Arts centre in Limassol gives view of the island’s creative past finds PAUL LAMBIS
There are many hidden gems on the island when it comes to see and do, and perhaps none is bigger than Diatehnon Arts & Culture, a hub of creativity nestled in the heart of the Old Municipal Market in Limassol, specialising in all things related to art, craft, and design.
Designed in a multi-functional space, the airy interior has hosted many workshops and events over the years, particularly in the fields of ceramics, painting, iconography, and instrument making.
“Our mission is to promote aesthetic values and artisan skills that are sometimes overlooked or marginalised, through which people can enhance their wellbeing and awaken their creative urge and need for self-expression,” co-ordiniator Manolis Hadjimanolis said.
Since its founding in May 2015, Diatehnon has brought together a team of enthusiastic people who gather, research, and develop methods and techniques as well as theoretical knowledge in the fields of arts, crafts, and design, which are then shared with the larger community, both in Cyprus and abroad.
The instrument making focuses on the creation of string instruments like the modern guitar and the mediaeval lute, while other work looks at iconography and portraiture, which examines methods that have been passed down from Byzantium to the present, and ceramic techniques and methods from the Bronze Age to contemporary ceramic art and design. “Our goal is to gather, comprehend, assess, and reinterpret these paradigms so that we can use them creatively and effectively in the modern context of our times,” Hadjimanolis said.
A native of Limassol, he studied fine arts and visual culture in London, and has a rich knowledge of Cyprus’ traditional crafts. On his return to Cyprus, he studied Byzantine iconography, while also expanding his understanding of the stringed instruments native to the island.
After finding the space that is today the home of Diatehnon, Hadjimanolis spearheaded the effort along with his wife, ceramist Eweline Birut-Hadjimanolis, and friend and master luthier Andreas Leonidou, transforming the area into a location where regular people could experience and participate in the island’s creative past. “What we do here is influenced by Cypriot cultural tradition,” Hadjimanolis told Living. “However, we also want to highlight Cyprus’ cosmopolitan nature and the connections between the Middle East and Europe.”
As part of walking tours around Limassol’s centre that are co-organised by the city’s municipality, presentations at Diatehnon allow visitors to acquire a taste of the workshop’s ethos.
“It is a presentation mixed with demonstrations – an interactive experience,” Hadjimanolis said. “We show visitors how we prepare the traditional egg tempera paints for icon painting, using natural pigments, yolks, and vinegar, as well as how the faces of the icons are created.
“In Byzantine iconography, light is added gradually to a dark background, as opposed to the Renaissance technique of chiaroscuro on white. I genuinely enjoy sharing such insights with our guests.”
Diatehnon is open to anyone who wants to learn about crafts that have been refined through many generations. Hadjimanolis particularly enjoys presentations for students through ‘visual culture’ workshops when requested. “Our workshops go beyond just painting, sculpting, or creating anything out of clay; they assist the younger generation develop a more well-balanced sense of self-worth, especially during the constant changes and problems of our times.”
The centre has hosted internships in icon painting and pottery as part of the Erasmus Internship Programme, which gives students in higher education the chance to do an internship in Cyprus that is connected to the island’s cultural heritage and arts. “We are always open for collaborations and partnerships, as it is a wonderful opportunity to connect and share our common interests of culture and art,” he added.
He has also been collaborating with the ministry of education on a Drase programme aimed at supporting school pupils at risk of poverty and social inclusion. “I believe that we owe it to our children to attend to their needs and help them excel through the implementation of experiential workshops with the aim of fostering their social skills.”
Through the artistic practice of ceramics, the ancient art of iconography, making one’s own instrument and learning the mosaic technique as it was established by the masters in the Graeco-Roman period, the ongoing activities at Diatehnon cultivate in visitors a deeper visual understanding of the world.
Diatehnon Arts & Culture is located on Kanari 32, Old Municipal Market, Limassol. Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm; Saturday 9am-1pm