Today it is the UN-controlled buffer zone that divides the Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots. Hundred years ago, it was the colour of their clothing. Through funding from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, the Centre for Visual Arts and Research in Nicosia documents how the two groups lived peacefully together for hundreds of years.
“We hope this centre will help building a bridge to a common future for this island,” said Nicos Anastasiades, the President of Cyprus at the opening of the centre.
The Centre for Visual Arts and Research in Nicosia is located close to the buffer zone of Europe’s last divided city. One thousand five hundred pictures, 6000 books and manuscripts and unknown numbers of historical items tell the story of Cyprus from the 18th century up until today.
The centre is financed with support from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants. Many of the displayed items come from the collection of Costas and Rita Severis. It all started when they as a young married couple did not have paintings for their home:
“After this, it became some sort of an addiction. We just could not stop,” explains Rita Severis who with great passion gives her insight on everyday life, architecture and cultural history on the island the last 300 years.
This was a time when Cyprus was mostly peaceful, and the different communities lived side-by-side. At the end of the 19th century, the only way to distinguish the two groups was by the colour of their clothes:
“The Turkish-Cypriot used bright clothing, while the Greek-Cypriot used darker colours. The Turkish-Cypriot women did not cover their faces. They were far more secularised than most women in the region,” Severis says.
The aim of the centre is to showcase the island’s cultural history and heritage through the prism of unity, and to increase the understanding and knowledge about the history they have in common.
“We would like to share our collection with the entire island and hope this centre will foster a culture of tolerance and be a starting point for peaceful co-existence, said Costas Severis at the opening of the centre.
A research centre and library have also been established in addition to the exhibition over four floors. Youth and school children from both sides of the buffer zone are among the target groups. The centre receives visitors from school classes and rents out rooms for cultural activities.
The project receives €613 648 from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.