Well – after an exceedingly long journey (even by Australian standards), I made it to Neo Chorio in Cyprus for Made of Walking.
And now I am here. At the place where the sea gave birth to Aphrodite, the Goddess of love and sensuality. Over the past couple of months, I have immersed myself in stories from this island, learning many things, which I hope to share in some blogs during my time here.
After having dinner with some of the residents, I had a very good sleep, waking up to look out at the turquoise Mediterranean Sea. I have a strange affinity with this body of water. As a child it filled my head with stories of heroes and monsters, as a both connector and separator of lands and kingdoms. As an adult I have had the joy of meeting her from many shores – from Barcelona to Algiers to Antalya and now Cyprus. I have swum in her warm waters, diving for turtles hidden in the ruins of ancient cities. This is a sea of magic and mystery.
Two narratives resonate which have connections to the theme of plant(e)scape:
- The story of Aphrodite and her lover Adonis. Cyprus is Aphrodite’s island and her lover Adonis has an interesting story to tell. According to the myth his mother Smyrna was turned into a tree. “The myth details the incestuous relationship between Myrrha and her father, Cinyras. Myrrha falls in love with her father and tricks him into sexual intercourse. After discovering her identity, Cinyras draws his sword and pursues Myrrha. She flees across Arabia and, after nine months, turns to the gods for help. They take pity on her and transform her into a myrrh tree. While in plant form, Myrrha gives birth to Adonis. According to legend, the aromatic exudings of the myrrh tree are Myrrha’s tears.”
- The second narrative is that of sacred trees and the connection between the ancient trees preserved on Cyprus and their connection to ancient religious practices of tree worship. Now this I find very fascinating as it ties back thinking about the ways that we communicate with non-human species. I found this brochure about Sacred trees (PDF) in Cyprus.
This morning, the residents met for a coffee and there were lots of wonderful conversations about plants and walking and links between art, science and ‘invisible’ knowledge. I am really excited for how these conversations and understandings of the land will evolve over the next week.
After our coffee catch up I had a little walk around the village of Neo Chorio to help me familiarise myself with the locality. There were many flowers and trees fruiting, which is beautiful and also nice that I have already started working with some ideas of local vegetation, which forms part of my AR walking project.
For some strange reason, in this landscape I am reminded of our time in Cappadocia in 2011 when Marty and I were resident artists at Babayan Culture House in Ibrahimpaşa. There is something about the plants, the surrounding hills, the colour of the soil and the buildings that is very familiar.
Everywhere I look my eyes search for recognisable signs – a gum tree here, a fig tree there, with frangipani scent filling the air, drawing memories of many places and times past.
Cyprus is a place of many layers of story, history and ecology and over the next week I hope to make some connections through walking and taking time to look at the land deeply, seeking to draw out an understanding of this rich place and its narratives.
Stay tuned 🙂