Sketches of the 14th Olive
Festival in Zeytinlik
October 02 - 06, 2015
By Heidi Trautmann
My memories go back to the
very first festivals in Zeytinlik, a festival that is dedicated to the olive
tree, to its harvesting the fruit, to its history and legends. There exists a
very strong bond between this tree and the people of Cyprus as there is with
everyone who owns olive trees. After this festival the olive factories check
their machinery and open the doors to the olive growers. Often enough we were
part ourselves of the patiently waiting customers in one of these
The Olive Festival in
Zeytinlik is the last one in a row of many village and traditional festivals on
the island. During the festival days, local olive growers wet their appetite
for the approaching harvest, eat and drink, discuss weather conditions, and
wait in hope for some good rain to fall before they start to pick the olives
and rush them to the mills. They
say that to minimise the acid content, the olives should reach the mill within
a maximum of two days. The green olives have already started to be harvested
for preserving and pickling, as I could see on many stands in the Belediye Square
in Zeytinlik where the festivities take place.
I have always been
fascinated by the olive tree since I was a young student of Latin when I heard of
the ancient heroes walking under the olive trees with either a beautiful woman
at their side or a lyre in their arms. Open the link here to learn more about
harvesting the Mediterranean Gold.
This year’s festivities on
the village square of Zeytinlik was a turbulent event again, a mixture of
traditional village celebrations including all sorts of local food stands with
their inviting smells pervading the village with masses of people. Stands with preserves of olives and oil,
beautiful local handicraft, but this year also from Turkey, I spoke to some
ladies from Izmir; there was a stand set up by the Girne Lions Club with
handmade things for charity sales.
The stage and the chairs in front
of it were never empty, continuous shows were announced, bards singing and playing traditional
songs, rock and pop bands, youth groups
dancing the hiphop and the always present Line Dancers making the viewers move
to the hot tunes.
There was a smaller round
stage for theatre groups performing the salvation of the olive tree, a
pantomime. There I met the members of
the Catalköy Theatre who had performed on one of the other evenings. I met many
other old regulars who keep participating, for example Hasan Eminağa/Dizayn 74
and his show on the wheel keeps fascinating people, especially the very young
ones. There was Mustafa Salih Cizel, a Lapta artist, with his Cypriot paintings
in the big tent: he is a well-known very active artist taking care of the
cultural activities in his village and initiating art events and art education.
There was an old artist friend from Izmir whom I met again, years ago with a
fascinating display of his clay bells, this year with a book he published. His
hair had turned white in the meantime.
On Monday, Oct 05, I had
especially come for the award ceremony of the winners of the 4th
caricature competition, with the theme of the olive tree, an international
competition, and they had come from far away to receive their awards. Open the link to see the winning cartoons.
There were 226 participants
from 56 countries with altogether 457 works. The first prize went to Vladimir
Stankovski from Serbia, second prize to Raul Alfonso Grisales from Columbia;
third prize to Muammer Kotbas from Turkey. The Mayor of Girne, Nidal Güngördü
took me to the place in front of the village square where all the cartoons were
The Mayor was a much
demanded man over the days of the olive festivities, he was busy making
speeches and awarding people with plaquettes. He is a very engaged man and at
his side are many who have been organising the event, a most known man is culture
and theatre director Derman Atik who has some experience in organsing such
events, just weeks ago he did the Beşparmak Art and Culture Fest in Çatalköy village – what a bundle of
The competition issued by
the Cyprus Turkish Cartoonists Association, the FECO (Federation Cartoonists Organisation
Cyprus) was also supported by the Girne
Municipality as was the entire festival. Many other events had gone on during
daytime with sports and other contests.
The village square is now
named after one of Zeytinlik’s beloved citizen Ali Nesim, a philosopher,
humanist, writer and poet who died a year ago. A panel was set up to
commemorate him and his works. He and his wife Tulay were dear friends to us.
He will always be remembered for his love of his village, his books honouring
the olive trees, the legends of Cyprus he wrote down which I translated into
German. I do hope that the younger
generation will continue on this road.