The passage of time, in the context of the status quo, is erosive for the monuments of our country and this ominous perspective should be of concern, because the monuments are what make this place, its people and its history, Sotos Ktoris, co-chair of the bi-communal Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage told Cyprus News Agency.
Ktoris was appointed last month, succeeding Takis Hadjidemetriou who resigned for personal reasons. He has been a member of the Committee for the last eight years and when CNA asked him about his predecessor he was quite clear: “As Head of the Technical Committee, Hadjidemetriou contributed decisively to the effort to save the monuments of Cyprus.”
In particular, he added, if we consider that before the set up of the Technical Committee, the destruction of cultural heritage fuelled the ideology of intolerance and the complete alienation of the two communities.
“Hadjidemetriou followed the path of reconciliation with the Turkish Cypriots, and, in full consensus with the Turkish Cypriot co-chair Ali Tuncay managed to work on the prospect of saving our cultural heritage. A perspective that until then seemed impossible,” he noted.
The work of the Technical Committee evolved, gradually, into a project with extensions beyond the preservation of monuments, as it contributes to the strengthening of the culture of cooperation, tolerance and mutual respect between the two Communities, he stressed.
Ktoris went on to say that Hadjidemetriou`s contribution should be seen and evaluated in this light.
He told Cyprus News Agency that up until now projects in more than ninety monuments have already been completed and they include monasteries, churches, mosques, aqueducts, Ottoman baths, archaeological sites and mediaeval monuments.
Ktoris described the maintenance of the monastery of Apostolos Andreas, the works in the archaeological site of Salamina and the Zouhouri mosque in Larnaca and the maintenance of the Venetian walls of Famagusta as landmark projects.
“However, each monument has its own special archaeological, architectural or religious value, especially for communities whose memories, sorrows and happy moments are related with the existence of these monuments,” he said.
Ktoris said that there are many monuments that are in a critical condition and the intervention of the Committee is needed. Work is currently underway on nine more monuments, including the church of Agios Synesios in Rizokarpaso, the Arsenal bastion on the Venetian walls of Famagusta, the Panagia in Acheritou, the Ottoman baths in Larnaca and the Orounda mosque.
“The planning for the next two years includes preservation and maintenance works on more than forty monuments throughout Cyprus, including the Second Phase of the monastery of Apostolos Andreas and the archaeological sites in Solos, Vouni and Vrisi in Agios Epiktitos “, he said.
But why is cultural heritage especially of a divided country so important and why should we be concerned? Ktoris noted that passage of time also affects the monuments and this should be a problem because the monuments are the place, the people and their history and their existence testifies to our history and the multicultural identity of our country.
“We have a responsibility, therefore, to history and future generations to work for the preservation of our cultural heritage. But also responsibility towards the people who are anxious about the future of the place. Because every monument that survives contributes to the improvement of the environment of trust and strengthens mutual understanding. At the end, it strengthens the effort for reconciliation, the perspective of Cyprus as a whole”, he stressed.
Regarding the involvement of the new generation which will inherit the work of the Committee, Ktoris said that the Technical Committee places special emphasis on the active involvement of the new generation and that in this framework it has introduced the project “Young Ambassadors of Cultural Heritage”. The youth, he said, using mainly social media, inform and raise awareness about the cultural heritage of our country and the need to protect and respect the heritage of each community in Cyprus.
Ktoris said that educational visits are set to take place next Spring in monuments and construction sites where young Cypriots from various backgrounds and professions such as engineers, architects and archaeologists will be able to acquire knowledge and skills related to the preservation of monuments.
Ktoris also told the Cyprus News Agency that the Technical Committee promotes the implementation of actions related to Digital Heritage, which include, among other things, the digitization of all monuments that have been preserved, as well as the development of online educational games, in order to give the opportunity for the new generation of Cypriots, using digital tools, to get to know the cultural diversity of Cyprus.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the island’s northern third.