The dream has come true! The small city of Pafos is officially the European Capital of Culture for 2017! In a spectacular ceremony held Saturday evening in the city’s restored central square, and despite the bitter cold, tens of hundreds of citizens from Pafos and all over Cyprus – young, old and small children – gathered together to enjoy a unique event. The beautiful set and the exquisite artists, who gave their best on stage, “enchanted” the audiences and stole the show in this magnificent atmosphere of celebration, worthy of the history of the city of Kinyras, which is now at the spotlight of Europe’s “cultural gaze”.
But the highlight of the evening came right at the end of the ceremony, with a unique and unparalleled musical encounter between Alkistis Protopsalti and Doros Demosthenous, accompanied by a multitude of remarkable musicians. Their exceptional performances charmed the music-loving audience of Cyprus, gathered in Pafos from across the country to join in the celebration for the inauguration of the European Capital of Culture, in a spirit of great optimism. The island’s very first capital has now entered a new era of prosperity and growth… sailing on fair winds, with Culture as our beacon and guide, showcasing the rich history of this blessed place with its astonishing cultural heritage.
The opening ceremony was marked by the presence of 40 representatives from other European Capitals, from several European Embassies in Cyprus as well as 100 foreign media and journalists from Europe and Asia. Apart from the official guests, the ceremony was also attended by the President of the House of Representatives and Acting President of the Republic, the Archbishop of Cyprus and leaders of political parties.
Deeply moved and proud, Dr. Christos Patsalides, Chairman of the Organisation Pafos2017, was the first to take the floor: “As Chairman of the Organisation Pafos2017, I am deeply honoured and, at the same time, happy and humbled that my city, our city, the district of Pafos, as well as the whole of Cyprus, officially welcomes tonight the historic title of the European Capital of Culture, a title we share with the city of Aarhus in Denmark. Tonight, here in Pafos, we welcome Europe and its people, the common culture and the common values which our city, our country, not only are part of, but have also helped shape throughout the centuries. All the things we have so relentlessly worked for, the vision Pafos and its residents have worked for, tonight turn into reality. Here and now begins a voyage that, in my opinion, will last not only for a year, but for many more years to come. The opening of the most important cultural institution in the history of Europe, constitutes both an honour and a responsibility for our little Pafos, and at the same time a new prospect and window. The European Capital of Culture’s programme “Open Air Factory” is a unique opportunity to not only create in open air spaces, in special and historical locations, but also an opportunity for us to open our eyes and sensations, to open up and bridge cultures, to diminish the differences between our communities and, of course, to converse and co-create with the rest of Europe’s people and cultures. The European Capital of Culture is an opportunity for Pafos to become a modern, dynamic city, producing and supporting culture, but, also, inviting and actively involving all its residents and visitors, so that they can take a voyage with the programme of the European Capital of Culture Pafos2017 to discover actions, events and happenings through which they will discover their own selves, the history and the culture, but also to lay solid foundations for our common future.”
In his address, the Mayor of Pafos Mr. Fedonas Fedonos stressed the following: “Pafos has always been proud of its history and culture. But tonight, as a host city of the biggest European celebration of culture, together with Aarhus in Denmark, it justifiably feels even prouder… Aware of the fact that national identity and European conscience can coexist, through the Open Air Factory of Culture we aspire and promise to give continuity to what starts symbolically tonight…!”
On his part, European Commissioner Christos Stylianides expressed his joy at attending such an important event, in his capacity as European Commissioner but also as a Cypriot citizen and underlined: “Pafos2017 sends a clear message of transparency and openness of beliefs and horizons, of acceptance of other cultures and diversity, demonstrating the importance of an open society. Pafos has experienced the value of cultural exchange. Its rich history comes as a proof. It has always been a gate to the European Mediterranean. Different communities have long been coexisting here. Multiculturalism is simply part of the city’s DNA. I am proud to see my country host for the first time one of the most precious European initiatives. Pafos2017 shall, without a doubt, become a bright beacon in this corner of the Mediterranean, showcasing its rich tradition, its myths and its legends, allowing the spotlight to fall on the values of tolerance, diversity and multiculturalism.”
The address of the President of the Republic, who is currently abroad, was read out by Mr. Costas Kadis, Minister of Education and Culture: “This opening ceremony, which is inspired by the founding myths of the city’s birth, is undoubtedly a historic moment not only for Pafos but for the whole of Cyprus. With the motto “Linking Continents, Bridging Cultures”, Pafos, as the European Capital of Culture for 2017, sends, at both national and international level, its own strong messages of culture and peace. At a time when humanity is faced with the scourge of terrorism, our neighbouring regions suffer armed conflicts and immigrants face a daily struggle under adverse conditions with the hope for a better tomorrow, the thematic programme of actions of the European Capital of Culture 2017 sends messages of hope, promoting peace through Art and Culture. Peace and reunification, which we also seek for our country, through the ongoing process of intensive negotiations and talks. We hope that our efforts will be successful, so that all legal residents of this country can coexist in a secure and prosperous environment, where diversity and human rights are respected. We will never stop working towards this direction and that is why we never stop hoping."
The opening ceremony of the European Capital of Culture Pafos2017 has illustrated, in the most representative way, the history, multiculturalism and modern culture of Pafos, as an integral part of wider European culture. The official… premiere was inspired by the myths of Pafos, starting with the founding myth of Pygmalion and Galatea, to remind us that Pafos itself is a work of art. Dramatisation was employed not only to portray the birth of Pafos, but also to present the core concepts of the Open Air Factory of Culture, such as the “openness” of Pafos at the crossroads of cultures and continents. Protagonists included tens of professional dancers and young people, 315 children from elementary schools, who narrated the history of the birth of Pafos holding beautiful lanterns, as well as volunteers from all across the island. Greek and Turkish Cypriot musicians and singers formed a harmonious ensemble and joined the choir and jazz orchestra from Aarhus, our sister European Capital of Europe. Unique compositions and original adaptations of musical works, choreographies and animation marked the most historic day for culture in Cyprus.
Article Courtesy of Pafos2017 / Photos by: foto LARKO, Pafos & Pafos2017