origin of cyprus flag 1

***  Nilgun Güney, answering questions of HARAVGİ newspaper about her father İsmet Güney who designed the flag of Cyprus…

“Our enemies is not the other side, it is the different sources that make us to think so…”

The English text of what Nilgün Güney said to HARAVGİ newspaper about her father İsmet Güney who designed the flag of Cyprus:

“İsmet Vehit Güney was born in Limassol in 1923. He is an artist. His first solo exhibition was in 1946 (Maybe 1947 still searching to find the exact date) at the British Institute in Limassol. This exhibition is the first  exhibition opened by a Turkish Cypriot artist in the history. He was a humanitarian person and loved animals and nature. He was open minded, liked to learn always. He read a lot. He is a self-thaught artist. He always searched for ways to learn more about art.

When he was a sergeant in the British army (Cyprus regiment) in  World war 2 he was in Palestine and there he took art lessons from a British college. After being discharged from military he wrote a letter to a famous artist in Turkey to become his student.  The famous artist Ibrahim Çallı invited him to Istanbul. İsmet Güney worked with him 4 years.

He continued to learn art and art history and the techniques of some master artists. He was influenced from Romantism, Classism and Impressionism but he had his own technique. He became an art teacher in  the Turkish high school. There he gave art, art history and photography  lessons. After he retiered he did advertising and colour seperetion bussines which he learned by himself. He was married to Tomris who was an elementary school teacher. He had two daughters.

He always had a pet, mostly a dog, he liked cats also. He painted landscapes from Cyprus, still life and nudes.  All his life he painted. When he died at the age of 84 there was a canvas on the easel.

About the Cyprus flag, I don’t remember much when he won the competition. I have some images and murmurs in my had but I don’t remember clearly what they were. But I am sure he was happy. I have only one sketch… In 1963 we had to leave our house in Caglayan Nicosia for two years because of the troubles. When we turn back everything was stolen and damaged. So I dont have any material about it but I have only one sketch. Later in his interviews he said he was happy to be the winner of the competition.

He was always happy when someone likes his work. Of course the flag a country would use  made him more happy. Even he told stories how President Makarios made jokes when he invited him to his room to congratulate. Makarios made a joke and said “There is something missing here on the Cyprus map. You should put two dots. One for your birthplace Limassol and one for my birthplace Paphos” and they laughed.

He explained the meaning of the design; White background is for  honesty and purity, yelowish orange cyprus map is for the colour of copper and the name of cyprus (Kipros, Kıbrıs)which is created from word copper,  two olive branches is for peace between communities.

After the flag he also designed 3 stamps, some of the banknotes of cyprus money, and the state logo.

He wanted to live as an artist in this beautiful island. He liked to go into the fields, sea sides mostly with his dog and paint like the impressionists. He was also influenced by the Romantic period  and he liked to paint big trees, shepherds and herds, waves in the sea, some fruits on the table… He wasn’t happy about the troubles in Cyprus. But like all of us he should have chosen a certain side.

Of course I was affected from my father to become an artist. When I was a child I used to watch him while he was painting. I liked to look into his art books. I liked the smell of his studio which was a room in the house. I liked different materials, brushes, colour tubes…everything in the studio. When gratuated from high school I didn’t think to study anything but art. I studied in the Fine Arts Academy in İstanbul.

I am always proud that the designer of the Cyprus flag is my father.  The design of the flag is humanitarian, gives the idea of peace and also the nature of cyprus, like olive trees, copper…

Unfortunately Cypriot people used it all together only for 3 years. If we look generally, Turkish Cypriots see it as the Greek Cypriot flag, and some Greek Cypriots are not happy because the designer is Turkish Cypriot. I see it as an unfortunate flag. But  also it is such a beautiful flag.

For me Cyprus problem is simple as well as complicated in the political world. We had lived so much pain that are hard to even think. We have to ask why… We still can not face what happened in the past. We don’t know reality. Still we didn’t judge the war criminals. I  belive nationalism, racism, religion is not good for people and give damage to human life. If someone have brain and can think and emphatize we can solve any problem.  I think we are all lost, brainwashed in the capitalist system, in nationalist, religious beliefs.

As we are so stupid and frightened to think, or if we think to say loud our toughts, It is hard to find a solution in Cyprus. Our enemies is not the other side, it is the different sources that make us to think so.

In the upcoming elections Cypriot peoples opinions is in the direction of peace and negotiations at the table, but as we know Cypriots might not be the majority among the voters and there will be some cypriots who persuaded otherwise. Even so this time my toughts are more positive. People began to see outside  intervention.

For now it is hard for a solution but If I think positively and if we find a solution in Cyprus I would like to use the same flag which is my father’s design.”

(Published in HARAVGİ on 3 October 2020)

Photos: Nilgun Güney with her father İsmet Güney…

İsmet Güney, painting…

Poster designed by Constantinos Emmanuelle – TALES OF CYPRUS.

Original Facebook post – Author: Sevgul Uludag


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