Talking statues: How do monuments speak to us?
The many monuments of Cyprus; what and who do they represent, who do they speak to and what are they trying to say?
These were some of the questions that a different kind of exhibition entitled ‘Iconoclastic Controversies: A visual sociology of statues and commemoration sites in the southern part of Cyprus’ by Prof. Dr. Nico Carpentier at the Home for Cooperation, was looking to evoke. The exhibition was in collaboration with the Association for Historical Dialogue & Research (AHDR) and the Cyprus Community Media Centre (CCMC).
One of the reasons I wanted to tackle the issue of monuments in this blog post was, first of all to talk about my own experience with monuments both in Nicosia and Potamia, and also it seems like a natural follow up to a post I released two weeks ago called ‘For the love of education’.
A little over a year ago high ranking officials, including Interior Minister Socrates Hasikos, and First Lady Andri Anastasiades unveiled a monument commemorating the missing in Potamia. The monument consisted of the statues of two Greek Cypriot soldiers who had gone missing in 1974 in Mia Milia.
To my knowledge there is at least one missing Turkish Cypriot from Potamia (and if anyone knows more on this please correct me if I’m wrong).
Monuments, of either side for that matter, do not represent or present the whole picture; they are only a portion of our pain, a portion of our history. As we already know Greek Cypriots place more emphasis on the Turkish invasion of 1974, whereas Turkish Cypriots place more emphasis on the events of the early 1960s, as such their respective monuments will also represent this slant.
Monuments can be used to immortalise the past; they are a means to immortalise pain and trauma.
However if this is the case, how can these monuments be reconciled in a new and unified Cyprus? These were just some of the key points that were touched upon in a series of interviews and debates organised by the CCMC and AHDR.
The origin of the word monument comes from the Latin ‘moneo, monere’, which means ‘to remind’, ‘to advise’ or ‘to warn’. As part of a new and inclusive future, these monuments should not be forgotten or destroyed but should serve as a warning of what could happen and what did happen. Even the well-known slogan of ‘δεν ξεχνώ’ (‘I do not forget’ referring to the events of ‘74), a type of monument in itself, can serve as a reminder of the pain and trauma of past generations, but should not hinder us from moving forward. We can remember with a respect for the past and those that suffered, but with the foresight and optimism to move on.
- For the love of education
- Will the ‘real Cypriots’ please stand up?
Thank you, Natalie, for highlighting this crucial dimension of public life. In South Africa, the monuments of the Apartheid regime were left in place but efforts were made to interpret them and to add new monuments for a unified South Africa. This is very different from the “de-Nazification” policy in Germany after World War II, which held people back from understanding their history until much later. Memory is good, mutual understanding is even better!
Yia sou, Bill! I wish you and Sylvia a happy new year to you and your loved ones 🙂 I send my regards!
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