Ask again

On two occasions this week, I was asked, “But do we have culture in Cyprus?” A reflection obviously targeted at me when I tell them what I mostly write about. And I cringe.


I cringe because I fear that the people asking these questions haven’t looked further than their doorstep to seek and therefore find what is available out there.


Of course, comparing what one finds locally to any other country will have its flaws. It’s always greener on the other side. There may also be a lack of communication between what’s actually going on out there and the people who would potentially be interested in hearing about it.


But if one is really interested in knowing if ‘we have’ any culture here, then perhaps asking me is just not quite going to make do. Because I know that there is. And if I know that there is it’s because I go out there and embrace everything that I’m exposed to. Good, mediocre and bad and in all forms of artistic ventures. Based on that I form an opinion; I go home pleasantly surprised or unfortunately disappointed and yes, at times perplexed or even prompted to ask for more, better.


I could be out there every single evening of the week should I choose to. Believe it or not there are events which I’ve missed, year in and year out, that I’ve watched grow and mature from a passive standpoint because I haven’t had the time, the opportunity.


“Do we have any culture in Cyprus?” I ask myself again. Perhaps it’s the ‘But’ that has, on both occasions, managed to head the question that rubs me the wrong way. “Any?” What do you mean “Any”?


We aren’t living in a Cyprus that’s cut off from the rest of the world. We’re not populated with people who haven’t got the means to offer something out of the ordinary. But if we solely rely on the grand, mass communicated events that are dispersed annually and that “pull” the same people, year in, year out, then sure, we’re all pretty bored of the culture we produce and hence may be wondering if we ‘have any culture’ altogether.


But if you open your eyes, if you seek, and are generally open to engage in what’s on offer, you may be enlightened. And you certainly won’t be asking the wrong questions anymore. You’ll be asking for more.


Published in The Cyprus Weekly, 2014

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About Melissa Hekkers

I am freelance journalist and author, who has frequently been featured in mainstream news outlets and other publications in Cyprus. Recently, I've been focusing on developing my writing, promoting my own books and teaching creative writing to children and adults. My most recent publication (2020) - Amir's Blue Elephant- pushes the boundaries of creative non-fiction, and recreates the moments that marked me the most, whilst volunteering in refugee camps in Lesvos, Greece, and during her ongoing involvement with the refugee community in Cyprus. In 2018 I published My Capre Greco Mandala which is the third in a series, an interactive colouring book about the biodiversity of the Cape Greco peninsula in Cyprus. My Akamas Mandala, the second in the series, is a colouring book inspired by the variety of endemic plants found on the Akamas Peninsula. In 2016, I published My Nicosia Mandala, the first of the above series, an innovative, interactive colouring book about the historic fortifications of the old town of Nicosia. I also focuses on silenced communities in Cyprus: I writes about migrants and refugees, both as a reporter and a features writer; I profile them and teach them creative writing skills. In 2007, soon after graduating with a Communications degree, I published my first children’s book in both English and Greek entitled Crocodile, which won the Cyprus State Illustration Award. In 2012, I launched my second children’s book Flying across Red Skies (in English and Greek), using an experimental approach to literature, for which I was nominated for the Cyprus State Literary award. My third, similarly well-received children’s book was Pupa (Greek and English), published in 2014. In between the last two books, I published my first free-verse poetry book entitled Come-forth. In 2019 she was contributing author to the anthology Nicosia Beyond Barriers: Voices from a Divided City, published by Saqi Books, London