30 November 2020

The Unrecognised Land of Northern Cyprus

30 November 2020 - Written by PhMuseum

Travelling to regions of Cyprus steeped in political controversy, French photographer Chauvin Guillaume turns his camera towards the banality of everyday life and the hidden wonders held within the landscapes.

Up until two years ago, the north of Cyprus seemed to have fallen in a sort of political coma. The "north" has come to exist as a distinct region after the Turkish military intervention of 1974, the epitome of a latent civil war since the 1950s between the Orthodox and Greek-speaking majority and the Muslim and Turkish-speaking minority. Emptied of its Greek-Cypriot population, filled with the Turkish Cypriots from all around the island and settlers from rural Anatolia, the territory was turned into a small republic, unrecognised by all but Turkey. It was supposed to reunite with the South when the whole island was admitted to the EU in 2004, but remained at the door of the union after a failed referendum. The subsequent negotiations have been yet fruitless and the small territory vegetated towards an unknown yet quite stable fate. While it stayed marginalised from the international community, it benefited from the military and economic support of Turkey, a support which is viewed by many among the Turkish-Cypriot people as a form of occupation.

For two years, alas, the situation has started to change noticeably: the deep economic crisis in Turkey since 2018 hit the country, which uses the Turkish lira, hard. Even more, the quest for hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean reached a threatening level of confrontation between Turkey and Cyprus, Greece, and by extent, the EU, even if no gas has been exploited as of yet. In October, the situation got deeper with the controversial election of a pro-Turkey president in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus with the active support of Ankara, that did not hesitate to reopen a part of the ghost city of Varosha for the first time in 46 years. The population, today, is split between a will to preserve their culture and their right as a citizen of the island, and the fear of many to be progressively absorbed by Turkey.

The youth, born long after the separation of the communities and the creation of the territory, however, manage to be part of the global world while trying to preserve their specific identity. The north is too often looked at (only) as a political curiosity. But it is first and foremost the home of so many individualities, the banality of everyday life, the hidden wonders of the landscapes and that is exactly what Guillaume’s work is offering. His photographs and the testimony of a variety of local figures guide you through a place where Ancient Greeks, Lusignans, Venetians, Ottomans and Brits left their marks, a tourist resort for the Turkish and the British middle class that goes from eco-lodges to dodgy casinos and prostitution, a vibrant higher education hub for students all over the developing world, a place of sometimes anarchic urbanisation which has also one of the most preserved coastlines of the region and a remnant of the tragic fate of the hundreds of thousands of uprooted Greek-Cypriots, whose past presence is visible everywhere through abandoned churches and the graveyards

Words by Theotime Chabre, Pictures by Chauvin Guillaume.


Guillaume Chauvin (1987) elaborates his "documented point of view", collaborating with various media and institutions (Le Monde, 6 Mois, L'OBS, Vanity Fair, Nike, RSF, Greenpeace...). He is member of Studio Hans Lucas since 2015, his texts are published by ALLIA. He also works as speaker and teacher. Find him on PHmuseum and Instagram.


This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PHmuseum curators.

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Reading time

4 minutes