What we take for granted


As the screenings at the twelfth International Countryside Animafest festival began, tucked away in the village of Prastio Avdimou, I knew I was in for a treat.

But I was also kindly reminded of how much we take for granted when cursing the local reality and where the future of this little island is taking us.

Flipping through the programme, I read: “While our country, and the world, is going through a period of crisis, our festival, against all odds, is growing and expanding as an institution consistently supporting the art of animation. This year’s edition of the festival, the result of a team effort by many collaborators old and new, is proof of the Cypriot people’s love for and need of the arts, especially during difficult times.”
I agree. And as I sat on the paved stone steps of the amphitheatre in the heart of Prastio village, looking at a wide screen with an olive grove to my right, indications of the remaining part of the village to my left and the moon standing high above in the sky, the wind triggered much more than my love for the arts.

Artistic director, Yiorgos Tsangaris filled us in on the history on the festival, which it seems was very much due to the support of the locals in the region. The Prastio Mayor opened up his courtyard to all of us, coming from all corners of the island. Hambis, the well known engraver and pioneer of this genre on the island equally gave his presence, as an artist but also as a permanent inhabitant of the area in which twelve years ago, he hosted the first Animafest. We here were family. A family interested in what other family members in the animation scene had been working on throughout the year and throughout the world and momentarily we also became the family of Prastio-Avdimou and its endeavours.

We had swam in the Avdimou bay that afternoon, stumbling upon friends which we rarely have the occasion of looking out to sea with and catch up on our daily lives. And as the night came upon us, Monsieur Doumani’s live act ended the evening by telling us a little bit more about their voyage into reviving traditional Cypriot folk music. A music which appealed to the younger ones of us because folk music is still an integral part of Cyprus culture and most, if not all, can sing along to it. But also to the older generation, who by surprise were once again confronted with songs they used to sing along to as children, but with a twist. A twist of the trombone, or the flute, initially never featured in the Cyprus folk repertoire.

And so, as a family, within the beauty of Cyprus’ inlands, whether from Nicosia, Paphos, Larnaca or Limassol regions, we all got a taste of some of the things we take for granted; Cyprus’ nature, Cyprus’ hospitality, Cyprus’ small sized nature which undeniably contributes to making us a Cyprus family but also the opportunities we get to getting to know what goes on beyond this little island under the most ideal circumstances.

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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

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