness to many events, often extraordinary,  and I have recorded them through my articles for others to read and to listen to Cypriot voices, outside the country through my website and locally through the media. This fact I also expressed in my thank you speech on January 23, 2015, when I received the order and the certificate signed by our German President Gauck which was handed over to me by Mr. Peter Neven, Counsellor at the German Embassy.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

I am very proud to be awarded for my work but also humble in front of the fact that I owe it to the people of Cyprus, to the artists who have become my friends over the years, to the opportunity I was given to undertake this journey and that I just had to do what I did.


Tonight assembled are a handful of my friends, people of the first hour sort of, artists I have made my first interviews with and who opened the road for me to the art scene of Cyprus; artists who have left marks not only with their art but with their activities. Artists who crossed borders in the true and also in a metaphorical sense, who founded associations and kept them going strong which is - believe me - not easy.

I will never forget the bi-communal events when the gates opened, events that meant for the artists of both sides to make an approach and get to know each other; there were many others who helped all the way through,  such as the Goethe Centre assisting in bi-communal events such as Art Aware, poetry readings, exhibitions and many more.

I will never forget a project during one phase of peace talks in the UN controlled  zone with Greek and Turkish Cypriot art works hung up in the rooms where the negotiators met; a very strong movement.

During all these processes I was involved as an observer and in many articles I commented on them, in some of the events I took part myself.

I will never forget the first interviews I conducted, through which I learnt so much and which touched me so deeply.  I remember quite well the many hours I spent sitting with artists on the floor and leafing through old sketches. I spent hours with artists taking part in international workshops in their efforts to communicate with the outside world and then slowly going out, taking part in events in all parts of the world, today they are to be found in Germany, France, Italy….in the whole of Europe and beyond, in the Near and Far East as well, they have burst the bonds and travel in the name of their country and they were present at the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall with their work.

From poets I learnt the road Cypriot literature took, the fights they had, their philosophy and the pressure they lived under, highly sensitive people who have observed the course their country took with a literary eye.

For the last eight years I did not miss a theatre play and I have studied the mimicry of the excellent actors and actresses. I have taken part in their protests against powers that were about to destroy the theatre and I have witnessed the unbelievable strength of will to keep the theatre going. The last thing to die is hope.

Yes, this philosophy is still valid and I am glad and proud that I was to witness the struggle and live with all of them a stretch of Cypriot life.

 A little story that goes nicely with my receiving this order of merit ….

I got one ‘Golden Star’ before, an appreciation for a work I did, that was when I was 12 years old. One morning in school we had a composition test and the theme was ‘Visiting Paris’ and as I thought visiting the city too dull I made a long poem of my visiting Paris, my favourite Greek, son of Priamus, who was asked to make his choice from among the most beautiful women and which caused the Trojan war. Although having missed the point of the composition I was given best mark plus a golden star. 60 years later on the occasion of my only class reunion my class mates still remembered it.

I trust that this time I have not missed the point and I am very grateful because it will always remind me of a very important part in my life.

I think I expressed all my feelings with the words of my speech. While I was writing this ‘review’ I thought by myself that my parents would have been very proud of me and so would my grandmother, mother of my father, who was a novel writer but whom I have never met in person, she had left me an antique porcelain figure and her books and the knowledge that she had left her parents’ house at the age of eighteen to publish her first book. 

Thus, your past is catching up with one I thought, and I started to think about how it all began, when I wrote my first poem, painted my first painting, asked the wind of spring to take me up on its strong hands and show me the world. I will continue to do what I have to do. I am about to publish the second volume of my book on literature, theatre and addendum to visual arts and caricature. I will continue to follow up the progress the young artists are making and will sit down with my close friends to discuss the course the arts are taking. With my husband and my family I will go on enjoying every moment of my life and the beauty of Cyprus. 

My mother with me on her knees
My mother with me on her knees

My father
My father

My grandmother Else Sparwasser
My grandmother Else Sparwasser

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