The fine arts in the modern sense begun in the middle of the present century. The modernization of the education system led to these changes and a rapid development took place until today. The artistic activities carried on are based on the Turkish and universal culture evolved after the acceptance of the contemporary way of living.
Although it has been stated above that the fine arts in the European sense begun after 1950, there are a few artists worth mentioning here who can be considered as the first artists of this modern movement.
Today, the art of TRNC has emerged rapidly in the international art arena, participating in various exhibitions. The artists execute several art works in the form of painting, sculpture, ceramic making and in other media. They enjoy their freedom to depict their work in every new style.
The Cooperative for Fine Arts is encouraging the traditional folk art to be carried on providing the market with the traditional fine art objects such as embroideries, lace work, Lefkara embroidery, a characteristic Cypriot art, basket making and rug weaving in Cyprus styles.
In recent days increased efforts have been made to revitalise the local folk art of Northern Cyprus. This has been undertaken through the funding of establishments, organisations and activities that promote, publicise and teach the traditional arts of the country.
One of the forerunners in this respect is the Institute of Folk Arts. Among the many aims of the institute, one is to rectifty the unfortunate situation that exists whereby a tourist can return to their country of origin without having seen or having purchased a piece of Cypriot-made artwork. The tourism industry has become aware of the difficulties involved in exposing tourists to Cypriot artwork and believes that organisations such as the institute may be able to bridge the gap between producers and tourists.
With the help of the UNOPS, the Institute of Folk Arts has opened a centre located near the Selimiye Mosque in Nicosia where traditional crafts are carried out. It also provides those interested with the opportunity of meeting the craftsmen and women themselves. At the institute one can find a variety of workshops specializing in the production of authentic traditional clothing, wickerwork, lace and carving. There is also a showroom where the products of the workshops are exhibited. Guests to the institute are free to buy arte facts from the showroom and to observe the craftsmen and women at work.
Institute director Yilmaz Aldag; told us that his main aim in letting up the institute was to provide a platform for the teaching of raditional craft skills, but that none of it would have been possible if the demand for such crafts had not existed. Coupled with this aim, Aldag stresses that he wants to see Turkish Cypriot handcrafts exhibited in this country so that visitors from abroad can witness and subsequently give publicity to these unique works. To this aim the institute has been instrumental in the restoration and maintenance of antiquities that had fallen into disrepair Aldag emphasises the need for the institute`s work to be seen as an ongoing project that ensures the perpetuation of Cypriot cultural traditions into future generations of Cypriots. This, he declares, is his fundamental goal.
Popular works of art
Perhaps one of the most indicative of Cypriot handcrafts is the embroidered headscarf or yemeni. Made in a variety of colours and patterns, with delicately woven lace edgings, this traditionally Cypriot accessory is a link to ancient traditions still alive today The Yemeni is woven using a weavers shuttle, a hooked needle and thread. They often contain small embroidered motifs inspired by naturally occurring patterns, such as flowers and plants. The colours used are similarly in keeping with the natural theme.
Lefkara lacework is a handcraft unique to Cypriot culture and which has a history going back at least to the times of the Venetians in Cyprus. It is said that during the reign of Queen Katerina Cornaro (l47~1489) Leonardo de Vinci bought a piece of Lefkara lacework while on a visit to Cyprus. He later bequeathed the piece to St. Trabeza`s cathedral in Milan. Today, one of the specialties of the lacework is that it forms a social activity in which women sit together and embroider.
Another Cypriot art form, or craft, is that of weaving, which can be found in a variety of manifestations. The most commonly used materials are barley and wheat stalks, reeds, palm leaves and bamboo canes. These are woven into a variety of finished products including baskets, chairs, sunshades and the typically Cypriot sele, a flat basket-like, or tray-like, instrument useful for a multitude of purposes. The craft has been, and still is, used in making ceilings, as well as for numerous kinds of decorative knickknacks. Today, it is in the villages of Serdarli and Yayla that weaving is most prevalent.
Should you want to buy your love-ones at home a truly authentic gift from Northern Cyprus, or perhaps even learn how Cypriot handcrafts are done, then the Institute of Folk Arts is surely a place for you to visit.