Ermou St Conference

Cyprus
My name is Dr Rita Severis and I am one of the storytellers. I am an art history PhD and Chief Executive of the The Centre of Visual Arts and Research, which is the first and only bi-communal Museum
Community engagement, Diversity, Education, Cross-frontier collaboration, Youth oriented
Intangible, Tangible
2018
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The proposed conference will serve as a platform for examining the past and the future of Ermou street, which forms the “Green Line”, or the dividing line of the capital Nicosia. A particular emphasis of this conference will be the context of a post-division Nicosia and its wider European identity. The conference will discuss perceptions of the area’s transformation from what it once was – a multi-ethnic and vital urban space – to the present frozen line of division.

The proposed conference will serve as a platform for examining the past and the future of Ermou street, which forms the “Green Line”, or the dividing line of the capital Nicosia. A particular emphasis of this conference will be the context of a post-division Nicosia and its wider European identity. The conference will discuss perceptions of the area’s transformation from what it once was – a multi-ethnic and vital urban space – to the present frozen line of division. The conference will also explore the recent emerging visions of the area’s possible revival, especially since the opening of the nearby Ledra crossing in 2008, as life in the vibrant commercial and touristic areas on both sides of the divide pushes on ever more strongly to nullify the frozen border that separates them. The aim of the conference is therefore three-fold: (a) to commemorate Ermou street’s multi-ethnic past; and (b) to stimulate thinking about its future as well as contribute to the foundational work required towards regaining and reviving it as a historic space of social, economic and environmental value. (c) present the infrastructure necessary for the revitalisation of the street where Greek and Turkish Cypriots can join and work side by side building reconciliation and trust between them.
 

European Dimension

Odos Ermou Sokağı/Hermes Street runs from the North end of Ledra Street and into Ektoros Street in the East.  It was once the Pedieos river until the Venetian rulers of the day diverted the route of the river outside the walls, as they felt it was a liability in case of an Ottoman attack. During the Ottoman period, the dried river bed became a dumping place for the city’s garbage and hence a source of stench and epidemics. When the British arrived in 1878, there was parallel to the riverbed a narrow street with no surface, only earth, and it was called Manifatura Street. Ermou eventually became a major commercial hub that contained businesses from diverse communities, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots and other Cypriot ethnic groups (such as Maronites and Latins). It was indeed one of the few ethnically mixed areas of Nicosia, which otherwise had the Ottoman mahalle structure of general ethnically segregated neighbourhoods. A major part of the street now lies within the UN-controlled Buffer Zone, transformed from a space of cooperation and coexistence into a line of division. This was the beginning of the end of Ermou St, which has since become a no-man's land that has divided the island since 1974. Our intention is that conferences such as this proposed will highlight that this important street and area can be used for cooperation and not division.
 

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