5 questions to Nora & Lily from IDEOGRAMMA

In our online series “5 Fragen an…” (“5 questions to…”) we usually pose five questions to Berlin literary activists. As the CROWD-Conference in Berlin is taking place at the beginning of February, we decided to go a bit further and take the cahnce to introduce Lettrétage’s international CROWD-partners. Lisa Lettrétage first spoke to Nora Hadjisotiriou and Lily Michaelides from IDEOGRAMMA, the Cypriot CROWD-partner.

IDEOGRAMMA emphasises and supports cultural exchange between Cypriot and International culture. How does literature enable or facilitate such cultural exchange?

Ideogramma believes that one’s language is an inherent part of one’s history, culture and past and the preservation of all languages is one of Ideogramma’s objectives. For this reason all writers and poets at Ideogramma’s events are encouraged to read in the original language and / or dialect that the text / poem is written in. The same is true of all the publications which are trilingual; the text in the original language and in translation in Greek and English.

While translations are projected on screens, during the various events / readings, the audience is however encouraged to hear / listened to the reading and absorb the musicality of the language, much like one appreciates music.

By getting the audience used to the strange and unfamiliar sounds of other languages, the language itself and subsequently the person and subsequently the nation of that language gradually becomes familiar, it is no longer strange or foreign or threatening. Familiarity with the sound of language is the first step towards communication between the various ethnicities, peoples, cultures, nations.

Why is it especially important for Cyprus, a country with a unique location and unsettled history, to reinforce communication between cultures?

An Englishman once said ‘Cyprus is a beautiful woman that everybody wants to have as a mistress but nobody wants to marry’

We have had numerous conquerors over the 5,000 year history of the island, all of which have left their mark making the people of Cyprus a very unique nation indeed.

Despite the fact that we are a small nation and the number of Cyprus’ inhabitants is just under 1 million, the people are however, open minded to new experiences, inquisitive, tolerant and very hospitable. There are two main religions on the island Christianity and Islam that have for the most part lived very harmoniously with each other for long stretches of time. Judaism, another big religion is just round the corner in Israel.

Cyprus has learned that peace can only be achieved with respect and acceptance of the difference. Communication is paramount in achieving this.

What role does hospitality play in cultural exchange? How can this be transferred to literature or literary activities?

Hospitality makes one respect and accept the difference in the other. Hospitality offers unique opportunities for creation, for transferring knowledge and experience further afield, creating a domino effect

In October and November 2015 you organised the 2nd International Literary Festival in Nicosia. Apart from the CROWD project, what are your plans for 2016?

Ideogramma is working on two projects, the first one is short term and the other one longer term

2nd international festival for young poets @ the first step that will take place in November 2016, with poets not only from Cyprus but also from Italy, Wales / UK, Malta, Switzerland, Germany, Greece,

This festival is open to young poets aged between 15 and 30, who are encouraged to come and recite / read their very first poems.

At the festival established poets are also invited to participate in order to present to the younger ones the many different forms that poetry can take; written, performed etc

We also publish an anthology edition, which invariably is the first time that the young poets are published.
Publication of the anthology Cyprus ~ a Literary Destination. In 2011 and 2012, Ideogramma hosted in Cyprus writers from various countries, who were asked to write short texts (up to 10 pages long) and or a long poem / or a series of poems, inspired from their visit to the island. We are currently in the process of getting the texts translated into English and Greek.

What do you find inspiring about Berlin’s literary scene?

The fact that it is the home of a wide variety of art forms, artists and writers, from all over the world; all interacting with each other, all absorbing from each other, but without the ‘push / need’ to melt into one homogenous pot. Each person keeps his / her individuality within the family of otherness.

IDEOGRAMMA, the Cypriot CROWD-partner, is a non-profit cultural organisation dedicated to the promotion of all forms of culture. It is a platform for substantial cultural exchange between Cypriot and International culture. Cyprus is uniquely positioned on the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa and as a member of the European Union, situated on its south-eastern boundary, is offering a vehicle for increased interaction and intercultural dialogue between Europe, Mediterranean basin and the near East. IDEOGRAMMA believes that poetry as a verbal expression can transcended boundaries of language and other cultural and ethnic differences.