Cyprus Mail

2015 in review: Creativity and cooperation

By Annette Chrysostomou

One of this year’s reporting assignments has made me see a heartening development. Maybe surprisingly, it is about creativity and cooperation.

It started with being sent to the opening of the pop-up festival in Nicosia in November. This is an event which is in its third year, with a variety of shops featuring local artists and entrepreneurs in the run up to Christmas. This time it took place in the usually largely deserted City Plaza shopping centre for six weeks.

Apart from livening up the City centre, the idea is to give the young people an opportunity to find out whether it is feasible to open a shop. At best, they will indeed open one, at worst they will learn that they would fail without going through the motions of paying real rent and costly deposits usually required by shop owners in the area.

Until this year, I had hardly paid attention to any of it.

Just walking into the building was a nice surprise as the decorations are stunning, particularly when you are used to seeing the place at other times of the year.

But it becomes even more interesting when you, like I did, talk to the curator, the owners of the café in the basement, and a couple of those who currently occupy the shops.

Take the seagull at the entrance. Casual visitors will not know that it is a seagull at all, and what it represents. I was told that it was made from paper from the Financial Times in 1996, when the economic situation in Cyprus was much better, and is meant to be both ironic and hopeful, as we may ‘fly’ into a better future.

For those who are not big fans of the festival, yes, it looks like there could be more shops and some of the stuff you can buy is expensive. But interviewing people as I did, I found that there was a much bigger – and nicer – story to report.

Talking to the artists and entrepreneurs reveal more about why some items are expensive. For example, for Panayiotis Stelikos, who is restoring much neglected old chairs, the process is a long one. He needs to replace parts, perfect the structural integrity of each piece, sand and varnish. Then he designs a unique fabric for each item, sends it to the UK for printing, and only then does the re-upholstering begin.

Apart from the creativity, the sense of cooperation is also heartening.

“We are in a healthy competition. When one of us has to go somewhere, the neighbour will look after the shop,” one of the artists said. “We have set up much of this together,” another one remarked. “We send each other customers,” was another comment.

Seeing the enthusiasm and hearing about some of the budding artists’ ideas made me much more curious about the small shops with their artists and entrepreneurs which are springing up in many areas of Nicosia.

So when I was asked to write about ‘Stocking fillers’, Christmas gifts which don’t cost a fortune, for the paper’s Christmas guide, I thoroughly enjoyed visiting small handicraft shops and galleries as a research method. In the process, I asked the artists to tell me more about their work which is often interesting and surprising. As a result, things that didn’t seem special when I just looked at them have acquired a different meaning.

Here is just one example. What initially looked like small, funny looking dolls to me, seemed to grow in importance when explained by the artist. They are in fact modern sculptures based on “Plagonnes”, ancient Greek terracotta figures and express freedom, individuality and change beyond the world we live in.

Objects become much more personal thus explained.

I also found various shops where several friends or relatives work and display their creations together, another sign of the healthy competition mentioned before.

This is perhaps not the most important news item of the year to report, but something that may well be an often overlooked aspect, and which is also an integral part of Cypriot society.

I am sure there is much more creative stuff out there. I can’t wait to get to know it.


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Source: Cyprus News Agency

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