Shapes and Sounds
Folk art and music, a living tradition

Cultural Heritage of Cyprus lives on the island's folk art. Age-old handicrafts, passed down from generation to generation, create works of art, which are decorative and practical.

Young girls, in the village of Lefkara, sit at their lace-like embroidery just as their grandmothers did before them. In the village of Foinin, in Troodos massif, potters still shape curious human figures to decorate their clay vessels. In Fyti, hand looms are still heard, while the coppersmith in Old Lefkosia (Nicosia) works just as his forefathers did 5000 years ago. Raw materials of various trades, wood, clay, copper, wool, cotton, linen and silk, are all native to the island.

Hand carvings, which decorate church interiors, are still evocative of everyday life.
Silkworm breeding arrived in Cyprus probably during Byzantine time and to this day Cyprus' looms create fabrics of outstanding quality. Art of down thread work goes back to Venetian period and so captivated Leonardo da Vinci that he used, according to the legend, Cypriot lace to decorate Milan Cathedral.

Pottery is still one of the most important local crafts and is produced manually in ways unchanged for centuries.

Metalworking came to Cyprus with the discovery of copper, around 2500 BC. Arts of gold and silversmith are practiced today, especially in Lefkara, Lemesos and Lefkosia. Artistic candlesticks and silver lamps can be admired in many Orthodox churches.
Decorative elements of wood, clay or fabric have always had a symbolic, even magical significance. They express the philosophy of life and faith of Cypriot people. Thus a rosette symbolizes the sun and life, waving lines eternity, while birds are harbingers of things to come and the serpent represents temptation.

Cyprus folk poetry can trace its origins back to 10th century, when minstrels toured the countryside recounting news of recent events.

This tradition is alive today. Folk poets (in recitativo) still make reference to various happenings for audiences at festivals, like Cataclysms and in wedding feasts, where they sing (ex tempore) to the accompaniment of lute and violin.

Folk music too, with its origins in Byzantine era, also continues the tradition of ancient Greek music.


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