As director of the Centre of Visual Arts and Research (CVAR) in Nicosia (South), RITA SEVERIS passionately represents the goals of the private foundation: “To promote culture, education, peaceful coexistence, understanding and cooperation amongst the people of Cyprus and between Cyprus and its neighbours”. Her little dog is named Melusine after the first Queen of Cyprus in Lusignan times. From 1192 the Lusignans were lords of Cyprus for some centuries, after Guy de Lusignan bought Cyprus from Richard the Lionheart (2015).
MILITSA (“Little Apple Tree”) APOSTOLIDOU still remembers being discriminated against in school because her Greek parents had fled to Cyprus after the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 and were poor. A child of very strict parents, she found more love with her godmother Sofia and (to her own surprise) in an arranged marriage (2015).
SEBAHATTIN SEZER has a small coffee house in the rooms of the former St. Mamas monastery in Morphou | Güzelyurt (North). All day long he looks at the disused monastery church, of which he has made a matchstick model. (2014)
TÜRKAN and TÜNAY KANAY fled from Pafos (South) to Famagusta. Türkan was a seamstress, while Tünay was a seaman, a police officer, and a driver of lorries and buses. It used to be that family relationships were expressed by passing down the father’s name. In 1977, everyone in the North had to take on a new name. So they combined elements of their first names to form a new family name. The authorities in the South do not recognise these names. Because of this some people have two names: one for the North and one for the South (2014)
SEVGUL ULUDAG is a multi-award-winning investigative Turkish Cypriot journalist, author, and peace and gender activist. The many taboos she has broken have attracted massive hostility from certain quarters. She plays an important role in the discovery of hundreds of cases of “disappeared” persons and the discovery of mass graves. She says her mother taught her what love is. That stabilises her. So does nature (2015).
INCI TASELI, the mother of BAHAR, was an accountant in Lefkoşa (North). Inci absolutely wanted to be photographed with her iPad. In looking at family photos together, it became apparent that Vamık Volkan is her cousin. He made a name for himself in peace and conflict research as a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in the US. I had read many of his works to prepare myself for Cyprus (2015).
ORESTIS TRINGIDES and NATALIE HAMI
The many divisions of the island that meet in Natalie Hami’s biography also flow from her work: she comes from Potamia, the last bicommunal place in the South. She lives in the South as a Catholic Cyprus Turk with an Irish mother. She writes about it as a journalist.
Orestis is a media specialist in Nicosia (South), an exponent of the young civil society who creates free spaces and new realities with humour and great energy, one of the key figures of bicommunal activities (2015).
MARIA HADJIPAVLOU’s focus as a political scientist at the University of Cyprus in Nicosia (South) is on conflict resolution and gender issues. My pain about Cyprus had a large influence on my academic and activist life, she said. She began to meet people from the “other” side back when the “others” were still the enemies – which was the case into the late 1980s – and was accused of being a traitor (2015).
ALI KIZILSAHIN comes from Limassol and lives in Kontea | Türkmenköy (North), formerly a mixed village. Some of the Cyprus Turks there still speak Greek. He has the key to the church and keeps an eye on the Greek Orthodox cemetery by himself. In a exemplary community initiative for this area, they completed the restoration of the church. Each religious service that takes place there requires permission from the authorities (2014).
SERAP KANAY is Tünay and Türkan Kanay’s daughter and grew up in Pafos (South). She studied art in Amsterdam and then lived for a long time in London. In her art she is the first to engage with the history of Cypriots with African roots; she earns her daily bread as a tour guide in the North. Her knowledge and her critical eye have revealed many things to me (2014).
ANDRI EPIPHANIOU was 13 when she had to leave Famagusta (North). 29 years later, when she was already a director of a building and construction company, she went back there for the first time. It took her many years to get to the point where she could talk to Turks or Turkish Cypriots at all. Now she is even enganged in bicommunal projects. Her sign “Open up – I left my soul behind”, which she hung on the barbed wire fence around the no-go area in Famagusta, became famous. Her ex-husband’s brother was “missing” and his remains were finally identified by the Committee on Missing Persons. Afterwards his father could finally die and his mother could begin to speak about him (2015).
ELSIE SLONIM has now made the story of her 99-year life, which began in the US and took her through Baden bei Wien, Romania, the US again, Palestine | Israel, and finally Cyprus, available as an autobiography. She now lives alone in the restricted zone, sheltered from the military exercise grounds by thick oleanders. When the fighting ended in 1974 and she climbed uninjured out of her basement bunker, she decided she just did not want to move again – luckily, the officer on site took a kindly attitude towards her. So she continues to live in her house in a legal limbo, needing a visa for every shopping trip (her visitors all need one too). In emergencies, she calls the military post rather than the emergency services (2014).
BAHAR TAŞELI, an assistant professor at Cyprus International University (Lefkoşa, North), teaches students from all over the world who approach Europe through the study of media and communication sciences. She wrote a dissertation in London on “Collective Identity and Otherness in Turkish Cypriot Media”. In her family, too, there was a “disappeared” person, who was finally identified by the CMP and given back to the family. In the garden she shows me which trees she climbed as a child and where she pilfered her aunt’s plums. She became a friend (2015).
ERDOGAN TASELI, the father of BAHAR, can tell you everything about water on the island – it was his job. And about bees – he is now a passionate beekeeper and proud of his garden in Lefkoşa (North; 2015).
NIKOLAS was born after the 1974 war. He is an accountant at a bank and he is sick of the banking crisis. He lives with a Chinese girlfriend and a dog on his roof terrace in Nicosia (South) as on an island. His mother had to leave her house in Morphou | Güzelyurt (North) during the war. He has only been to the North three or four times. He is just too disappointed by everything (2015).
ALI KIZILSAHIN in the newly renovated church of Kontea | Türkmenköy (North; 2014).