During his entire life, my father always said whatever he wanted trough his art. To him, making sculptures is building life again and again with the products molded with philosophy. His main philosophy always circled around love, balance and peace.
‘Risky Travels’ displays the unusual story of how an artist (Turkish Cypriot architect and sculptor, Baki Bogac) found, saved and finally returned the works of a Greek Cypriot artist, Andy Adamos, who had left them behind in Famagusta after 1974. This a tale of not a heroic but a humanitarian act that he wanted to tell through his sculptures for so many years.
“My sculptures are like my flesh and bones…” Baki Boğaç
Discovered and saved sculptures, paintings, photos and other objects which Andy left behind in his studio in Famagusta, were delivered back to his family in Paphos after two decades. After Baki confided his story to the American Council’s Director, and during an art exhibition titled “Brushstrokes Across Cultures”, he asked for her help to deliver this collection to its rightful owner. The delivery took place in 1993, three years after Adamos’ death.
Even today when he talks about the first time he was Adamo’s studio abandoned, vandalised and upside down, he trembles. What if this would happen to him? How would we feel…
“The most humanitarian thing for a person to do is art.” Baki Boğaç
The exhibition is curated by Sergis Hadjiadamos and Yiannis Sakellis and opened by the Greek Cypriot Leader Nikos Anastasiades on 5 May (2017) (that is the birthday of Baki) in the context of the European Capital of Culture Pafos 2017, at the old electrical authority building, Palia Ilektriki, in Pafos.
Place: Palia Ilektriki, Duration: 5th of May 2017 – 4 of June 2017, 16:00 – 19:00
Baki Boğaç at the exhibition place
I was so honored to help my father to deliver his peace message to Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades and other participants in English
Sergis Hadjiadamos (co-cruator), Nikos Anastasiades, Sezin and Baki Boğaç
How could two artists, a Turkish Cypriot and a Greek Cypriot, who had never met become “brothers in art”? This is the inspiring story Paphos 2017 has chosen to illustrate how art can gather communities in a divided country.
ANNE-LAURE DE CHALUP
“My sculptures are like my flesh and bones and I started thinking, if I had to leave my children behind, just to save my life, how would I feel?” With his trembling voice, Baki Boğaç, a Turkish Cypriot artist remembers the immediate connection he felt when he first entered an abandoned studio after the Turkish annexation of Northern Cyprus in 1974. There, he discovered some sculptures of Andy Hadjiadamos, a Greek Cypriot forced to leave his house in the Northern part of Cyprus after the fragmentation.
Without any hesitation, the passionate Baki Boğaç dedicated his life to bring back the work of art to his counterpart from across the border. “If you create empathy towards those feelings and if you are a human being, there is no any option other than saving those art works and sending to the owners,” said the 66-year-old man.
To honor the artist’s tenacity and to prove that art can build bridges across cultures, Paphos, the very symbolic European Capital of Culture 2017 is presenting an exhibition, story of two artists, divided by an artificial border, connected by a firmly political idea of art.
“We wanted to highlight history and hidden places,” Gloria Doetzer, art programme director of Paphos 2017 said. Creating a common exhibition was then the right way to capture the story of Baki Boğaç and Andy Hadjiadamos. “A kind of tribute and thank you to Baki Boğaç” as Yiannis Sakellis, the event coordinator summarized it.
Their paths first crossed in 1976. At the time, Boğaç was an employee of the Famagusta planning department. While in charge of the documentation of the abandoned Greek Cypriot properties, he discovered Andy Hadjiadamos’ studio in Varosha. Witness of the conflicted past of Cyprus, the story of Baki Boğaç caught the attention of Georgia Doetzer.
Aware of the uniqueness of Paphos as a European Capital of Culture, Georgia Doetzer thinks that this year, Cyprus has to use culture, “not to show the pain of its past but to show what we have in common”.
People can be “brothers in art”, as Yiannis Sakellis likes to say, even if they belong to different communities.
Haunted by Cyprus
The ‘brotherhood’ was born in the ashes of the war. In 1974, Baki Boğaç observed the division of his island from Istanbul where he was studying architecture. Viscerally attached to his motherland, he left, in 1976, the brilliant future he had ahead him to come back to Cyprus. “My country needs me” the architecture student and part time artist said at the time to his teachers offering him a job of teaching assistant. He declined in spite of the criticism and skepticism his decision had stirred up. “I’ve been told ‘you’re stupid’”, as he said with a smug smile.
