I am back in the UK now after my busy and varied trip to Cyprus promoting ‘Androula’s Kitchen’ culminating in my talk at the Cornaro Institute. It’s been quite a hectic trip one way or the other or so it felt like. I have met a good many people I would not have come across otherwise if I had not been promoting the book.
My last day was spent travelling across almost the whole length of the island from Polis to Larnaka for my final appointment at The Cornaro Institute before flying home. It had turned out to be a bit of a scorcher as the temperature rose from what had been a very pleasant 24 degrees to nearer 30. Luckily it was nice and cool inside the old town house which now serves as the College. After the initial disappointment of not being able to connect my slide show to the projector as it was only geared up for PCs and not my trusty Mac, I relaxed as the audience started to arrive. It was quite a nice turn out of about 20 or so people and more chairs had to be found as a few late-comers arrived. There were a couple of people I knew in the audience so that was reassuring. I told the story of how the book came into being and illustrated with my slides showing just on my small screen.
We ended up with quite a lively debate at the end of the talk as We discussed the crafts and how the craft of basket making was gradually dying out. An attendee stated that he thought it was unnecessary to preserve all the old things as we have no use for them now with many modern facilities and products making the traditional redundant. My book may be about all the old ways of doing things and traditional crafts however I agree that we don’t want to go back to how things were always done but also we don’t want to lose valuable skills and knowledge. Once gone it is gone.
Pottery has evolved and Cyprus has many talented contemporary ceramicists and potters. Cyprus also some young weavers that are using traditional techniques and patterns to produce exciting new textiles as well as a small movement afoot to get Fythkiotika more widely practised and taught in colleges. What is not being taught and is gradually getting harder to find is basket making. There may not be the need for many of the types of baskets that were once common place, like the basket used for transporting chickens to market but those skills could be used to produce different baskets for a modern market. In the UK we love baskets and they have come back in fashion particularly after a movement to reduce the use of plastic bags in supermarkets. In France and Africa there is a strong basket producing tradition with beautifully coloured and patterned shopping baskets This is a movement that would be a good idea to introduce to Cyprus, as plastic bags are ubiquitous. Why not make a super shopping basket for repeated use, something attractive and practical or promote the use of the basket that once was used to transport potatoes as a log basket?
The tsestos traditionally was the basket wear that was decorated with a wide variety of colourful patterns, today the choice of pattern is more limited than it used to be, these are made with straw or raffia. It would be a real joy to have the more elaborate patterns reintroduced as the smaller, deeper tsestos are extremely useful and attractive and make very good storage baskets for, not just food, which is their traditional use but many household items. Tradition is dead long live tradition!!!