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By Peter Stevenson MEMBERS of Volunteer Doctors Cyprus have treated around 350 people at their free clinic in Nicosia since it opened three months ago, while two more, one in Paphos and one in Polis are due to open today. Limassol also has a free clinic, which was opened only last month, and plans have been drawn ...
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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Bringing the past to life ]

Bringing the past to life

There is still time to see a Nicosia exhibition that brings the finds of an archaeological dig to life in a most unusual manner says JESSICA MACCORMICK


Views from Phlamoudhi celebrates the return of artifacts excavated by an international team of archaeologists between 1970 and 1973 in the now occupied village. Yet unlike most archaeological exhibits, this exhibition not only displays the remnants of long-distant pasts, it also celebrates the lives of those Phlamoudhi villagers who lived alongside and assisted the dig, now living in other places after their displacement in 1974 by the Turkish invasion. Ian Cohn’s photographs document the village as it was during the dig.

Cohn, then an architectural student from New York and official photographer on the Phlamoudhi dig in 1972, began exploring the nearby village to study the housing of the local people. Drawn in by the curiosity and friendliness of the villagers, Cohn re-focused his lens on them. The book that resulted from this summer-long engagement - The Faces of Phlamoudhi – includes the photos in the exhibition.

Each of us has a sense of how important family records are. Most people, when asked what they would save first in a fire, would take the family pet under one arm, their precious family albums under the other. Phlamoudhi residents never got the chance to make this decision. Expecting to return to their homes, they took nothing. No images of ancestors, no baby photos, nothing. It almost seems a miracle that Cohn, inspired by his burgeoning friendships with the villagers, photographed almost every single person and their homes in the village that year. Only now have these images found their way to light, bound in a book that will become the ‘family album’ for a now diasporic community.

Working with Phlamoudhi colleague Savvas Georgiou, who currently resides in London, the duo painstakingly connected names with faces, homes with owners. In the early seventies, Georgiou was just a boy. He appears in the book, grinning, standing with his family, their backs to the sea. Helping Cohn craft the book has been a labour of love for him. “For me working on these photographs has been an emotional rollercoaster ride that has lasted three years and I am now suffering the withdrawal symptoms. The quality of the photographs is simply breathtaking, even by today's standards. It is hard to believe, that three years on, each time I look at them, I still find new details I haven't seen before,” he said.

In Cyprus recently to see the exhibit constructed and to touch base with the people whose lives make up the rich material of this book, Cohn spent each day rather festively passed from one Phlamoudhi family group to another. Toddler’s faces that look out at you from the book’s pages are now grown men and women with their own families.

The exhibition and book look back in several ways. In the same sense that the archaeological narrative uncovers the flows of inhabitation and abandonment, the book stands as its own archaeological artifact of the people of Phlamoudhi, yet these images offer something much more - they have become a vessel of living memory. As such, the book bears great responsibility to the lives of the people pictured on its pages. “Irrespective of where we live today, each picture unlocks so many different memories that were locked away and virtually forgotten,” said Georgiou.
The families from the village have scattered around the world - many still reside in Cyprus, others overseas like Georgiou - but their children have been educated, they have rebuilt their lives and, most profoundly, they have strived to keep their families together as much as possible, which Cohn sees as a stunning effort in the face of what was lost. An exhibition - and a book - not to be missed.

Views of Phlamoudhi
The archaeology of Phlamoudhi in addition to an exhibition of photographs of the village and its residents taken by Ian J. Cohn in 1972. Cyprus Museum, Nicosia. Until September 18


(Source: Cyprus Mail)
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008 Please contact Cyprus Mail for the copyright terms of this article.



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