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Background

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.

Sarah, now based in London, lived in Cyprus as a child and has worked on and led conservation and cultural projects in several countries including Amazonian Ecuador and Northern Pakistan. Maura McKee spent time in Cyprus as a teenager, and thus both of us have strong connections with, and feeling for, Cyprus and its heritage. They met at the Cyprus College of Art along with Lauren McHugh, also a weaver, who has an interest in contributing from her home country of Ireland.

“We were struck by how sad it would be for Fiti if the local traditions were to be lost – this is something that we all see happening and want to fight in our home countries (England, Ireland and Northern Ireland) too- and were wondering, as artists, if we could help?”

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 proposal 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.

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