Project: Village Voices

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Project: Village Voices

Sustainability & Identity in Rural Cyprus.

The theme of our project was Sustainable development through cultural heritage and rural community activities. The cultural and natural heritage of Cyprus, community heritage and engagement, craft and rural development.

The aim of this project for me was to look at how small local and traditional businesses had succeeded, not only providing goods for local consumption, but for tourists too. How they fitted within the four pillars model and how I could use this model in my own future business.

The Participants, Pano Lefkara and the Programme

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The wonderful group of participants, leaders, hosts at the village restaurant in Kato Drys.

The Participants

As a group we all came from very different backgrounds. I am a Glass Artist the other participants came from planning, strategic policy, storytelling, sustainable/community development and visitor experience. This made for interesting conversation on a variety of topics.

Pano Lefkara

A mountain village a short distance from the coastal road between Paphos and Limassol, that makes it a pleasant day trip for tourists and Islanders alike. We arrived in the spring and Lefkara was bursting with almond blossom from the groves that surround the village alongside their ancient olive trees and white limestone cliffs.

Famed for it stunning and intricate Lefkara Lace, the traditional streets and village square are lined with shops dedicated to this craft. Another tradition vital to Lefkara’s economy are its Silversmiths their work is also apparent in the local shops, displaying beautiful silverware in lost wax and filigree techniques.

The Programme

On arrival in Lefkara, over dinner, we met a few of the people that would be showing us around and discussed the forthcoming weeks events.

The first item on our itinerary was a tour of Lefkara, with its many churches (from large to possibly the smallest I have ever seen), traditional houses, workshops and municipal buildings. We refreshed ourselves at some of the local tavernas and cafes, some of which had unique items for sale such as the Lefkara Lace Cookie! We also took a quick tour of the silversmiths’ workshop where we would later see some of the processes used to make their silverware.

There is a large part of Lefkara that has been left undisturbed and undeveloped since the events of 1974 that lead to the separation of the Island.

In the afternoon we made rope and clay acorns or small pinch formed animals using locally sourced fibres and clay. Later we scrambled around some of the ancient olive groves surrounding the village hunting for orchids (and wild asparagus for the evening meal), I really enjoyed this Horta foraging walk as Panayiota is a font of knowledge regarding the uses of all the local flora and fauna and was continually stripping leaves, stalks and flowers for us to taste. She was quite put out by Martins discovery of a stone mushroom!

On day three of our stay we got to properly meet Pavlou and his brother who are silversmiths, we we very lucky to see some of the traditional processes and some where new technology has crept in. We were invited back to see the silver being poured then acid washed later in the week. Very kindly we were all given the chance to purchase some of the jewellery the brothers made and Katie managed to procure a bespoke piece that was the talk of the day.

The afternoon was spent at Martins workshop where the multi-talented Panayiota taught us some of the basic Lefkara Lace making techniques, after a few false starts I managed to make a Marguerite, a traditional flower pattern, on a small hessian type bag. Panayiota has added these traditional designs to many of the items in the Green Village shop to encourage interest in the Lace as a contemporary addition to fashion.

Our visit to Nicosia was a complete contrast to Lefkara, after visiting the archeology museum (never enough time!) we walked through the border between Greek and Turkish Cyprus. Due to the outbreak of  Covid19, I think the usual hustle and bustle around the border crossing was tamed. We had a guided tour from Serhat around the mosque and the vibrant indoor markets (Han), he introduced us to his entrepreneurial young friends involved in music, food and the arts and took us to see some wonderful graffiti and architecture. Our final stop was a beautiful bookshop/taverna with books up to the ceilings and very good Turkish coffee.

Day five of our visit took us to Kato Drys, Panayiotas home town. A beautiful village about 10mins drive from Lefkara. The village appears very well kept and clean, but this is due to the very small population that actually still live here, many of the houses have been empty for a long time. The people that do stay here are very involved with keeping the community strong and all its traditions alive. This is apparent in the local shop and cafe where age old recipes have been handed down through the generation and are now sold to the passing tourists. You can visit the Agriculture Museum and the Museum of Popular Art that both given an insight to life in this quiet but beautiful village.

We took a trip higher up into the mountains to visit a deserted shepherds village and on our journey home stopped to visit the family run, Christoudia Winery.

