- Sport : Mourinho to leave Real Madrid at end of season
- Sport : Alvez sends Omonia into Europa League, Olympiakos relegated
- Sport : Ferguson bows out after 10-goal thriller
- bail in : Further raid on BoC possible
- politics : Our View: Politics remains the art of the unattainable
- coffeeshop : Tales from the Coffeeshop: Hallelujah, the Cyprob makes a...
- banks : 'Why did ministers not blame bankers?'
- Cyprus : State provides €4m for student grants
- Ambrosiadou : Elena Ambrosiadou wins legal battle
- Anastasiades : Anastasiades calms concerns over UN document
Starting from scratch
Twice a stranger aims to show the experience of forced migration as seen throughout history. It’s a subject close to a lot of hearts in Cyprus. ZOE CHRISTODOULIDES looks at what the exhibition involes
It’s often been said that a picture can speak a thousand words. But when the picture is one of faces that have been uprooted from their homelands and forced to leave everything they have ever known behind, this well known phrase takes on even heavier connotations.
One little boy falls into the protective embrace of his grandmother while a seamstress tries to make do with a what she can, surrounded by her young apprentices within a refugee settlement. From the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1932 to the forced German Polish migration at the end of World World II, a new exhibition is soon to go on show that will give local crowds the chance to familiarise themselves with some of the greatest forced migrations of the 20th century.
Opening at the Leventis Museum next Monday evening, personal testimonies and rare archive footage are combined with multimedia video installations that bring visitors face-to-face with the survivors of these traumatic events.
The facts and figures themselves are daunting. During the partition of India in 1947, 12 million Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs were displaced. In Europe, just as many German refugees were forced to move westward after the end of World War II. When the statistics are combined with visual multimedia in an exhibition room, they become all the more daunting as the reality of the common human experience of lost homelands and communities ripped apart comes to life. The upcoming exhibition, aptly named Twice a Stranger, has been organised by the Greek production company Anemon with the support of the Culture Programme of the EU.
“It all started off some years ago when we made a documentary series with the initial idea coming from Bruce Clark’s namesake book who has been our advisor since then,” explains Yuri Averof, one of the organisers at Anemon. “A twelve part series was shown on Greek television looking at population exchanges throughout the 20th century between various countries and what lessons are to be learnt from this experience. We did a lot of research for it and then decided to organise a cross media traveling project.”
As the idea of the exhibition was born, material was dug out from major European archives while organisers also managed to get in contact with various individuals who shared personal stories, family archives and films. Designed by the Swedish architect Johan Annerherd, the exhibition encourages visitors to explore the space through a virtual labyrinth and to create their own narrative through eyewitness accounts, audio-visual archive material and unique period photos.
The travelling exhibition was first shown at Istanbul-Bilgi University at the beginning of the year and will now remain in Cyprus until the start of September before going on to the Beneki Museum in Greece.
“It was very surprising for us because the reactions in Turkey were very emotional. Even the students at the university who study the issues of forced migration became very sentimental while watching the videos,” says Yuri. “What people come to realize is that the experience of being forced out of your home is a common human one and the trauma and conclusions of those who experienced such events are similar on various sides. You really can learn from other people’s perspectives.”
Perhaps the most difficult part of organising this exhibit was pushing forward the idea of people discussing ideas beyond their own stereotypes and realising that things that happened in their own country have happened around the world. “It’s about seeing how various oral testimonies converge as people gain an awareness of interpretations from both sides.”
The multimedia exhibition also includes educational programmes which will be particularly interesting for the young ones. An interactive part of the educational programme will include a hands-on installation for children aged 6-12 (as well as adults), who are encouraged contribute to the creation of a ‘Memory Tree’ from photos and other material from their homes gathered before their visit. There will also be documentary presentations and storytelling including the screening of ‘The Promise’, a story about the 1922 Greek-Turkish population exchange told through the eyes of two seven-year-old narrators.
“You can show the story to younger ages working with very simple ideas like friendship, identity, displacement and something being passed on to the next generation,” explains Yuri. And what gained knowledge will the adults walk away with? “It’s a good opportunity to think about the 20th century and what we did wrong - to learn from this experience. There has been a big change about how we conceive our identity as civil liberties gradually have gradually become embedded in society and various institutions.”
Twice a Stranger
Multimedia exhibition about forced migration and population exchange. Opens May 28, 7.30pm, until September 2. The Leventis Municipal Museum, Temporary Exhibitions Hall, 15-17 Hippocrates Street, Laiki Yitonia, Nicosia. Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10am -4.30pm. The exhibition will be in two languages: Greek and English. Tel: 22-661475, 22-671997. www.twiceastranger.net