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Cyprus and Venice October 1, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Cyprus.
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The historical links between these two islands are looked at in an exhibition taking part as part of the Italian Cultural Month

Centuries ago Cypriot families piled off boats that had crossed the Mediterranean to seek refuge in Venice shortly after the island was taken over by the Ottomans. Some of these refugees went on to become reputable doctors, lawyers, merchants and authors. Others influenced Italian fashion as Venetian dressmakers drew inspiration from traditional Cypriot clothing. Without really knowing it, Cypriots were instilling a little bit of their culture and knowledge into the life of Italy.

Perhaps even more interesting is the history that preceded these events. Cyprus and Venice were in fact related from the Byzantine times, when the Venetians were allowed to use the ports of Cyprus for trade. By the Lusignan period, the Venetians were well established on the island, with a vast amount of connections in various commercial and social sectors. When Cyprus became an overseas colony of the Venetian Republic in 1489, merchants further explored the products of our island and trade flourished. By the time Cyprus became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1571, the island had secured its gateway to modern Europe. When Cypriots soon after moved to Venice to escape Ottoman control, they became part of the history of the city.

Times have certainly changed, and as the centuries go by this interesting history is often forgotten. This month offers you the chance to rediscover the relationship between Venice and Cyprus as it is brought to life with theatre performances, music, fashion shows, seminars and exhibitions. As part of Italian Month, the Leventis Museum in Nicosia is hosting an exhibition which presents important documents from Venice which have never previously been exhibited in Cyprus including manuscripts, chronicles, books, letters and maps.

The items have been sent from Venice’s famous Marcianna Library (Library of St. Mark), The Correr Museum, Mocenigo Palace and the National Archives of Venice. As light is shed on the links between the two cultures you can also look through the famous Chronicle of Leontius Machaeras which many local historians have studied in depth, but have never previously been given the chance to examine close up. All the documents are accompanied by relevant sketches, as well as detailed descriptions and explanations. “This is all written proof of the relationship between Venice and Cyprus,” explained exhibition curator Lucia Hadjigavriel. “We were determined to bring things into the museum that had never been on display before. For the first time people can begin to understand why Cyprus was so very important for the Venetians all those years ago”.

So what exactly can you expect to see written on the documents? Some works reveal that Cyprus was once the biggest commercial centre of Europe for certain products as they outline the trade relations between the two countries, documenting local exports of yellow and white cotton, sugar and camel textiles. Other documents trace the cultural exchange between Cyprus and Venice. “We know the fabrics sent to Venice started off new fashions in Italy following the patterns and colours of the traditional costumes of Cyprus,” added Lucia. Some documents also look at the relations between Cypriot migrants and Italian citizens, examining their lives and their relationship with the governing bodies. What’s more, these documents are often hand written and signed by Kings and Popes of the time.

The documents will only remain in the museum for one month before they have to be sent back to Venice. “Some are written on parchment and fine old paper and need to preserved with very special means. They can only be displayed and exposed to the elements for a very limited amount of time,” said Lucia.

Also on show in the museum is the unique Attar Map before and after its recent restoration. Drawn up by Cypriot cartographer Leonida Attar in 1542, the map provides unique information about the territory and topography of the island such as coasts, mountains, rivers, numerous villages and ancient sights. It also shows how the island was divided into eleven separate administrative areas for the very first time.

Keep in mind that every Thursday morning from 10.30 to 12pm guided tours will be taking place in both Greek and English for those wishing to learn more about the historical importance of the documents in more detail. There is also a small catalogue available which provides descriptions of the items on show and their importance.
A historical conference about the period documented in the exhibition will also take place on October 21 at the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation in Nicosia. This one-day conference will host an impressive number of international scholars, each presenting a talk on relations between Cyprus and Venice throughout centuries.

The lectures will cover the most important aspects of the Venetian presence in Cyprus and the Cypriot presence in Venice, discussing the changes between the two peoples.
Subjects talked about will include the precious Attar map, a detailed analysis of Cypriots who migrated to Venice at the time of Ottoman rule and their social relations there, as well as the trade between the two countries. We all know that the even the distant past continually shapes the present that we live in. So why not go along to the exhibit and give yourself a little historical food for thought?

Venice and Cyprus
Exhibition with important documents including manuscripts and chronicles on the links between Venice and Cyprus. Opens October 2, 7pm, until November 5. The Leventis Municipal Museum, Laiki Yitonia, 17 Hippocrates Street, Nicosia. 10am-4.30pm daily. Closed Mondays. Tel: 22-661475

Italian Cultural Month
Fashion Show

GAS clothing, footwear and accessories. October 9. Laiki Sporting Centre, Latsia, Nicosia District. 8pm. Invite needed. Tel: 22 357718

Venice and Cyprus
Historical and literary conference about the period documented in the exhibition ‘Venice and Cyprus’ at the Leventis Museum. October 21. Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation, Phaneromeni Street, Nicosia. 9am. Free. Tel: 22 357718

Musica Ricercata Ensemble
Ancient Baroque music concert with melodies composed by major European musicians with links to Venice and Cyprus. October 28. Castelliotissa Hall, Nicosia. 8.30pm. Free.

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