International Peace day gets a cultural bow from the arts and music to achieve the congregation of plural Cypriot society
A cracked landing strip, a ghost city, broken churches, a divided people; abandonment has long stood as a stark symbol of war-divided Cyprus and cultural action is determined to change that. In a symbolic event and courageous gesture, the Cyprus Peace Concert was held just outside of the once admired Lefkosia airport, now located within the UN- controlled buffer zone and at the heart of the separation of an orphan territory in Cyprus.
The conductor of the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra, Yiannis Hadjiloizou, led the first event to show, “how culture, music, arts in general can bring people together.”
The 50-strong orchestra comprised dozens of nationalities, including 15 Greek Cypriots and one Turkish Cypriot, and played the works of Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Brahms to mark International Peace Day, which falls on September 21.
The young conductor was delighted with the idea that his music was wafting over the Turkish ceasefire line, just a few hundred metres from the airport, reminding us all that “War is not between people,” and no sad reminders could spoil, what could have very well been, a first onward looking soirée, lived by audience of UN officials, diplomats, and Cypriots from both sides of the island, on the tarmac in front of the terminal building’s ghostly facade.
The Cypriot conductor Hadjiloizou comes from a family of musicians and has no time for the partisan politics that have perpetuated the so-called Cyprus problem.
“In this part of the world political views are very strong… We have to compromise,” he said. “The house of my mother is in the (Turkish-held) north. Imagine, you go there and it’s occupied by some Turkish Cypriot. What can you do? Another war?”
Hadjiloizou believes cultural activities are the best way to help people forget the “no” vote in the 2004 referendum — when Greek Cypriots rejected the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s reunification blueprint, shortly before Cyprus joined the European Union.
“You cannot change the past,” Hadjiloizou said. “But you can prepare the future.”