Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Translation? Arabic graffiti in Palea Enklistra, Cyprus

As well as possibly political graffiti, I have some probably religious, Arabic graffiti on Christian buildings - the cave chapel of Palea Enklistra - in Cyprus. Can anyone suggest a translation?

Hopefully Gavin will understand this better than my worryingly poor face-to-face explanation of my interest in graffiti on cultural heritage sites.

Apparently, in the 1960s, Turkish Cypriot shepherds defaced every single figure in the wall paintings of the chapel of Palea Enklistra. But I'm more intrigued by acts of disfigurement that were not vandalism - by ones that were 'devotional act[s]' (Plesch, 2005: 185).

For instance, before the iconoclastic vandalism of the paintings, some visitors to Palea Enklistra had inscribed carvings of the Star of David, ships, a fish and a camel(?), and drawings of horses with riders – perhaps of the mounted Saint George depicted in the chapel (see fig. 1). They were prayers made physical, eternal.

Figure 1: devotional acts of disfigurement, Palea Enklistra

Some of these may have been Greek Cypriot Orthodox graffiti; but some were Arabic inscriptions (see fig. 2), and some included Arabic inscriptions (or had Arabic inscriptions added to them), like the one inside the Star of David in the top left corner of figure 1 (see fig. 3).

[21st June 2011 update; 23rd June 2011 correction]

Over on Cyprus Forum, Denizaksulu has [and Emma Ruby have] identified the inscription inside the Star of David as the graffiti artist's name, Muhammed ['Muhsin'] (though the surname is unreadable).

[Original post continued...]

Figure 2: Arabic inscription on Ayios Ermolaos (Saint Ermolaos), Palea Enklistra chapel

Figure 3: Arabic inscription in a Star of David in the hands of a saint (Ayios Admidios/Damiaios - Saint Adam/Damian?), Palea Enklistra

If you're still here, do you have any idea what this graffito means (see fig. 4); or even which language it is in?

It's in Limassol, and it was written on a wall of the Hellas Guest House (by one of its residents?); but unfortunately I don't know anything about these scripts. As far as I know, it could be anything from Arabic to Urdu.

[21st June 2011 update]

Denizaksulu was also able to translate this graffiti: it's 'the word for God/Allah and then Palestine'.

[Original post continued...]

Figure 4: Arabic graffito on the Hellas Guest House, Limassol


Plesch, V. 2005: "Body of evidence: Devotional graffiti in a Piedmontese chapel." In Heusser, M, Hannoosh, M, Haskell, E, Hoek, L, Scott, D and de Voogd, P, (Eds.). On verbal / visual representation: Word & image interactions IV, 179-191. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

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