The Private Ethnographic Museum of Cyprus
The Foreign Residents in the TRNC recently organised a trip for the members to a private museum in Lefkoşa and we all made our way there separately and met up at the venue. There were around 20 of the members present and when we arrived, whilst waiting for some of the others, we took the time to look around the outside area where there were old farm implements some of which are over 100 years old, ploughs which would have been drawn by mules and farm carts, there was also a menagerie of birds including a peacock and rabbits etc. There were stones and parts of columns which I was told came from the areas of Maesoria and Famagusta. As we walked around we were accompanied by ducks, chickens and cockerels who were roaming free as well as an assortment of cats.
When we had all assembled, Ergun Pektaş, the founder of the museum, talked to us for a while and told us a little about himself and how he had come to start this wonderful museum. Ergun was born in Nicosia, he was a teacher in a secondary school and later trained as an industrial chemist. In his earlier years he spent 12 years in England where he studied chemistry and he later worked for ICI and the London Rubber Company in the latex industry as an industrial chemist. Chris mentioned that his mother also worked at the London Rubber Company which resulted in a lot of laughter when someone suggested that maybe Chris had found his father!! When Ergun returned to North Cyprus he set up a factory, Rubberex Co Ltd, making latex industrial gloves, household gloves and gloves for the medical sector. The premises were, it is thought, originally used for wine-making, probably in the 1950’s.
Ergun had some 60 employees altogether and he exported his products to Turkey as well as supplying them in North Cyprus. He formed his company in 1973, most of the machinery was made locally and was semi-automatic, but as the years went on it was becoming increasingly difficult to trade in the export field and as his health was suffering he decided to close the factory in 1996 and at this point felt he would like to be involved in the history and culture of North Cyprus, so he rested for some 10 years and then for the following 5 years he concentrated his efforts on setting up a private museum which opened in July 2012. Ergun remembered visiting his grandparents most weekends when he was a boy and said how people in those days were very self-sufficient, they grew and made everything they needed for their daily living and this had an impact on his upbringing and the desire to reproduce this as a means of preserving the heritage of North Cyprus.
There are numerous items on display and Ergun told us that he has bought most of the items from various auctions etc. but now and again people would bring interesting articles to him. Recently, one of the TFR members, Uwe Vandieken had decided to move from the island and as he had a wealth of artefacts in his garden this was a good area for Ergun to look for some additions to his museum. He purchased and is currently in the process of restoring shelf units dating back to 1897 which came from Uwe’s house. You may be interested in the article written about Uwe’s Garden which has a slideshow of some of the many interesting objects of art there, by clicking here.
We went into the huge building which Ergun has painstakingly restored from a mere shell of a building and his museum now covers 3 floors. On entering the museum there is a doorway with very old doors above which there is an original Ottoman balcony, totally made of wood. Ergun said that after the English came to North Cyprus it was the practice to use stone rather than wood for this type of structure. There is an amazing collection of items of pottery, woodwork, furniture, clothing, embroidery, jewellery, paintings and so much more and they are displayed to the best possible advantage.
There are areas representing how dwellings would have looked over the years, all lovingly set out to give an idea of how things would have been. There was a replica of what would have been a local coffee house around 100 years ago, which could have been a grocer’s or butcher’s premises but in most cases would have been the Muhtar’s office. The coffee houses were for socialising and used only by men, women were not allowed except for serving. In another area was a replica of a village house where we could see a wine press, grinding stones and many other objects depicting the way of life. There were many bells which would be worn by cows and sheep and Ergun told us that a shepherd would know his sheep from the sound of their bells and if one had gone astray he would know exactly which one it was from the sound of the bell.
On the next floor there was a replica of a town house dating back to the 1950’s with a lot of items more familiar to us. There were many items of furniture and cabinets where there was a display of silverware and embroidered waistcoats. In one of the display cabinets there was a whistle which Ergun told us was from the last train in North Cyprus, unfortunately this was the only item he was able to acquire.
There were original paintings by the Cypriot artist Ismet Vehit Gűney who was born in Limassol in 1932. Sadly he died in June 2009 but apart from his art he is known for being the first Turkish Cypriot painter to open a solo art exhibition in Cyprus and in 1986 he was given an honour for his life work in culture and art. He also designed the modern flag of the Republic of Cyprus, the country’s Coat of Arms and the original Cyprus Lira in 1960. Ergun said that Ismet had painted a portrait of him many years before when he was much younger and this was hanging in the entrance to the museum.
On the top floor there were 4-poster canopied beds, wardrobes and many other items of furniture and embroidery and crochet work. There were supports which Ergun had utilised as token support to the roof beams as a way to display them and these had come from the Karpaz area.
We then sat down on the terrace and enjoyed a lovely 3-course meal, some of which had been prepared in the outside traditional oven, with a glass of wine and lively conversation about what we had just seen. There was another couple doing a tour of the museum and we sat with them for our meal. This was Aytaç Ali Baklaci, who is an Architect and has recently appeared on Can Gazi’s “A Cup of Conversation” at the BRT Studios and his friend Betűl Sonuc Arslan, who works for BRT and produces a Turkish language TV show called Açik S. They were a very interesting couple to talk to and we enjoyed the short time we spent with them and hope to hear more of them in the future.
Most of the TFR group were making a move to leave and we decided to spend a little more time with Ergun over a coffee to compliment him on his marvellous museum and to generally pass the time of day with this very interesting and dedicated man.
By Margaret Sheard