When he arrived in Famagusta, from this time city of the Republic of Northern Cyprus, the unrecognized Turkish side of the island, the architect realized the consequences of the division, especially in Varosha, a closed and forbidden area within the buffer zone. The formerly full of life beach resort had turned into a ghost town where life seemed like frozen.
Ceren Boğaç, the artist’s daughter and architecture’s lecturer at the Eastern Mediterranean University of Famagusta has followed the decay of those empty houses from the forbidden area of Varosha her whole life. “Every year with my brother we were looking at the tree growing in one of them. Curtains were falling down, furniture were tearing apart. It became a jungle at the moment, people left everything, when they were having a breakfast, they ran, you can see cups, children toys, clothes, everything is still there,” she explained.
Andy Hadjiadamos, lived in Varosha and like all the Greek Cypriots living in the northern side of Cyprus, he had to move in one day without anything, neither his personal effects nor his work of art. These displacements are still an open wound for Cyprus. The artist’s daughter analyzed it. For her, the place attachment is part of the Cypriots life. “If you’re asking to a Famagustan refugee in the South, they will always say they want to come back”, the lecturer affirmed while drinking a Turkish coffee. Never feel like home and worse, always fear that the owners will come back is still a reality in Cyprus.
Baki Boğaç admitted feeling the presence of those ghosts from the past. And this is true that an incredible echo resonates in his stone arched studio in the Venetian center of Famagusta. “The place was first a chapel, then it became a prison, and after years as a storage room, I bought it,” the artist said proudly. Even if he doesn’t work in Varosha, where he discovered the sculptures, he confessed that sometimes, when he is working alone he can feel Andy Hadjiadamos spirit. “I’m working with too much energy, he is with me”, he said about his artistic alter ego.
This unique connection is surprising because the Greek Cypriot died before he could meet the Turkish Cypriot artist. But according to the latter, talking wasn’t necessary to understand each other’s vision of the world. “When you want to tell a story you use words, but you tell a different story with the sculptures as well, so when I saw the sculptures, I understood the story behind and I knew that I needed to return the sculptures to the owner.” Boğaç said.
A treasure in a basement
As the title of the Paphos 2017’s exhibition, Risky Travels, dedicated to Baki Boğaç and Andy Hadjiadamos suggests it, to give the art works back to the Greek Cypriot’s family required time and some risks.
Back in the 70’s, crossing the border was forbidden, so the sculptor from Famagusta collected everything he could and kept it in his basement for more than 10 years. “I didn’t know anything about Andy, I just knew his name from the signature on the work of art”, Boğaç told “and I knew that he was famous because I saw this name in a catalogue”. But how to find him and above all, how to meet him across the forbidden border?
The key appeared from across the Atlantic Ocean, when the first joint exhibition of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots was organized in 1993 by the American Centre in Nicosia. At the opening of ‘Brushstrokes across cultures’, “we first were observing each other and progressively discussed about art and we soon realized that we were talking about the same things.” Boğaç remembered.
‘Brushstrokes across the cultures’ was the very first time Baki Boğaç could talk about his discovery and ask for help to find the artist. The ambassador of culture, inspired by the attention, she investigated and finally found Andy Hadjiadamos family. More than 20 years after, the work of art was finally sent back in Paphos, where the family opened a restaurant. “They thought it came from heaven”, Boğaç emotionally narrated. Indeed, the package was delivered without any mention of the sender.
“All kind of art is politics”
In Cyprus, probably more than anywhere, art has the role to play to bring communities together. This is one of the reason why Paphos 2017 decided to present exhibitions from Turkish and Greek Cypriots. “We want to present both culture as one culture”, art programme director, Georgia Doetzer explained. Paphos 2017 wants to establish a dialogue through art. To illustrate her words, the dynamic woman pointed at a symbolic table made of messages from both sides which takes a center stage in the garden of the Paphos 2017’s headquarter.
When Baki Boğaç and Hadjiadamos family could finally meet each other in 2003, after the borders were opened for the population and the secret sender revealed, “they just hugged and started crying”, as Ceren Boğaç, Baki’s daughter remembered. “They love my father like their real father”, she added.