Ktima, showed us round not only his winery explaining the various processes but also a small room where he used the grape mulch to make an almond and grape delicacy popular in Cyprus. He also explained that he is an apiarist and the importance of bees to his occupation as he needs them to pollinate his vines

The first port of call on our journey to the Troudos mountains was to an Halloumi farm, again family run with a lot of history behind it. We watched the fresh alloumi being made and were asked to stay and sample it. We were told about how some of the EU regulations effected their business and the local community, for example the hand woven basket that halloumi was traditionally drained in were thought of as unsanitary and now plastic versions are used, therefore taking work and money away from a traditional craft that is now unfortunately unused and adding to the burden of plastic waste. Unfortunately when we arrived in troudos for our walk we discovered the paths had been closed due to landslides, but it was quite amazing to come from beautiful sunshine into the snowy mountains. On our return we visited a family run smoker and delicatessen.

An early start took us back to the silversmiths to watch them pour the molten silver into the moulds we had watched them make earlier in the week, it was exciting and loud! As I come from a creative background where sometimes health and safety criteria are harder to apply I was maybe less shocked by how “open” everything was, it all looked very basic but following my understanding of traditional processes they change very little if little harm is done. We continued with another walk through Lefkara looking at the work of previous visitors to the village. After a short stop at a beach in Larnica where we dipped our toes in the water, we visited Choirokoitia, a neolithic village.

We had dinner with Martin that had been produced in his clay oven, apparently Panayiota won’t eat anything out of it unless it has been marked with three crosses.

Our final day started with a fantastic breakfast in Kato Drys provided by……..the homemade preserves, fruit and cheese just kept coming and was greatly received. Then off to Paphos and the site of Kourion, where we looked at the fantastic mosaics and ruins dating from the Bronze Age, before getting our flight home.

Conclusion.

From my trip to Cyprus and the small villages and businesses that I visited there, it was easy to see the amount of passion and dedicated hard work that’s involved in keeping the traditions and skills alive, also in keeping young people connected to them.

You can see how new methods have been adopted as machinery and technology evolve, also so that it fits EU directives and criteria, but the traditional skill is always apparent.

Looking at how that fits with my own working practises is a bit of an eye opener if I use the four pillars model.  Although the skills I’ve acquired as a stained glass artist have essentially remained unchanged since Roman times, many of the outsourced skills and materials are not readily as available, such as there being only two places in the whole of Britain that actually make sheet glass in its traditional form, that can be used in leaded panels, the cost of this can be prohibative.

I currently work by myself in a small studio/shop and although I occasionally teach individuals and small groups the very basics in stained glass, at this point I am not passing on the knowledge I have gained, may be I’ll get a chance to do this at a later stage.

The environmental concerns of stained glass have quite recently been highlighted due to the use of metals and minerals used in its production, new processes have dramatically reduced the amount of pollutants thankfully and the colours that are now available to the glass artist. I personally use as many eco packaging products as possible and wherever there is and eco option I do try to use it, again though some of the costs involved make this difficult. Another environmental issue is the fact I live rurally which incurs more expense in terms of postage and delivery.

Comrie centre, like Lefkara, has a vibrant creative community with a number of small shops producing unique pieces for locals and visitors, there are also so great initiatives in the outskirts of the village, from Comrie Croft, that now incorporates a market grade,tearoom and wedding/conference venue, and Cultybraggan, a converted ww2 prisoner of war camp that has a number of small businesses set up within its fences, these include builders, bakers, catering and data storage. I believe that all these enterprises make Comrie a very attractive proposition, not just for tourists but for people wishing to build their own life here.  I would like to think that my shop/studio is part of that draw to our unique spot in Scotland.

The business community in Comrie also works well together both in supporting each others work but also in forming collective events in and around the village for people to take part in and keep them aware of what’s available to them.

There are many comparisons to be made between our two villages, one of them is between the people returning to the community. Every year I believe Comrie is attracting younger families, and I think this relates to a new (or forgotten) mindset that’s about getting back to nature and a slower paced way of life than they previously desired in the cities. Although I see this as one of the problems Cyprus currently faces I hope that it is something that grows. I could see so many of the beautiful buildings left derelict that could so easily become someones home and business if they stepped out of the city and looked to learning a small amount of what Panayiota and people in her community know like the back of their hands.

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