Marina Kyriakou on Developing a Community and Belonging

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Questions by Anastasia Prokopi Taki


What brings you this year to the mountainous Polystyps and the Xarkis festival?

The “borders” is the thematic topic of this year’s festival but is also a key word for me personally, since I am particularly interested in the socio-spatial significance and expansion of borders in my work and research. My participation in the festival in Polystypos involves a beloved traditional game -Tavli (backgammon)- which I proposed for the first time during the Xarkis Festival in 2016 in Lofou. This year, the Tavli comes back to enrich the festival experience among other games.  The Tavli has been re-designed by a group of youngsters in a participatory workshop and it was given a bit of Polystypos’ culture.


How did your interest in studying and exploring ways to transform sub-functional spaces into communities arise?

We live on an island where there is generally a lack of quality public space, an essential spatial element for the development of a community and the creation of a sense of “belonging”. As an architect and urban planner I believe that it is effective to revitalize and redefine the use of existing neglected spaces both in urban and rural environments, which can potentially play a significant role in the contemporary local culture. By transforming an underused space in a place of sociability we contribute in the creation of collective memory in a sustainable way.


How do you think communities like Xarkis can restore or at least revitalize interest in more collective action and anthropocentrically oriented initiatives?

I find it very positive that in the last decade in Cyprus there is an increase in the events and activities with cultural and social character such as the festivals. Communities like Xarkis, begin with a bottom-up approach, in the beginning with a small number of people involved but aiming to achieve a bigger impact in the society. I believe that this kind of initiative, as long as they remain relevant for the local culture, they are inspired by it and they create conditions for a natural evolution of it, they are sustainable. With consistent and regular efforts, Xarkis has the potential to inspire more collective and anthropocentric activities.

Marina Kyriakouis an architect and urban planner and has completed her studies in France and the Netherlands. Her research and projects focus on transforming under used spaces into community places. She was recently named Bicycle Mayor of Nicosia and she focuses on making built environments more human-centric and fit for the future. Marina is also a member of the NGO Urban Gorillas working on enhancing the notion of public and common space in Cyprus.

Marina’s supersized Talvin board featuring elements of Polystipos culture will be around to be played all weekend at the festival, come and experience a traditional Cypriot pastime

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