This special edition is a guest post by Kat of Adventures in a Campervan, and it’s brilliant – lots of great street art, as well as background information on the area. Thank you, Kat, for agreeing to write a guest post for me!
I’ve been travelling to Northern Cyprus for 6 years now, and we tend to spend a day in the capital city, Nicosia, exploring the Turkish side, but also taking the opportunity to cross the border on foot to the Greek part of the capital.
Since 1963, Cyprus has been divided by the Green Line following disputes between Greece and Turkey, with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus only being acknowledged as formally existing by Turkey. The Green Line goes right through the walled city of Nicosia itself, making Nicosia the only remaining divided capital city in the world, following the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 2003, the Ledra Palace border crossing was opened for the first time, allowing displaced Cypriots on either side to return to their former homes, often finding them occupied by others, and in 2008 the Ledra Street foot crossing was opened, which allows Cypriots and tourists alike to move between the Northern and Southern parts through a passport-controlled crossing.
Buildings in the UN Buffer Zone. These buildings are untouched since the Buffer Zone was established. It is apparently now possible for citizens to be allowed into the zone in order to be able to repair buildings with UN supervision, but largely this hasn’t happened, and the buildings remain as they were in the 60s and 70s, some with visible bullet holes, and all shabby and in need of repair. Those close to to the border crossings have had their fronts repaired and painted, but a peep around a corner reveals that this is just a facade.
Where the buffer zone is just the width of a street or a building in some parts of the city, it widens out beyond the walls to accommodate an entire abandoned airport, and further towards the East coast, a ghost holiday resort near Famagusta, fully furnished, never used, completely empty.
There are many striking differences between the Northern and Southern areas; the North is home to narrow alleys of shops selling knock-off clothes and handbags, betting shops and casinos, crossing to the South reveals a wide pedestrianised shopping street, with familiar chains such as Starbucks and Debenhams. The other difference that I have noticed on my excursions is the amount of graffiti that adorns the walls on the Southern side of the border. As Emma has previously mentioned, pTerry tells us, quite rightly, that graffitis is the ‘voice of the voiceless’, and a lot of the writing on the wall here tells the readers that they are tired of the arguing and the division between North and South:
This reflects the discussions we’ve had with people on both sides of the border. People in their 40s and 50s seem to be pleased that the border has opened so that they can visit their friends, and recognise that Northern Cyprus being acknowledged by the rest of the world would be good for their economy. Younger people are apparently divided, with some continuing the arguments of generations past, and some calling for an end to the division and hatred.
A lot of tags by Antifa Nicosia, an antifascist movement, adorn the walls, many with a sex-positive message.
Two of my favourite images, I was unable to capture, as I was scooting along the streets on a Segway at the time, but one, at the bottom of a wall on the main shopping street, proclaimed in hot pink “Love sex, hate sexism” and the other was so good, that I asked Andros of Segway Station Nicosia (http://www.segwaystationcyprus.com/) to go back and snap it for me, which he did. Thanks, Andros!
Not all the graffiti is overtly political in nature. Large, beautiful murals cover many walls, particularly those around the city high school and nearby underground carpark, as well as those more cartoonish in nature,
quick tags that get the message across,
and relentlessly cheerful stencil art:
For the first time this year, we flew to Larnaca, in the Southern part of the island, because of more convenient flight times and no need to change planes in Istanbul as you do when you fly to Ercan in the North, because of the aforementioned lack of acknowledgement of TRNC by the rest of the world.
Crossing the border in a car and driving back to Larnaca during daylight hours allowed me to see that the marked difference in the amount of graffiti is not limited to the city itself. Bridges, walls and buildings along the roadside were daubed with messages in Greek and English, something that I considered absent from Northern Cyprus, until I considered that Turkish Cypriots have in fact carried out the biggest piece of graffiti of all, visible to anyone who looks Northwards from an elevated position in Nicosia, visible from aircraft, and lit up at night for all to see, with the motto Ne mutlu Türküm diyene, meaning How happy is the one who says ‘I am a Turk’.
Whether the problem of division will be sorted by this generation remains to be seen.
An interesting article on the divided capital and attitudes towards it can be found here (http://www.vice.com/read/nicosia-the-worlds-last-divided-capital-739)