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Cyprus Folk Art

Cyprus History and Archeology

Folk Art!

Folk art is the artistic expression of the people, using traditional techniques to create functional objects for everyday use.  There are many influences used to shape these techniques. 

Folk art in Cyprus, flourished mainly in the 18th and 19th Century.  As an art form it constitutes the continuation of the preceding era and was the most important means of artistic expression during the Ottoman period, alongside Byzantine and post-Byzantine art. 

The civilization and art of Cyprus has always been influenced by the islands geographical -position in the south-east Mediterranean at the crossroads of Eastern and Western Civilizations. 

The importance of its position on the busy trading routes as well as its rich natural resources meant that Cyprus attracted many invaders and came under the rule of most of the great empires of the times.  These periods of occupation left behind traces which were incorporated into local art which acquired its own original character, though an integration of elements of the Mediterranean, the East and the West.

Techniques and forms which have remained unchanged from ancient times to the present survive in many examples of folk art, showing both the strength and conservative character of the Cyprus culture.

Along with its artistic importance, during the Ottoman period, fork art also played a crucial national and social role.  It made the hard years under the Ottoman yolk easier to bear and kept the traditions of the Greek Cypriots alive, ensuring the preservation of a way of life and resistance to foreign occupation and thus ensuring the survival of the Greek identity.  

A critical period for Cyprus folk art came towards the end of the 19th Century with the advent of the British in 1878.  Manufactured goods began to be imported and gradually replaced local handicrafts.

Modernization came to the towns and eventually, around the middle of the 20th century to the villages, bringing about the decline of folk art and pre-industrial technology.  The Turkish invasion in 1974 and the occupation of a large part of the island destroyed priceless works of art, as well as other treasures of Cyprus' cultural heritage.  These were mainly family heirlooms which had been handed down from generation to generation in most houses in the area now occupied by the Turkish army, from the Karpass to Kyrenia and from Morphou to the Mesaoria plain which were important centres of folk art in Cyprus.

The various collections of folk art in the area under the control of the Cyprus Government are therefore unique examples of the island's cultural heritage which have not been capitalized as they should.

The largest and most important collection of Cyprus folk art can be found in the Cyprus Fold Art Museum in Nicosia, set up in 1937.  The collection belongs to the society of Cypriot Studies and was put together by a group of pioneering Cypriot academics. 

The historic building in which the Cyprus Folk Art Museum is housed was formerly the Archbishopship until 1960.  The oldest building on the ground floor was part of a Gothic monastery of the 15th Century with subsequent additions over the centuries.

The collection of the Cyprus Folk Art Museum includes select and representative examples of woven textiles, embroidery, costumes, wood carving, basketry, folk painting, miniatures and other articles from other branches of folk art from the whole of the island. The importance of this collection today is even greater because many of the ideas come from the occupied areas of Cyprus.

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