“Xarkis” comes from the ancient Greek word eksarhis, which means from the beginning. In the midst of an economic and social crisis, “Xarkis” wants to inspire Cypriots view themselves in a new, positive light. In essence, this is a re-branding project for a socially sustainable Cyprus.
For the purposes of Xarkis project, a design activist role was initially adopted and a decision was made to design an assembly, whereby communities were brought together, in novel ways that might offer up thoughts on self-sufficient and sustainable futures. This project was first offered as a tool to build resilience and catalyse relationships among communities to activate social and economic mobility.
Xarkis today is proposed as a new form of co-design prossess and socio-material assembly and it is driven through the cooperation and exchange of knowledge between designers and local stakeholders.
Xarkis envisages a Cypriot citizenry that is active, participatory and socially engaged. It recognizes, as others do as well, that a large portion of citizens today are passive, consumerist and individualistic. Xarkis wants to work with, collaborate and facilitate any team or individual with the same urge for social change.
Specifically, Xarkis aims to bring about this change and sees as significant first steps the following three missions:
1. Revisit concepts such as ‘education’, ‘culture’ and ‘entertainment’ through academic and practical inquiries with the aim of creating ‘communal identities’ where people understand and appreciate local culture, history and even the land itself.
2. Signify the importance and potential uses of rural areas and open a discussion on the effects of urbanization and potential solutions for reverting the negative aspects of this phenomenon. At the same time we want to rethink notions of the ‘city’ and its role.
3. Bring together people from diverse backgrounds, such as different age groups, social classes and disciplines and facilitate the constructive and fruitful collaboration of such groups.
Our approach is to apply participatory design processes to help create innovative, sustainable enterprises.
Participatory design is usually used as a methodology to enable the active participation of citizens in design problems that affect them. It is proposed for projects aimed towards large and complicated transformation processes, whereby: “the multiplicity of small, diverse & participatory initiatives interact to achieve a larger vision.”
Rather than perceiving people as carriers of needs and problems, the idea is to view them as active and cooperative co-designers, who can enrich the design process, by bringing valuable knowledge and ideas for solutions.
Xarkis, as a means in achieving its mission, wishes to engage in the following activities:
– Organize festivals, summits, conferences and others events.
– Apply ‘participatory design’ processes.
– Promote awareness about local culture, history and geography.
– Publish, create and take part in art, design and craft projects.
– Facilitate and organize workshops and any other educational activity.
– Receive funds, inter alia, in the form of contributions, sponsorships and grants.
– Take part and collaborate with other teams in projects with a socially engaged aspect.
– Create a network of people that can become a basis for collaborations.
Community Empowerment through the Arts
“The arts afford opportunities for networking, self-expression and sense of achievement along with economic opportunities through tourism and supplementary income provision.” Gibson, 2002; Mills & Brown, 2004; Pearn, 2007,
The conclusion is that arts may contribute towards resilience in several ways. First, the arts may facilitate amplification of social and interpersonal skills and granting opportunities for actualization and self expression. On a community level perspective, the concept of resilience is complex and understood as associated to a sense of belonging, networks and connectedness, identity and place. While traditional arts have debates on the role of the arts have mainly dealt with beauty and aesthetics, the arts are mainly concerned with meaning and are employed as a form of communication.
“Thus the arts can be a vehicle for participation..as an agent for social change through their use as a social marketing tool to raise awareness of a particular issue, to make a statement, or in a protest” Jermyn, 2001;Kagan, 2008; Mills & Brown, 2004; Shaw, 2003.
This approach applies the arts as a means to occupy local people to work towards solutions to local problems to address injustice experienced as a result of globalisation.
Xarkis community is widely interdisciplinary and members range from sectors such as: industrial design, architecture, graphic design, IT, communication design, socially engaged design, music technology, conceptual art and traditional crafts, among many others.