Traditional skills are under threat in a world of mass-production. On a visit to the rural Cypriot weaving village of Phiti in 2008, artists Sarah Dixon and Maura McKee spoke to Phiti weavers and the curator of the Phiti Folk Museum and felt an immediate affinity with their distress at the threat to the survival of weaving as young people leave and skills are not passed on. This is something we both see this happening in rural towns in our home countries of England and Northern Ireland, and elsewhere.
Cyprus has a long, esteemed tradition in, and international reputation for, weaving. It is sad to reflect that only a handful of weavers remain in the village which gave its name to arguably the best-known type of Cypriot weaving.
Phiti is a marginal, rural community – today only 60 people live there, owing mainly to the exodus to towns and cities as time has gone on. Our intention is to spend time with the handful of local weavers who remain; to listen, document, collaborate and support before the skills of Phiti’s weavers are lost forever.
We also believe it will be possible to inspire new generations of Cypriot artists to learn about these traditions and adapt them into a contemporary context. This cultural heritage is important but does not need to preserved so much as encouraged to evolve and remain relevant, whilst maintaining these important connections with ancestral history.
We are developing a proposal with assistance from the Laona Foundation for the Conservation and Regeneration of the Cypriot Countryside.
“The aim of this proposed project is to reinvigorate and recontextualise Phiti weaving, and to support Phiti weavers in their practice. We are setting out to catalyse a process of conserving and adapting tradition.”