Just over a year ago, illustrator Louiza Kaimaki joined forces with local fine artist Kyriaki Costa to give fruit to a wide-ranging, four-volume illustrated history book for children and young people entitled ‘The History of Cyprus’.
Published by the Phileleftheros Group, the book portrays key moments that have brought the island to its current standpoint in easily-accessible language.
This book’s legacy has now been given another dimension with the opening of an exhibition/art intervention entitled “Illustrating History: The collections of the Leventis Municipal Museum of Nicosia in dialogue with artworks by Kyriaki Costa and Louiza Kaimaki”.
Commissioned with Costa to create the illustrations which adorn the pages of the publication, Kaimaki spoke about the responsibility she felt towards the young and the need to respect and serve the real purpose of the project - to educate and inform the new, young generation of the country.
Seeing the artwork adorn the walls of the Leventis Museum has revived the educational purpose of the project, giving people the opportunity to physically see the images which illustrate the island’s rich and complex history.
“It’s very interesting to visualise all this history in an illustrated picture. History comes to life. The way the illustrations are nicely placed inside the museum’s collections, creates a playful passage through the museums floors, and makes it easier for the viewer to visualise and understand history,” said Kaimaki.
Costa differentiates between a viewer’s approach towards an authentic work of art and a book.
“The art works are set within the museum and come into dialogue with existing objects. This dialogue is not particularly clear - it’s as though the works of art are part of the museum…and the purpose of this, beyond the public being able to view and study them, is the narration the projected images give, which invite the viewer to come into a dialogue with the history of our country,” adds Costa.
Written by Ira Genakritou, a familiar figure in youth literature who has written columns for children in the Phileleftheros group’s publications for decades, the simple storytelling approach initially allowed the illustrators to give visual support to this effort.
“Although the great job Ira did with her simple storytelling made it easy for me to understand the more complicated parts of the (Cyprus) history and therefore illustrate them, it was not enough,” said illustrator, Kaimaki.
“I wanted to speak to real people and share their true stories. I am fascinated by stories told with passion by people who have personally experienced a certain event in history themselves. This gives me access to approach my pictures from a more realistic point of view.”
The process of evaluating these events in order to ‘bring them to life’ is a journey that, according to Costa, touches the building blocks of one’s identity.
“It was pleasant because I got to learn history through Ira Genakritou’s simple and concise words... but very difficult in phases because I revived the pain and agony of the peoples of my beloved country through my images,” says Costa.
Both were given the rare opportunity to have the freedom to choose what to draw, and although this may be “every illustrator’s dream” as Kaimaki admits, this freedom of artistic choice was a daunting one.
Both had to play with the notions of finding a balance between artistic freedom and their responsibility as illustrators.