Culture / Religion
The majority of Greek Cypriots identify as Greek Orthodox, whereas most Turkish Cypriots are adherents of Sunni Islam. According to Eurobarometer 2005, Cyprus was the second most religious state in the European Union at that time, after Malta (although in 2005 Romania wasn't in the European Union; currently Romania is the most religious state in the European Union) (see Religion in the European Union). The first President of Cyprus, Makarios III, was an archbishop. The current leader of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus is Archbishop Chrysostomos II.
Hala Sultan Tekke, situated near the Larnaca Salt Lake, is considered by some secular orientalists as the third holiest site in Sunni Islam and an object of pilgrimage for both Muslims and Christians.
According to the 2001 census carried out in the Government-controlled area, 94.8% of the population are Eastern Orthodox, 0.9% Armenians and Maronites, 1.5% Roman Catholics, 1.0% Church of England, and 0.6% Muslims. There is also a Jewish community on Cyprus. The remaining 1.3% adhere to other religious denominations or did not state their religion.
Cyprus has two official languages, Greek and Turkish. Armenian and Cypriot Maronite Arabic are recognised as minority languages. Although without official status, English is widely spoken and it features widely on road signs, public notices, and in advertisements, etc. English was the sole official language during British colonial rule and the lingua franca until 1960, and continued to be used (de facto) in courts of law until 1989 and in legislation until 1996. 80.4% of Cypriots are proficient in the English language as a second language. Russian is widely spoken among the country's minorities, residents and citizens of post-Soviet countries, and Pontic Greeks. Russian, after English and Greek, is the third language used on many signs of shops and restaurants, particularly in Limassol and Paphos. In addition to these languages, 12% speak French and 5% speak German.
The everyday spoken language of Greek Cypriots is Cypriot Greek and that of Turkish Cypriots is Cypriot Turkish. These vernaculars both differ from their standard registers significantly.
Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots share a lot in common in their culture but also have differences. Several traditional food (such as souvla and halloumi) and beverages are similar, as well as expressions and ways of life. Hospitality and buying or offering food and drinks for guests or others are common among both. In both communities, music, dance and art are integral parts of social life and many artistic, verbal and nonverbal expressions, traditional dances such as tsifteteli, similarities in dance costumes and importance placed on social activities are shared between the communities. However, the two communities have distinct religions and religious cultures, with the Greek Cypriots traditionally being Greek Orthodox and Turkish Cypriots traditionally being Sunni Muslims, which has partly hindered cultural exchange. Greek Cypriots have influences from Greece and Christianity, while Turkish Cypriots have influences from Turkey and Islam.
The Limassol Carnival Festival is an annual carnival which is held at Limassol, in Cyprus. The event which is very popular in Cyprus was introduced in the 20th century.
The art history of Cyprus can be said to stretch back up to 10,000 years, following the discovery of a series of Chalcolithic period carved figures in the villages of Khoirokoitia and Lempa. The island is the home to numerous examples of high quality religious icon painting from the Middle Ages as well as many painted churches. Cypriot architecture was heavily influenced by French Gothic and Italian renaissance introduced in the island during the era of Latin domination (1191–1571).
In modern times Cypriot art history begins with the painter Vassilis Vryonides (1883–1958) who studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice. Arguably the two founding fathers of modern Cypriot art were Adamantios Diamantis (1900–1994) who studied at London's Royal College of Art and Christopheros Savva (1924–1968) who also studied in London, at Saint Martin's School of Art. In many ways these two artists set the template for subsequent Cypriot art and both their artistic styles and the patterns of their education remain influential to this day. In particular the majority of Cypriot artists still train in England while others train at art schools in Greece and local art institutions such as the Cyprus College of Art, University of Nicosia and the Frederick Institute of Technology.
One of the features of Cypriot art is a tendency towards figurative painting although conceptual art is being rigorously promoted by a number of art "institutions" and most notably the Nicosia Municipal Art Centre. Municipal art galleries exist in all the main towns and there is a large and lively commercial art scene. Cyprus was due to host the international art festival Manifesta in 2006 but this was cancelled at the last minute following a dispute between the Dutch organizers of Manifesta and the Cyprus Ministry of Education and Culture over the location of some of the Manifesta events in the Turkish sector of the capital Nicosia.
