Cyprus: Two Cultures

Cyprus, officially the Republic of Cyprus is an island country in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea particularly, east of Greece. The culture of Cyprus is split into two distinct cultures of Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Each community preserves its own culture, being linked to the cultures of Greece and Turkey, with less cultural interchange between them. The Greek culture has been on the island since the earlier days. The Turkish culture came with the invasion of the Ottoman Empire in 1570. It was under this rule that the division between the two communities became clear. However distinct the cultures are the sound of music and the display of artistic creativity unites the people beyond divide.

Music to Inspire

The traditional folk music of Cyprus has common elements with Greek, Arabic, and Turkish music including Greco-Turkish dances like the sousta, zeibekikos, tatsia, syrtos, and karsilamas as well as the Middle Eastern arapies and tsifteteli. There is also a musical poetry known as chattista which is normally performed at traditional celebrations and feasts. The instruments commonly used in Cyprus folk music are the bouzouki, oud, violin, accordion, lute, Cyprus flute and percussion to include the toumperleki.

Popular music in Cyprus is influenced by the Greek Laïka scene; artists who play in this category include Anna Vissi, an international star,, Evridiki, and Sarbel. Hip Hop, R&B and reggae have become popular too with the emergence of Cypriot rap and the urban music scene at Ayia Napa. Other music forms include the Cypriot rock music and Éntekhno rock.

Art to Live by

The art history of Cyprus stretches back up to 10,000 years, from the discovery of Chalcolithic period carved figures in the villages of Lempa and Khoirokoitia. The island houses numerous religious icon paintings from the Middle Ages and many painted churches. Cypriot architecture was influenced by Italian renaissance and French Gothic brought to the island during the Latin domination era from 1191 to 1571.

In modern times Cypriot art history starts with the painter Vassilis Vryonides who studied at the in Venice.  The two founding fathers of modern Cypriot art were Adamantios Diamantis and Christopheros Savva who both studied in London. In many ways these two artists set the base for upcoming Cypriot art.  Both artistic styles and the patterns of education of Diamantis and Savva remain influential until today. While majority of Cypriot artists still train in England, others train in Greece and in local art institutions like the Cyprus College of Art, the Frederick Institute of Technology, and the University of Nicosia.

One of the characteristics of Cypriot art is towards figurative painting although conceptual art is being strongly promoted by a number of art institutions like the Nicosia Municipal Art Centre.  Municipal art galleries can be found in all the major towns and a large and lively commercial art scene exists.

The music and art dimensions are only two of the avenues by which people can enjoy their lives despite their separation between Greek and Turkish cultures. They both love music and appreciate art. These two expressions not only build up their spirits but can take them to their dreams.

Photo by jennikate on Flickr

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