Europa Transit arrives in Paphos to explore the past and present of Cyprus through improvised verse singing

Acknowledged Basque verse improviser Amets Arzallus stars in the documentary that is being filmed in the divided country, which has a tradition of impromptu oral poetry.

Paphos, upcoming European Capital of Culture in 2017, is the seventh destination on the route of  San Sebastian 2016's Europa Transit itinerant embassy.

San Sebastian 2016, current holder of the European Capital of Culture, has embarked one of its travelling embassies on a tour of ten cities afflicted by conflict past or present to film documentaries focussing on their coexistence challenges. Paphos, upcoming European Capital of Culture in 2017, is the seventh destination on the route. The objective of Europa Transit is to portray the present situation of the cities, highlighting their cultural heritage.

In Paphos, the Europa Transit crew will explore the past and present of Cyprus through the eyes of Basque verse improviser Amets Arzallus. The city of San Sebastian, current holder of the European Capital of Culture is located in the Basque Country, a region that spans the border between Spain and France, with a significant tradition of bertsolaritza or improvised poetry. On this occasion, Arzallus has joined the Europa Transit team in Paphos to participate in the documentary that the travelling embassy is filming in Cyprus, a divided country where there is also a tradition of impromptu oral poetry. During his stay, Arzallus will meet with local improvisers and musicians, who will help him understand the history and current situation of the country.

Xuban Intxausti is the director of the documentary film, which will be premiered in September in the framework of the cultural programme of San Sebastian 2016. During its stay in Paphos, Europa Transit team will also compile the testimonies of locals to add to a digital mosaic of the multiple identities that inhabit Europe.

In the framework of this visit, and as a result of the exchanges between Pafos 2017 and San Sebastian 2016, last night Amets Arzallus improvised on Cypriot motifs and met Giorgos Saxate (voice), Alexis Charalambous (violin, voice) and Charalambos Charalambous (lute) of the Ktima Folklore Group.

Europa Transit: Ten stories towards European coexistence

Europa Transit, one of the travelling embassies of San Sebastian 2016 European Capital of Culture, started its journey in early January, with the mission of representing San Sebastian 2016 across Europe, in a bid to help promote coexistence between the different communities that inhabit the continent and defend the cultural and social diversity that Europe is made up of.

The travelling embassy will visit ten cities that have been or are witnesses of the challenges brought by coexistence between different peoples: Ceuta, Belfast, Dresden, Wroclaw, Sarajevo, Moscow, Paphos, Plovdiv, Pristina and Istanbul. At each destination, a documentary will be filmed to analyze the situation of each city in relation to the values promoted by San Sebastian 2016, such as coexistence, understanding, solidarity, tolerance, diversity and human rights.

Europa Transit has already visited Ceuta (January), an autonomous city belonging to Spain, located on the North coast of Africa and sharing a border with Morocco, where it collected material on immigration. The second stop was Belfast (February) and the focus was the Northern Ireland peace process. Dresden was the third destination (March), where the travelling embassy explored how the city, a symbol of war atrocity and destruction, faces the challenge of taking in the refugees that are running away from horror. Wroclaw, current European Capital of Culture together with San Sebastian, was the setting to analyze initiatives fighting for a more tolerant and multicultural Poland (April). The mission reached its halfway point in Sarajevo (May) and focused on the value of music to overcome the trauma of war. In Moscow (June), Europa Transit dealt with the topic of freedom of sexual expression. After visiting Paphos, the travelling embassy will head next to Plovdiv, Bulgarian city that will be European Capital of Culture in 2019. The mission will be completed with Pristina and Istanbul.

The resulting ten audiovisual works will combine the journalistic account with an artistic perspective, and are screened on television on a monthly basis within the framework of the European Capital of Culture two months after their filming. So far, the following films have been premiered Messages from the border (Ceuta), In Dialogue (Belfast), Dresden Refuge (Dresden) and The Human Library (Wroclaw).

In addition, Europa Transit is creating a mash-up of testimonies of the people that participate in each documentary, with the aim of creating a digital mosaic of the multiple conceptions of identity that inhabit Europe. The mashup is hosted here and will be expanded as the travelling embassy visits more destinations.