Sketches of the 14th Olive

Festival in Zeytinlik

By Heidi Trautmann….

My memories go back to the very first festivals in Zeytinlik, a festival that is dedicated to the olive tree, to its harvesting the fruit, to its history and legends. There exists a very strong bond between this tree and the people of Cyprus as there is with everyone who owns olive trees. After this festival the olive factories check their 14th Olive Festivalmachinery and open the doors to the olive growers. Often enough we were part ourselves of the patiently waiting customers in one of these establishments.

The Olive Festival in Zeytinlik is the last one in a row of many village and traditional festivals on the island. During the festival days, local olive growers whet their appetite for the approaching harvest, eat and drink, discuss weather conditions, and wait in hope for some good rain to fall before they start to pick the olives and rush them to the mills.  They say that to minimise the acid content, the olives should reach the mill within a maximum of two days. The green olives have already started to be harvested for preserving and pickling, as I could see on many stands in the Belediye Square in Zeytinlik where the festivities take place.

I have always been fascinated by the olive tree since I was a young student of Latin when I heard of the ancient heroes walking under the olive trees with either a beautiful woman at their side or a lyre in their arms.  Open the link by clicking here to learn more about harvesting the Mediterranean Gold.

This year’s festivities on the village square of Zeytinlik was a turbulent event again, a mixture of traditional village celebrations including all sorts of local food stands with their inviting smells pervading the village with masses of people.  Stands with preserves of olives and oil, beautiful local handicraft, but this year also from Turkey, I spoke to some ladies from Izmir; there was a stand set up by the Girne Lions Club with handmade things for charity sales.

Audience at Olive Fest

The stage and the chairs in front of it were never empty, continuous shows were announced,  bards singing and playing traditional songs,  rock and pop bands, youth groups dancing the hip-hop and the always present Line Dancers making the viewers move to the hot tunes.

Catalkoy Theatre play

There was a smaller round stage for theatre groups performing the salvation of the olive tree, a pantomime.  There I met the members of the Catalköy Theatre who had performed on one of the other evenings. I met many other old regulars who keep participating, for example Hasan Eminağa/Dizayn 74 and his show on the wheel keeps fascinating people, especially the very young ones. There was Mustafa Salih Cizel, a Lapta artist, with his Cypriot paintings in the big tent: he is a well-known very active artist taking care of the cultural activities in his village and initiating art events and art education. There was an old artist friend from Izmir whom I met again, years ago with a fascinating display of his clay bells, this year with a book he published. His hair had turned white in the meantime.

Cartoon competition
Cartoon Competition

On Monday, Oct 05, I had especially come for the award ceremony of the winners of the 4th caricature competition, with the theme of the olive tree, an international competition, and they had come from far away to receive their awards.  Open the link by clicking here to see the winning cartoons.

Cartoon competition winners
Cartoon competition winners

There were 226 participants from 56 countries with altogether 457 works. The first prize went to Vladimir Stankovski from Serbia, second prize to Raul Alfonso Grisales from Columbia; third prize to Muammer Kotbas from Turkey. The Mayor of Girne, Nidal Güngördü took me to the place in front of the village square where all the cartoons were displayed.

Mayor of Girne decorated with present from cartoonist
Mayor of Girne decorated with a present from one of the cartoonists

The Mayor was a much demanded man over the days of the olive festivities, he was busy making speeches and awarding people with plaquettes. He is a very engaged man and at his side are many who have been organising the event, a most known man is culture and theatre director Derman Atik who has some experience in organising such events, just weeks ago he did the Beşparmak Art and Culture Fest in Çatalköy village – what a bundle of energy!

The competition issued by the Cyprus Turkish Cartoonists Association, the FECO (Federation Cartoonists Organisation Cyprus)  was also supported by the Girne Municipality as was the entire festival. Many other events had gone on during daytime with sports and other contests.

The village square is now named after one of Zeytinlik’s beloved citizens, Ali Nesim, a philosopher, humanist, writer and poet who died a year ago. A panel was set up to commemorate him and his works. He and his wife Tulay were dear friends to us. He will always be remembered for his love of his village, his books honouring the olive trees, the legends of Cyprus he wrote down which I translated into German.  I do hope that the younger generation will continue on this road.

Ali Nesim in Memoriam
Tribute to Ali Nesim