A Tsada artist who made a call for ideas on inspirational women for a community mosaics project last summer is forging ahead with participation of local schools and aims to contribute to the Paphos 2017 European City of Culture programme.
Mary Chojnowski, who has been active in both the UK and Cyprus as a community artist said that ‘Women Heroines in our Community’ has gained momentum in recent months with work in schools one of the highlights of the ongoing project.
“This year I have been heavily involved in expanding my mosaic work in Cypriot schools especially, to truly be part of the local community. I am also hoping to show the committee of Paphos 2017 how we could run mosaic projects in our schools using children and teachers as the participants and using the school premises as cost effective workshops,” Chojnowski told The Cyprus Weekly.
“I am very happy that schools have been responding to my ideas, and inviting me in to run workshops. My aim is that all ideas and mosaic work come firstly from the children. I didn’t want to influence them and was very curious to find out what the local children would think about the theme of female heroes, and who they would suggest.”
The project, which was launched and has been running since last summer, is based around the stories about some of Cyprus’ iconic female figures. Chojnowski said she didn’t want to dictate the choice of subjects but rather get ideas from the community.
“There are some great ideas out there. What is most interesting is that women are responding mostly with “heroines” whom they know in their everyday lives. Women immediately tend to relate heroism to community, not history. I love that. It’s just what I suspected would happen.”
To date, local heroines include Ismini Liassidou Saul of the Margarita Liassidou Centre and Susan and Refi Ari, a family of female heroes who campaigned for adult and in particular female literacy in 1950/60’s Paphos. They went on to support the refugee community after the 1974 Turkish invasion.
Meanwhile, Chojnowski has been very busy with the schools in Kato Paphos and Kouklia.
“The Heads invited me in to work on an outdoor wall mosaic for the school. Firstly we created a planet earth mosaic with the island of Cyprus surrounded by all the children’s mosaic hands. Children love mosaics so I give them the chance to spend several days getting really stuck in and dirty. Some of the girls drew their ideas about Aphrodite then voted for their favourite ‘Aphrodite’. She has been copied into mosaic exactly. She is an astounding mixture of modern and ancient, and full of magical energy. I love seeing how the children depict our icons in their own way. This Aphrodite is a strong woman, but bright and cheerful at the same time with her arms raised up confidently and dressed from head to toe in radiant colours. I hope she represents our young women’s ideas about femininity because this mosaic is so strong, dignified and positive.”
Chojnowski has also been working at The Day Centre which operates under the umbrella of Paphos Psychiatric Care. She spent several months working with a group of patients who visit the Day Centre making mosaic butterflies to get them started.
“Then we made a mosaic to celebrate the famous naïve artist from Cyprus, Thraki Rossidou Jones. I love Thraki’s work because she painted scenes from Cyprus’ unforgettable villages, agricultural life, village squares, and rustic homes. This mosaic was great to do because I got a lot of pleasure working with the Day Care group and I have promised to go back and do more work as soon as I can.”
Continuing to work with her own local schools in Tsada and Kallepeia is important to Chojnowski as the children are in her local community.
“After constructing a mosaic celebrating the wild butterflies and flowers of Cyprus, Kallepeia will be thinking about how they can join in with the female heroes theme later this year. So there will be more ideas to follow from these two groups.”
As far as any further ideas for heroines are concerned, Chojnowski is specifically looking for women who have made an important contribution to society both historically and in the modern world and whom the community feels should be recognised for their legacy. Ideas for inspiring role models are also welcome as are women who are strong professional role models.
There is no official deadline as yet although there will be an exhibit once there is a substantial show of artworks.
“I hope to exhibit some finished pieces by end 2014. I don’t see this as the end of the Female Heroes because I can see it is has the power to be ongoing for a few years. I hope this project will show people the impact which good public art has on the community, bringing people together to create art which has true meaning and showing that great art does not have to be elitist or expensive, but enjoyable, for everybody and everlasting,” Chojnowksi said. “Seeing how children especially view their city, its history, myths, nature and culture is always interesting and inspiring. They have an unspoiled way of seeing what us adults often miss, seeing what is socially important and shaping our future communities.”
To contribute ideas for inspirational women for the project and for information on getting involved as a school contact Mary Chojnowksi at email@example.com or phone 99595385.