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
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
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