What have cacti to do with the Parliament in Lefkoşa? There was some empty space in front of the building where 50 members of parliament are supposed to work out the ways for their country to have a better future, and there is the Speaker of the Parliament, Hasan Bozer, who happens to love the fantastic world of cacti. And then there was Serkan Ilseven, Head of Administrative Financial Technical and Parliamentarian Service, who happened to know the father of cacti, and the artist Hikmet Uluçam, who lives in a world of his own in Lapta, in Hikmet’s wonderland, as I call it. Hikmet Uluçam was therefore asked to create an area of cacti, an installation of nature art. And he chose 50 cacti, one for each member of parliament, perhaps with the mental reservation of the time that passes until the cacti produce their first flowers.
Hikmet Uluçam is a graphic designer, teaching at the GAU (Girne American University). He is also an art photographer, or rather graphic art photographer, who in the 1980s made the photographic art scene aware of graphic elements in photography, of the graphic elements in nature. Hikmet Uluçam has a deep love for nature, for the forms and sculptures found in nature and everything that grows, down to the tiniest weed. When he created his garden in Lapta in the 1980s he laid out the first concept of his cactus collection. Today he is surrounded by 30 years old members of his cactus family who are the ancestors of an ever growing population in the greenhouse or the nearby kindergarten. All the seeds from his own most beautiful cactus flowers are collected and planted again, other seeds he has brought from his journeys or friends have brought for him, complete his collection. In his library you find a wide range of books on cacti of the whole world. Only two years ago he went to see an artist in Lanzerote who had created a cactus park in the middle of the black volcanic desert from where he brought back new seeds and ideas to Cyprus.
When Hikmet Uluçam told me of the recently finished cactus monument, I wanted him to show it to us, to me and my husband and to friends who had come along with us, Hartmut Blankenstein, former and retired German Ambassador and his wife Heidi, a journalist. (Invited by me to this occasion were also Birol Bebek, Ali Yaliman and Nazif Bozatli from Cyprus Zoom Magazine Group.)
The Latin names Hikmet gave us sounded so sophisticated and through them the world of cacti gained a special importance for us. There is a 30 years old Astrophytum ornatum, round and starlike and Echinocactus grusonii with a golden top on its head; there are Echinopsis eyriesii or Mrytillocactus; funny names like Opuntia microdays or gruesome ones like Faucaria tuberculosa, Cereus uruguayansus, Aloe vera and Cansolea vubescens.
invited us to join them for a
The initiators of the creation of this cactus monument came to welcome us and later Hasan Bozer and Serkan Ilseven invited us to join them for a cup of coffee in one of the reception rooms. We were also treated to a special tour by Serkan Ilseven who himself is an artist, to see part of the art collection on the walls of the many Parliament corridors, with some of his own art work among the works. At the end of the tour, the doors to the Assembly room were opened to us, now deserted for the summer holidays, and we could picture the 50 parliamentary deputies sitting in the red comfortable chairs, who are now represented to the outside world by 50 noble cacti in front of the Parliament building.
Copyright Heidi Trautmann 2009
Photos by Birol Bebek