Diary By Agnieszka Rakoczy

The show is upstairs
A few days ago, while on a cycling tour of old Nicosia in search of some anarchist slogans on its crumbling walls (I was looking for Mane Tekel Fares but found only old OXIs), I stopped in Ledra Street to buy myself a new pair of sunglasses.

The shop I chose was full of designer stuff in various shapes and sizes, both shades and logo-wise, but after the initial trouble of explaining to a trendy sales assistant that I tolerate Versace’s Medusas only in silver and on the bottom of my tea cups, I ended up with a pair of relatively simple glasses that went well with my Periel Ashenbrand-style t-shirt. So armed against the sunshine I went to continue my research.

Now, if reading the above you have concluded that out of the blue I have become very fashion-conscious, then you’re wrong, it is absolutely out of question. However, if you have used your deduction faculties correctly and put two and two (ie anarchists and Aschenbrand) together then congratulations, you have the right answer.

You see, the truth is that if by any chance I am anywhere close to modern feminism it is on Periel’s side of interpretation: ie I want to look good when I do my protests plus whatever I have or don’t have on needs to be in a deeper context. And while I don’t think that Nicosia is ready for naked chicks wandering around its streets in knickers saying “The only bush I trust is my own” or “Weapon of mass seduction” (though with the latest developments in Lebanon it would be very appropriate), a Tate Modern-produced top that lists all the advantages of being a woman-artist, such as: “working without the pressure of success” or “having the opportunity to choose between the career and motherhood”, is as harmless as it is witty.

Still, I wish Cypriots were more courageous and had more sense of humour in their ‘fashion politics’. Yes, I admit the situation on the island better than when I arrived (in 2000 all girls wore just one kind of uniform: tight jeans and tiny tops that, at the first glance, seemed very revealing but were very disappointing at the second) but in most cases it is still sooo boring. And as for the latest world-wide concept of using “one’s body as a billboard,” the strongest statement in this department I have ever seen on a Cypriot was a combination of Che Quevara t-shirt and Prada sunglasses. Needless to say, the woman was an AKEL supporter but I didn’t see there any political or even stylistic consistency.
For the last six years I have witnessed only one attempt to spice things up a bit in this section of Nicosia’s creativity. It was a year ago, during the Leaps of Faith, when a Belgium artist produced a series of t-shirts with “I like Status Quo” printed on them and distributed them in the Buffer Zone while playing the music of Status Quo. But has anyone seen any of these t-shirts ever again? No, I bet you haven’t. They are all deeply buried in the wardrobes of the event’s participants waiting to become a museum piece (for example, I have one and use it only when I argue with friends and want to make a point of making no statement).

Meanwhile, in other countries, people like Ashenbrand have developed an entire industry based on the production of t-shirts to “use your body to advertise shit that matters”. The slogans printed on these tops include campaigns in aid of breast cancer research (“What would you give for a great pair of tits?”), supporting sending anti-AIDS drugs to Africa (“Drug Dealer”) or protests against date rape (“Does date rape mean I also get dinner?”).

All these issues, and many others, are very much present in Cyprus. So, the question is why we can’t be more creative? If nothing else I wish somebody here would produce and distribute free of charge among Cypriot women a t-shirt that says “The show is upstairs” (another of Ashenbrand’s concepts aimed, as you have probably guessed, at men who stare only at one part of our bodies).

And once people would get used to “The show is upstairs”, I propose a new advertising campaign for this newspaper. It would start with the distribution of free condoms with the Cyprus Mail printed on them and followed by a TV ad in which a man and a beautiful woman are shown in bed together and the woman says to the man: “So you also read the Cyprus Mail”.

I bet it would be a bestseller.