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Nomadifesta 2004 – The Concept

For Cypriots, more than anyone else, a suitcase and the expression in local Greek vernacular “Saste tis valitses sas,” translated as “pack your suitcases,” has another meaning, besides that of holiday traveling. On one hand, it draws memories from the 1960s movement of population and the 1974 events, which left more than one third of the population of the island refugees in their own land, with suitcases in their hands. On the other hand, after 30 years of living in a divided island, recent inter-communal negotiations and the United Nations’ efforts to find a solution to the political problem have created the impression that these people might have to pack their suitcases once more.

A suitcase implies a move of population, creates a feeling of transience and expectation, raising a question mark as to what is happening now, who lives where or where will one’s house be in the future. The agony of loss, the depression of a post-war trauma, and the fear of history repeating itself are embed in one’s mind as a picture of a packed suitcase ready to go.

A suitcase is also a symbol of the search for a new beginning. After the 1974 Turkish invasion, large numbers of Cypriots migrated from Cyprus to such countries as Greece, the UK, Australia and the USA, with the hope of a better life.

Younger generations of Cypriots identify the suitcase with the opportunity to go abroad. Most of the students graduating from high school are seeking higher education in universities elsewhere, In this case, a suitcase is a symbol of an open door, an opportunity to gain more knowledge and experiences, but also a great chance to leave this small island, and a society bent on interfering in your personal affairs, and to search for one’s own identity abroad.

With the European enlargement already completed and the accompanying facilitation of intra-communal traveling, the anxiety of being the habitant of an island, on the periphery of Europe, creates a frustration of space. A contemporary person seeks the opportunities to travel in order to break free from the claustrophobic limitations of land. In this sense, “packing one’s suitcase” has a reference to nomadism, a reaction against limitations and geographic restrictions.

A suitcase has also been a distinctive characteristic in contemporary arts scene; it signifies mobility, displacement, exile, hybridity and duality. Objects like suitcases have been widely used in installations in recent years. Suitcases are not just a reference or a metaphor to a nostalgic past, but it is used in order to represent an active split entity, or to use Derrida’s phrase: half “not there” and half “not that.” “The suitcase signifies the movement of rupture, the instance in which the subject is torn out of the web of connectedness that contained him or her through an invisible net of belonging.” The reference of the suitcase to some part of history or some part of the self left behind, indicates memory of something that has been lost.


Larnaca Biennial of Art 

Larnaca, Cyprus

October 2021

Still on View

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