Art seeks to heal wounds in divided Cyprus

Art seeks to heal wounds in divided Cyprus

Art seeks to heal wounds in divided Cyprus Inside an art gallery on the divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus, Selma Bolayir draws a large yellow sun on a black-and-white picture of a South Vietnamese soldier who appears to be crying.

“When I look at this young soldier, I feel so upset, because I am a mother,” says the elegant 73-year-old. “In all the wars, the losers are the soldiers, the mothers and the children,” says the Turkish Cypriot.

Bolayir is in Paphos to take part in an art therapy session, more than 40 years after fleeing the coastal town following a Turkish military operation in island’s north in 1974.

Decades later, she is one of around 10 Cypriots -- Turkish and Greek -- attending the workshop to overcome painful memories of the conflict that split the island in two.

Participants have each chosen a picture and are busy coating it with color as a way of processing their individual and collective memories of events.  

Bolayir has picked a photograph taken by Nick Ut in 1974 of a South Vietnamese soldier sitting knees pulled up to his chest and head buried in his arms.

She has drawn a large sun behind the fighter and written a line inspired by Turkish poet Nazım Hikmet: “The sun will rise for us one day.” 

“I hope that one day, the sun will also rise for the Cypriots,” she says, alluding to stalled peace talks for the island’s reunification.

The workshop is one of several projects to encourage dialogue between Turkish and Greek Cypriots as Paphos is European Capital of Culture this year.