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03-02-2020 20:04

Address by the President of the Republic Mr Nicos Anastasiades at the Art Exhibition – In Culture we trust

It is with great satisfaction that I address all of you at todayʼs official opening of this unique and highly-sentimental exhibition. An exhibition which on the one hand contributes to building trust and confidence between the two communities and on the other hand highlights the socio-cultural identities of the two communities, by featuring cultural and artistic material that was recently exchanged through the bicommunal Technical Committee on Culture.

From the outset, I would like to refer to the joint meeting Mustafa and I held just a while ago with the bi-communal Technical Committee on Health, as a result of the growing concern and the dangers related with the spread of the coronavirus.

During the meeting, it was jointly agreed that we need to increase our cooperation so as to take all necessary measures to provide the maximum possible protection to the Cypriot people, Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

At the same time, the moral lesson which derives is that, despite the differences that we might have or even diverging views on numerous issues, we cannot ignore dangers or events which take no notice of who is the strong or weak one and force us to jointly unite powers and act together.

As you may recall, last year, on February the 26th, my dear friend Mustafa and I agreed on a number of Confidence – Building Measures, amongst which was on the one hand the return of 219 works of art by Greek Cypriot and Greek artists found in Famagusta and on the other hand the handing over of audio and visual recordings of Turkish Cypriot artists that exist in the archives of the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation.

More specifically, and in order to highlight the historical, cultural and social significance of the said exchange, please allow me to briefly analyse what it entails:

  • Many of the art works returned, which for over 45 years were perceived as lost or stolen, belong to well-known Greek Cypriot painters, such as, amongst others, George Pol. Georgiou, Stass Paraschos, Michail Kassialos, Stelios Votsis, Michalis Hadjidemetriou, George Kotsonis, Lefteris Economou, as well as to Greek painters, including Yiannis Tsarouchis, Yiannis Moralis, Nicos Hadjikyriakos – Ghikas, Fotis Kontoglou and George Mavroidis.  

It is worth noting that these art works were found in various houses and public spaces in Famagusta after 1974, including the Municipal Gallery and the port of Famagusta.

Concerning the next steps, the art works, for a short time - period will be exhibited in Nicosia for the public, while the ultimate aim is none other than to identify and return these precious paintings to their rightful owners. 

  • As regards the archives of the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation, they relate to audio-visual material which has been digitalized and covers the period from 1955 to 1963. It includes social, cultural and sporting events of the Turkish Cypriot community, including references to Turkish Cypriot artists and journalists who at that time either worked at the CyBC or took part in its programmes.

In this regard, I would like to sincerely thank the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the European Commission for the technical and financial assistance they provided for the organization of todayʼs exhibition, as well as the Management of CyBC and its Archive Department who handed over the audio-visual material.

Of course, it would be an omission on my behalf if I did not also express my gratitude to the co-chairs of the Technical Committee on Culture, Ms. Androula Vasiliou and Mr. Kani Kanol, for their invaluable work these past years in bringing the people of Cyprus closer together, as well as Mr. Yiannis Toumazis and Ms. Ruzen Atakan who, through their tireless efforts, prepared the exhibition of the artistic and cultural work on display today.

Todayʼs symbolic visit and addresses by both me and my friend Mustafa, following also our recent presence at the “Imagine” Conference organized by the bicommunal Technical Committee on Education, aim to, yet again, convey the collective message of our active commitment to the efforts of the Technical Committees to create an environment of friendship, understanding and interaction between the people of Cyprus, in support of the ultimate aim of reuniting our homeland.

In this respect, I warmly welcome the important work and initiatives of the Technical Committee on Culture, which, since its establishment back in 2015, has organized numerous joint cultural events, such as, amongst others, at Othelloʼs Tower and the ancient theatre of Salamis in Famagusta and at Pallas Theatre and Casteliotissa in Nicosia.

And taking this opportunity, on a personal level I would like to note the following: Art and cultural activities can tangibly contribute to efforts of achieving peace and reconciliation, through dialogue, rebuilding trust and empathy in communities devastated by conflict.

They can serve as a medium of developing a cultural awareness of one another, as well as an understanding of the socio-political issues that need to be addressed and provide inspiration for a future based on peace, justice, tolerance, collaboration, stability and safety.

As the American artist and human – rights advocate William Kelly articulately stated: “It is my previously stated belief that although a painting can never stop a bullet, a painting can stop a bullet from being fired”.

In concluding, please allow me to once more congratulate the supporters and organisers of tonightʼs exhibition, which reminds us of not only the historic, social, cultural and artistic heritage of our two communities, but also the recent past when Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots used to collaborate and cooperate with creativity and imagination, without ideological barriers and any ethnic or social exclusions.

These memories of the peaceful past should guide our actions as to what we envision to be our common future. As I had stated to dear Mustafa during the “Imagine” Conference on December 16 th 2019: “There is no other choice or alternative but to bring peace to our homeland”.

And the way to realise this is through addressing the legitimate sensitivities and concerns of each community and by building on mutual respect in merging what we consider to be the joint interests of Cypriots, and only Cypriots.

Only then we can achieve lasting peace that will establish a viable and functional Federal State, securing our joint future in a united Cyprus, member of the EU, free from dependencies by any third country and in full respect of the democratic principles, the human rights and fundamental freedoms of its legal citizens.