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19 May - 19 May 2021


 A special exhibition remembering and honouring the heroes of 1821, which is part of the celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution, was opened to the public on the 19th of May 2021.  It is taking place in the square of the Panagia Phaneromeni Church, in the historical centre of Nicosia and is organised by the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation, the Sylvia Ioannou Foundation and the Nicosia Municipality.


This impressive outdoor exhibition, entitled “History has a Face”, presents two centuries of the national struggle for liberation and shines the light on those who fought and sacrificed themselves for freedom.


The exhibition showcases 22 pieces of art from 320 unique portraits created by Benjamin Mary (1792-1846), the diplomatic representative of Belgium to Greece.


The official opening of the exhibition was held by the Defence Minister of Cyprus, Mr Charalambos Petrides, and his Greek counterpart, Mr Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos.


Inaugurating the exhibition, Mr Petrides congratulated the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation, the Sylvia Ioannou Foundation, and the Nicosia Municipality, as well as everyone who contributed, noting that “on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution, I extend my warmest wishes to Hellenism: in Greece, in Cyprus, the expatriates and the Greeks of the diaspora around the world”. The Defence Minister of Cyprus added that “the indestructible bonds between Cyprus and Greece are the compass to our joint route towards the future. Let the flame of liberty and the sacrifice of heroes be our guides to a better tomorrow”.


The Defence Minister of Greece expressed his immense pleasure and personal honour for inaugurating, along with his Cypriot counterpart, the exhibition, which he said “highlights in an exceptional way the grandeur of the fight for national liberation”.


“As I often say, the tree of freedom is watered with the blood of heroes, and so the tree of our own freedom has been watered with a lot of blood. Cyprus, and our Cypriot brothers, are an integral part of Hellenism, of the Greek spirit, of the Greek soul, and the Greek bravery, and they have proved it beyond any doubt, both at the start of, and during, the Greek Revolution”.  Mr Panagiotopoulos noted that the opening day of the exhibition coincides with the day of remembrance of the Pontic genocide, giving us the opportunity to contemplate “the victims of other heinous crimes, to consider the tremendous tragedy for Hellenism, as well as the pain of death and their uprooting from their ancestral homes”.


In his address, the Chairman of the Board of the Bank of Cyprus, Mr Takis Arapoglou, said that “two hundred years after the Greek Revolution, we stand in awe and respectfully bow before their portraits, which come to life through the incredible drawings that are on display at the exhibition of the Cultural Foundation, in the historic centre of old Nicosia”. He reassured that “the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation performs national work of the highest order, and that is why it enjoys, and will continue to enjoy, the Bank’s unwavering support”.


The Vice-chairman of the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation, Dr Charis Pouangare, explained that the opening of this exhibition is part of a series of events, which have already started and will last for a full year, in order to fully commemorate the 200th anniversary from the start of the Greek Revolution and the martydom of the Greek Cypriots in July 1821. He added, “the ‘History has a Face’ exhibition, goes its artistic value, it offers to us noble and powerful messages. The few who dared take on a strong adversary – the Ottoman empire – to liberate their country, were not only the powerful, the famous and the educated of their time. They were also the plain, everyday people, who had courage and faith in their struggle. In this way, these plain people gave history a face”.


The Mayor of Nicosia, Mr Constantinos Yiorkadjis, stressed that the Nicosia Municipality will continue to support events and activities that promote our culture and our history: “At the historic centre of Nicosia, next to the green line that keeps our city divided, 22 photos are on display, works of Benjamin Mary, which depict important figures of 1821. We honour the Greek Revolution and learn from its messages, values, and heroes. And for our troubled island, these messages are of paramount importance”.


In her address, the Director of the Sylvia Ioannou Foundation, Mrs Artemis Skoutari, said that the Sylvia Ioannou Foundation responded immediately to the invitation of the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation to co-organise the exhibition. She noted that, “the exhibition is built on a unique exhibit from the Foundation’s Collection, with until-recently unknown portraits of Greeks and Cypriots who took part in the 1821 Revolution, or participated in the political or ecclesiastical life of Greece in the years of the rule of King Otto”.


For the duration of the exhibition, visitors will have the opportunity to see drawings, created naturally, mainly in Athens between 1839 and 1844, which are displayed for the first time and acquaint the viewer with known and unknown personalities of the Greek Revolution and Greece under King Otto, through the sensitive, penetrating gaze of a European artist.


Fighters, politicians, clergymen, intellectuals, philhellenes and ordinary people pose patiently for Benjamin Mary, who succeeds in capturing their expression at a unique moment in History.


 Among those shown in the portraits are: Th. Kolokotronis, L. Koundouriotis, I. Makriyiannis, Ch. Chatzipetrou, British philhellene G. Finlay, P. Notaras, Th. Farmakides, the Cypriot N. Theseus, B. Petimezas, A. Mavromichalis, E. Salafatinos, I. Kolettis, I. Karatzas, D.N. and K. Botsaris and others.


More historical elements and information about the figures on display can be found in the co-publication by the Sylvia Ioannou Foundation and the Historical and Ethnological Company of Greece-National History Museum: History has a face – Figures of 1821 in the Greece of King Otto portrayed by the Belgian diplomat Benjamin Mary (Athens, 2020).


Duration of the outdoor exhibition: 15 April – 31 December, 2021.