The symbol is strong, especially for the Turkish Cypriot artist whose art is very influenced by the importance of living together in Cyprus. In his cold and dark studio, the sculptor keeps some of his art. Most of them represent his beloved island.
“Here is a balance like the ones used by the house builders, without this tool, you can’t build anything, just like in Cyprus”, he said presenting his work. Another sculpture speaks for itself, it is an association of a Muslim crescent and a Christian cross made of iron and sitting on top of press made of stones and wood. With his inspiring words, he explains that it symbolizes the need for both communities to work together for the country.
“The most humanitarian thing for a person to do is art. I’m telling many stories through my art work”, Baki Boğaç affirmed.
And before a further political agreement, art is the solution chosen by the European Union to gather communities in Cyprus. “What we need is openness”, art programme director of Paphos 2017 Gloria Doetzer said.
Looking forward to the future,Baki Boğaç expressed with a hopeful voice : “let’s go, trying to change everything for the best of Cyprus”.
The true story of how art can trump politics is the subject of a truly bicommunal exhibition will open to the public next week and is one of the main events of Pafos2017.
‘Risky Travels’ highlights the extraordinary tale of how Turkish Cypriot architect and sculptor, Baki Bogac, found, saved and finally returned the works of a Greek Cypriot artist, Andy Adamos, who had left them behind in Famagusta after 1974.
The exhibition will be inaugurated by the President Nikos Anastasiades on Friday, May 5.
Sergis Hadjiadamos, son of the late Andy Adamos, and his family, as well as Baki Bogac and his family will be in Paphos to attend the opening.
Bogac looked after the artworks for 19 years before finding the opportunity to secretly return them to Adamos’ family in Paphos in 1993, a full ten years before the checkpoints opened. Tragically, Adamos died in 1990 and never lived to see his lost pieces.
The exhibition is an important one on many levels Hadjiadamos told the Sunday Mail.
“The humanitarian aspect is important, the act of Baki of returning the works which were not his, to their original owner is the reason that we are doing this exhibition,” he said. “We want to honour Baki and thank him for his actions.”
Hadjiadamos said that the exhibition is also important as it sums up the philosophy behind Pafos2017.
“Art bridges cultures and divides and brings people together,” he said. “Baki is a refugee from Larnaca and holds no bitterness, instead he did this wonderful thing for my family.”
The exhibition is one of the official events that helped to secure the town’s capital of culture title.
The exhibition will include Adamos’ rescued sculptures and drawings, as well as works of art by Bogac. Hadjiadamos stressed that without Bogac’s determination, following the 1974 Turkish invasion, many of his father’s works would have been lost for ever.
“This is the first time on this scale that two well-known artists, sculptors from Cyprus, will exhibit together in Cyprus. It is a very nice exhibition for people to come and see.”
Hadjiadamos explained the risk Bogac had taken in keeping the rescued art work safe and more particularly in returning it, as back in 1993 the Turkish army and government viewed such actions with suspicion.
“We kept it a secret until 2004,” he said.
Adamos was born in Paphos in 1936 and was a sculptor, engraver, painter and author.
From 1965 to 1970, he taught art at schools in Cyprus and from 1970 to 1972, he worked as head of the sculpture department at the Durban Technikon in South Africa.
At the end of 1972, he returned to Cyprus and taught sculpture at his studio in Famagusta. In August 1974, he was still there with his wife who was pregnant with Hadjiadamos at the time of the invasion.
Following the invasion, the family fled to the UK and then onto South Africa, where Hadjiadamos was born, returning to Paphos in 1980. Adamos won the first prize at the International Biennale of Cairo in 1986 and published three books before his death in 1990.
Hadjiadamos said that the journey to get to this point had been a long one and involved a lot of effort on his part, in particular in pulling together the exhibition art book which accompanies the event.
“The aim of the book is to highlight their story and has taken a lot of preparation, but it has been worth it. My father would have been proud of this exhibition,” he said.
Hadjiadamos said that Bogac had now become a good family friend.
‘Risky Travels’ will run from May 5 until June 6 at Palia Ilektriki cultural centre in Paphos old town.