Nicosia, January 2017

Refugee Camp

Refugee Camp
ARTOs Foundation is happy to announce that the project Refugee Camp is starting.Refugee Camp aims to create a community space for youth at old refugee settlements with actions that flourish the concepts of arts, culture, science and innovation.

Refugee Camp : to change a badly affected neighbourhood into a community

The history of these neighbourhoods starts from 1975-86, 12,500 families found  a ‘temporary’ home at the refugee housing estates and to date the state has constructed more than 14,000 housing units, which accommodate approximately 60,000 people across the island. There are around 70 state housing estates on the island, which include basic services such as shopping centres, community centres, open spaces, schools, playgrounds and medical facilities.  ARTos foundation and in collaboration with the Strovolos Municipality used a closed down shop in Strovolos III neighbourhood for the activities of the project Refugee Camp.

Due to the economic crisis in Cyprus, a lot of shops and small businesses closed down. This issue affected even more small local businesses further away from the cities and especially around the displaced housing estates. Finding a closed down shop as a facility for the community centre it helped the local economy around the affected area as well as the small businesses that managed to survive. We aimed to make the area more sustainable due to the visitors and people interested to Refugee Camp activities. This project acted as  a self-sustained hub but also it offered occupation to the unemployed youth and activities for the people in the area. This platform was the place for different actions such as, screenings, performance, sales of handmade products, exhibitions, think tanks for young teams etc. The selected team running this shop is a group of people related to the arts and culture spectrum. They were either born and brought up in the area or living there. This helped the actions to be structured specifically for the neighbourhood according to their needs and interests.

As an introduction to the public and in the framework of Artecitya activity, ARTos Foundation hosted a roundtable discussion in April 2017 with invited key speakers/ thinkers and the specialist young artistic team working on the project . The action was lead by Innovation Gym, ARTos Foundation and Evi Tselika, University of Nicosia. The aim of this discussion was to provide a think tank and a crash course training for all the people involved in the project. It was fundamental to understand the need Nicosia has for communities like this to start developing as small businesses and start-ups. This discussion was live-streamed through the platform built by the team of Innovation gym/hack66.  Representatives from the municipality and other city planners were present at the round table, enabling further project insights, collaboration and interaction with the rest of the participants

Following up, the Exhibition Whoever has a tree, has shade, curated by Niki Sioki, Maria Stavrides, Evi Tselika took place in November 2017. It visually explored ideas around the social ecology of urban nature and how we can consider our commons and our communities through our transforming use and relationship with the land. 

The exhibition and associated events sprouted out of the way common spaces and gardens are presented in the state housing estates, constructed to re-house internally displaced Cypriots.  This was the largest modern Cypriot urban planning venture that embedded public shared spaces at the heart of the design and communal gardens as part of the co-living. 

In May 2018, we organised our first festival – 1 neighbourhood: 101 villages, Strovolos III estate  The Festival was co-curated by Evi Tselika (University of Nicosia) and Achilleas Kentonis (ARTos Foundation). People were invited to think the city, it’s built environment and its people as an integral part of our everyday community living heritage and these urban cultures in relation to the neighbourhoods of the displaced housing estates as living monuments.

At Strovolos III neighbourhood estate there are people registered from 101 villages that now are still under Turkish Army Occupation. Today the majority of the inhabitants are elderly and the newer influx of residents are migrants. Residents, students, young people, artists and examples from other social housing art projects from London and the US came into conversation with the festival aiming for a process of intergenerational, intercultural exchange and how the neighbourhood estates can become part of our intangible cultural heritage.

The festival included action such as Murals and Public Space installations  by Stelios Tzivas: Allospos Project, Leonidas Constantinou, Bugche Bozkurt, Stavroula Tsamourlidou, Lakis Christofidis, Chimezuteh Atemiye, Exhibitions by the  University of Nicosia Fine Art students, Pancyprian Gymnasium students-Antigoni Sofokleous,  3rd Primary School of Pallouriotissa- Despo Pasia, Sylvia Ioannou Foundation Antonis Hadjikyriacou, Digitised Kitchener Map, Sylvia Ioannou Foundation Screenings were hosted at different shops around the neighbhood: Xarkis: Voicing Stories, Videos, Taking over the King’s Land, Producer director Gillian McIver, Film (London), Civic Art: Four Stories from South Los Angeles, Mark Escribano and Sara Daleiden, s(o)ul, 2017 (Los Angeles) , Adi Atassi: An Interview. Filmed by Polymnia Tsinti for Waves Arts and Culture Journal, 2018 (Cyprus) 

To summarise the goal is to change a badly affected neighbourhood in a community where a shop can offer an open space for creative minds to work together to develop their own projects and vision as well as finding innovative ways to make it sustainable and keep the locals interested in their actions.

Due to the successful actions within ARTECITYA at Strovolos III housing Estate, Municipality of Strovolos renewed our agreement for using the space and interact, being in contact and stimulate creativity and stainability to the habitants of the nationhood and try t repeat this good practice in other similar neighborhoods as well.