Other notable Greek Cypriot artists include Helene Black, Kalopedis family, Panayiotis Kalorkoti, Nicos Nicolaides, Stass Paraskos, Arestís Stasí, Telemachos Kanthos, Konstantia Sofokleous and Chris Achilleos, and Turkish Cypriot artists include İsmet Güney, Ruzen Atakan and Mutlu Çerkez.
The traditional folk music of Cyprus has several common elements with Greek, Turkish, and Arabic music including Greco-Turkish dances such as the sousta, syrtos, zeibekikos, tatsia, and karsilamas as well as the Middle Eastern-inspired tsifteteli and arapies. There is also a form of musical poetry known as chattista which is often performed at traditional feasts and celebrations. The instruments commonly associated with Cyprus folk music are the bouzouki, oud ("outi"), violin ("fkiolin"), lute ("laouto"), accordion, Cyprus flute ("pithkiavlin") and percussion (including the "toumperleki"). Composers associated with traditional Cypriot music include Evagoras Karageorgis, Marios Tokas, Solon Michaelides and Savvas Salides. Among musicians is also the acclaimed pianist Cyprien Katsaris and composer and artistic director of the European Capital of Culture initiative Marios Joannou Elia.
Popular music in Cyprus is generally influenced by the Greek Laïka scene; artists who play in this genre include international platinum star Anna Vissi, Evridiki, and Sarbel. Hip Hop, R&B and reggae have been supported by the emergence of Cypriot rap and the urban music scene at Ayia Napa. Cypriot rock music and Éntekhno rock is often associated with artists such as Michalis Hatzigiannis and Alkinoos Ioannidis. Metal also has a small following in Cyprus represented by bands such as Armageddon (rev.16:16), Blynd, Winter's Verge, Methysos and Quadraphonic.
Literary production of the antiquity includes the Cypria, an epic poem, probably composed in the late 7th century BC and attributed to Stasinus. The Cypria is one of the very first specimens of Greek and European poetry. The Cypriot Zeno of Citium was the founder of the Stoic School of Philosophy.
Epic poetry, notably the "acritic songs", flourished during Middle Ages. Two chronicles, one written by Leontios Machairas and the other by Georgios Voustronios, cover the entire Middle Ages until the end of Frankish rule (4th century–1489). Poèmes d'amour written in medieval Greek Cypriot date back from the 16th century. Some of them are actual translations of poems written by Petrarch, Bembo, Ariosto and G. Sannazzaro. Many Cypriot scholars fled Cyprus at troubled times such as Ioannis Kigalas (c. 1622–1687) who migrated from Cyprus to Italy in the 17th century, several of his works have survived in books of other scholars.
Hasan Hilmi Efendi, a Turkish Cypriot poet, was rewarded by the Ottoman sultan Mahmud II and said to be the "sultan of the poems".
Modern Greek Cypriot literary figures include the poet and writer Kostas Montis, poet Kyriakos Charalambides, poet Michalis Pasiardis, writer Nicos Nicolaides, Stylianos Atteshlis, Altheides, Loukis Akritas and Demetris Th. Gotsis. Dimitris Lipertis, Vasilis Michaelides and Pavlos Liasides are folk poets who wrote poems mainly in the Cypriot-Greek dialect. Among leading Turkish Cypriot writers are Osman Türkay, twice nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature, Özker Yaşın, Neriman Cahit, Urkiye Mine Balman, Mehmet Yaşın and Neşe Yaşın.
There is an increasingly strong presence of both temporary and permanent emigre Cypriot writers in world literature, as well as writings by second and third -generation Cypriot writers born or raised abroad, often writing in English. This includes writers such as Stephen Laughton, Michael Paraskos, Stel Pavlou and Stephanos Stephanides.
Examples of Cyprus in foreign literature include the works of Shakespeare, with most of the play Othello by William Shakespeare set on the island of Cyprus. British writer Lawrence Durrell lived in Cyprus from 1952 until 1956, during his time working for the British colonial government on the island, and wrote the book Bitter Lemons about his time in Cyprus which won the second Duff Cooper Prize in 1957. More recently British writer Victoria Hislop used Cyprus as the setting for her 2014 novel The Sunrise.