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Caravan Residency program at Alexandria – Discovering the residence in Nicosia

After illustrating the first phases of the ‘Caravan Residency Program: Thinking with Alexandria’ held in Biella and Alexandria, we highlight the contents and behind the scenes of the residency held in Nicosia from 2 to 8 May 2022. Listening, interaction and communication were the three basic aspects on which the organisation of the experience in the capital of Cyprus was based. Here are all the details.

Listening, interaction and communication were the three basic aspects underpinning the organisation of the week-long residency held in Nicosia, Cyprus, from 2 to 8 May 2022. In fact, the two social entrepreneurs, Michalis Christou and Demetra Ignatiou, after having participated in the experience in Alexandria, Egypt, and having discussed with Sarah Bahgat (social entrepreneur in Alexandria, Egypt), defined the activities to be carried out during the six days in the Greek Cypriot part of the Mediterranean island, taking into account the interests and wishes of each participant. This was possible thanks to the various online meetings organised in order to keep in touch even before arrival on site.

The main objective of the third stage of Caravan was to develop a programme that would address current issues, visit places that shape the urban fabric of the city and interact with key figures such as cultural institutions and organisations that (re)define the ways in which the city of Nicosia is experienced today. For these reasons, in addition to the programme, a list of optional activities and visits has been drawn up and offered to residents as a possible way of spending their free time. Meetings with local personalities were also carefully researched, such as the one with Ruth Keshishian, a key figure in the Nicosia cultural scene who has been involved in the international bibliophile scene for more than a decade.

In order for Caravan participants to fully understand the reality of Nicosia, a conference was organised with Urban Gorillas, an organisation that presented its projects and efforts to transform the city’s public spaces into vibrant, innovative and inclusive centres, so as to cultivate civil society and influence policies through participatory and community-oriented projects As usual, during this residency, the end-of-residency forum was held during which the two social entrepreneurs received feedback from residents and examined their hypothetical project ideas. This stop in the city of Nicosia challenged the way locals present and communicate the human and environmental action that defines the city. Thus, the Caravan project, as Michalis Christou and Demetra Ignatiou put it, urged local collaborators to redefine the relevance and accessibility of their territory and city.

The protagonists of the sixth residency in Nicosia
The Social Entrepreneurs of this experience were Michalis Christou and Demetra Ignatiou, accompanied and supported by local experts Marios Epameinodas, Dervish Zeybek, Nurtane Karagil and Urban Gorillas. In addition, the Association of Historical Dialogue and Research also played a central role by interacting with the Caravan group. The residents participating in this stage of the project were: Sara Fakhry Ismail, Virgil b/g taylor, Lodovica Guarnieri, Post Disaster – Gabrielle Leo and George Moraitis.

The two social entrepreneurs in residence in Nicosia:

Michalis Christou is a cultural professional with a background in aesthetic ontology. His research revolves around non-formal means of communication and ontological manifestations through art. In particular, he has studied how the notion of ‘Being’ and ‘Nothingness’ are revealed through different artistic practices. Michalis also plays an active role in the social change taking place in Cyprus through his involvement in a newly formed political party and various activist practices. He holds a BA in Philosophy from the University of Stirling, UK, and an MA in Philosophy from the University of Bristol. He is currently working with the Point Centre for Contemporary Art.

Demetra Ignatiou, on the other hand, is a cultural practitioner with a background in Archaeology and Art Management. Since 2016 she has been working as an independent cultural manager and curator, collaborating with art institutions and professionals on exhibitions, cultural initiatives and educational programmes in Greece and Cyprus. The projects and initiatives she has been involved in cover a wide range of topics: history, archaeology, architecture, contemporary art, urban studies, cartography and literature. She holds a BA in History and Archaeology from the University of Cyprus and an MA in ‘Art and Heritage: Policy, Management and Education’ from the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands. Currently, Demetra Ignatiou works at the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus.

Text: Cittadellarte