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Brandeis University

Publication Date

Spring 2006

Program Name

Cyprus: Transnational Identities and Intercommunal Relations

Abstract

Often times, artists have the unique ability to see the world with fresh eyes. A specific group of Turkish-Cypriot and Greek-Cypriot artists have consistently used the visual arts to undermine people’s normal defenses and to help create an atmosphere of peace between members of the two communities. Interactions furthering this atmosphere not only take place between the artists of the two communities who are actively participating in these activities, but also between those individuals who choose to attend these events. Artists, therefore, can use their work to help facilitate peace between warring people. However, for a variety of reasons, artists and the visual arts have been an underutilized instrument in conflict transformation, although the arts can play an implausible role in uniting adversaries. Art can be a powerful tool for transformation at the personal, interpersonal, and organization level. Since restriction of movement across the Green Line was eased on April 23, 2003, selected Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot artists have realized the pivotal role that the visual arts have on influencing attitudes within the two communities. These art activities represent only a small proportion of the bi-communal events that have been executed on the island since 2003. . Bi-communal activities have employed a variety of mediums in which to impart their message to the public. Though these art activities greatly differ from other bi-communal events, together they illuminate the fight for coexistence on the island. Cypriot visual artists use their canvases and other mediums as a tool in which to voice their desire for the two communities to live together in peace.

Out of the many bi-communal activities that have been organized since 2003, visual art exhibitions have been considered some of the most successful. Art exhibits create a space for positive, public engagement in a non-threatening setting. Art is often about emotions and personal experience; thus artists have the ability to explore subjects in ways that are accessible to everyone. By presenting various visions of a similar subject, artists have the power to change how the past is viewed. Therefore, artists, if they desire, have a unique ability to serve as conflict mediators through the creation and presentation of their work. The visions that are presented in art serve to engage the viewer on both a cognitive and sensory level, thereby providing a more holistic approach to understanding the dynamics present in a divided society.

Many bi-communal art exhibitions have received positive responses from the public, yet other events have witnessed poor attendance and little attention from the press. This paper will explore how artists, gallery owners, government officials, and those not specifically involved view bi-communal art activities. Through my research, I will try to illuminate the role that the visual arts can play in helping to further a culture of peace in Cyprus.

Disciplines

Arts and Humanities | Peace and Conflict Studies

 

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