By Christos P. Panayiotides
LAST Monday, I was invited by Takis Hadjidemetriou to attend the event organised on the completion of the conservation works of the Martinengo Bastion and the Famagusta Walls, the segment between the Arsenal and the Sea Gate.
The event was a vivid expression of optimism and hope. Perhaps, it was the technical proficiency with which the conservation work has been carried out. Perhaps, it was the Famagusta sea breeze, which was detectable in the air. Perhaps, it was the absence of asterisks and caveats, which would qualify the unlimited love and affection towards the cultural monuments of Cyprus. Perhaps, it was a ray of hope suggesting that the political problems of Cyprus could be overcome. Perhaps, it was the combined effect of all the above factors. Whatever it was, the event was a sheer joy.
In the following paragraph, I set out verbatim the words, which were cited by Mr. Hadjidemetriou in his short speech. These were the words, which he heard The Walls whispering, prior to the conservation works, when, in the recent past, they were at the stage of collapsing: “Your conflicts, your petty thinking and your calculative behaviour are threatening our very existence. What do you think you would be without us? Without the monuments and the history of this land? Please, do understand one thing: Not only we, the Walls of Famagusta, will perish; the entire cultural heritage of Cyprus will be dragged along to destruction. Culture does not comprise pieces unrelated to each other, which are scattered here and there. Culture is not a matter of give and take, subject to negotiation, subject to terms and conditions. The monuments cannot be the subject matter of an exchange. Culture is an abstract concept, it is a vision, and it is love and affection for the land. There is only one culture, embedded in the sequence of years, in the sequence of generations, in the sequence of events, ultimately reaching the present. Only if you see the matter globally, you will be able to appreciate its significance”.
The above words of the Walls were followed by the words of Hadjidemetriou: “This is what The Walls whispered in our ears. We felt ashamed of our behaviour; we felt grief for the state of the monuments. It transpired that we had to overcome the pettiness of our thinking. We got the message and we embraced our civilisation in its entirety over the whole of the island. No distinction could be made between Greek, Roman, Phoenician, French, Venetian, Ottoman and, later, British monuments. All these monuments comprise the cultural heritage of Cyprus, a common cultural base for all Cypriots. Through these monuments, emerge people and events, which compose a unique cultural heritage, extending over thousands of years. Multicultural Cyprus stands at the crossroads of the world. Here, in Famagusta, the heir and successor of famous cities, namely Engomi, Salamis, Arsinoe and Constantia, one can easily see the most brilliant expressions of the multicultural tradition of a multicultural island. The time, the history and the people are interlinked in an integrated structure”.
For providing this ray of hope, piercing the prevailing darkness, we are all grateful and thankful towards those who are conscientiously working on this great project.
Christos Panayiotides is a regular columnist for Cyprus Mail and Alithia