Can Cypriot Life Imitate Art?

(as published in The Cyprus Weekly, July 8th, 2013)


There are not many who are surprised with the tornado of social problems whirling around Cyprus. Unemployment is over 70,000 and growing. The middle class continues to be squeezed harder than the cabernet grape they all once consumed in such high volumes, while there is now true concern for lower classes of society that literally face serious matters of survival.

Yet strangely, with few exceptions here and there,inequality continues to soar shamelessly to new heights. It has ultimately led to societal sorrow and despair. People handle these challenges differently. Some are in denial for long periods of time, others are too frozen to act, while others that do take action, do so slowly.

So what options are there to face inequality, injustice and growing poverty? Taking to the streets is often a necessity. But we have other options, and I do not mean twiddling our thumbs while natural gas is pumped out of our lands. That would truly be our downfall. I believe, having studied creativity for years now, that under the pressures of sorrow and despair, we can create extraordinary things as a society. Creative and innovative potential, individually and in numbers, can combat inequality because the rules of the game are fairer. Every society has creative potential and in sorrow and despair there are opportunities, for such feelings often trigger creative stimulation. There are few better places to find answers toward creative stimulation than from the arts. So let us literally take a leaf out of the work of one of the most creatively recognised artists in his genre today Nick Cave, (who for this piece, found inspiration from the great Federico Garcia Lorca). My dear friends, indulge me for a moment longer and read what this artist has to say about sorrow and despair in the love song. You will not be left disappointed:

“We each have our need to create, and sorrow itself is a creative act…In his brilliant lecture entitled ‘The Theory and Function of Duende’, Federico Garcia Lorca attempts to shed light on the eerie and inexplicable sadness that lives at the heart of certain works of art. ‘All that has dark sounds has duende’, he says, ‘that mysterious power that everyone feels but no philosopher can explain.’ In contemporary rock music, the area in which I operate, music seems less inclined to have at its soul, restless and quivering, the sadness that Lorca talks about. Excitement often; anger, sometimes – but true sadness, rarely. Bob Dylan has always had it. Leonard Cohen deals specifically with it. It pursues Van Morrison like a black dog, and, though he tries to, he cannot escape it. Tom Waits and Neil Young can summon it. My friends The Dirty 3 have it by the bucket-load but, all in all, it would appear that ‘duende’ is too fragile to survive the compulsive modernity of the music industry. In the hysterical technocracy of modern music, sorrow is sent to the back of the class, where it sits, pissing its pants in mortal terror. Sadness or ‘duende’ needs space to breath. Melancholy hates haste and floats in silence. I feel sorry for sadness, as we jump all over it, denying it its voice, and muscling it into the outer reaches. No wonder sorrow doesn’t smile much. No wonder sadness is so sad.  All love songs must contain ‘duende’ because the love song is never simply happy. It must first embrace the potential for pain. Those songs that speak of love, without having within their lines an ache or a sigh, are not love songs at all, but rather hate songs disguised as love songs and are not to be trusted. These songs deny us our human-ness and our God-given right to be sad, and the airwaves are littered with them. The love song must resonate with the whispers of sorrow and the echoes of grief. The writer who refuses to explore the darker regions of the heart will never be able to write convincingly about the wonder, the magic and the joy of love, for just as goodness cannot be trusted unless it has breathed the same air as evil – the enduring metaphor of Christ crucified between two criminals comes to mind here – so within the fabric of the love song, within its melody, its lyric, one must sense an acknowledgement of its capacity for suffering.”

While many feel a sense of injustice there are those that do not necessarily feel complete and utter gloom to the point of inertia. A growing community of entrepreneurs are willing to make use of their ‘duende’. Coming from academia, I can say with certainty that there are numerous high-quality research projects currently underway,while there are also many students with passion, skills and motivation to create. Furthermore, the recent launch of Startup Live Cyprus ( and the ongoing presence of Open Coffee Cyprus (,along with a growing number of investment banks, venture capitalists and incubators such as Helix Business Incubator, prove that there are those willing to support entrepreneurship.

I leave you with a ‘sad’ love song from The Dirty 3 and Nick Cave. Not to despair, but to be inspired to create.


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