Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot volunteers are uniting in an initiative to protect and promote their shared cultural heritage.
In May 2019 an initiative was launched in Cyprus inviting young Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to become ambassadors for cultural heritage sites on the island.
It was launched by the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage (TCCH) — a group of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots who have been working together since 2008 to protect the diverse heritage in Cyprus.
To help raise awareness of monuments that form the island’s rich cultural heritage, they wanted to recruit young volunteers from both communities to support their work.
They will be the “youth voice” of the TCCH and will be mandated by the committee to reach out to and engage with other young people of Cyprus by promoting cultural heritage sites and monuments to their networks, and act as unofficial guardians of the selected monuments by undertaking regular visits.
More than 200 people — from Paphos to Karpasia/Karpaz, from Kyrenia to Larnaca, from Limassol to Famagusta — took to Instagram to apply to the EU-funded initiative, posting videos and photographs of cultural heritage in Cyprus with the #oursharedheritage #EuropeforCulture #TCCHYouthAmbassador hashtags.
After a challenging selection process, applicants were shortlisted and a final 40 were selected as Heritage Youth Ambassadors.
“Cultural heritage is clearly an impeccable signifier of communal unity, for it is shared by both Greek-speaking and Turkish-speaking Cypriots. Just like our shared culture can be utilised to bring a unified Cyprus into fruition, we — the contemporary youth — are the unifying point between the past and the future.” İbrahim Latif İnce
“Culture is not just about monuments, but the people who live in it and the people who create it. Behind the closed doors you may see people sharing the same land the same island, people who were forced to leave behind the common culture and live it separately. In every closed door you may find people who want to share the same land who want to share the same island, [be]cause after all is what culture keeps them together on a common ground and cause”. Eliza Kozakou
“Vibrant, diverse, colourful. A link between our past, present and future. Cultural Heritage can be found in the most surprising places. In a song, a dance, a building, present on both land or under the sea. We have a dream, to protect our heritage for the future”. Neşe Topal Küskü
“Cultural heritage to me is dropping a coin to check whether the acoustics of the ancient theatre of the historical city of Salamis has remained unaltered throughout the centuries…The tossing of the coin sounds the same to all of us, whether we are Greek Cypriot or Turkish Cypriot…The sound remains the same regardless of the race and colour of the performer, as the art of ancient theatre can accommodate every language, including Greek, Turkish, Cypriot Arabic, Latin and Armenian.” Savvas Evangelides
UNDP in Cyprus has been working with the TCCH since 2010, directly implementing the Committee’s conservation works and initiatives, and helping to create a favourable environment for the non-political consideration of cultural heritage on both sides of the island. With mainly funds from the European Union, the TCCH and UNDP have conserved, protected or restored 66 heritage sites, including Orthodox, Maronite and Armenian churches, mosques and minarets, fortifications, hamams, aqueducts and watermills.
Heritage Youth Ambassadors is one of many initiatives organised by the TCCH and UNDP, and funded by the European Union to engage different communities in cultural heritage awareness. Read more.