Kakia Catselli Trachoniti

Catselli Trachoniti KakiaCOB: Cyprus DOB: 1964


1986 BA (Hons) Fine Art Central Saint Martins School of Art, London.
1985 Art & Design North East London Polytechnic

Solo Exhibitions

1985 "People’s Scene"; Tricycle Theatre, London.
1988 "Meeting the artist"; Nicosia.
1993 "Apocalypse"; Nicosia.
1999 "New Horizons"; Nicosia.
2004 "Art is…" ; Nicosia.
2005 "Reverse Phenomena’, Nicosia.

Group Exhibitions

1987 Biennale Toulouse.
1989 Cultural Centre, Athens.
1990 Inner Wheel Club, Nicosia.
1993 Unicef, Nicosia.
2000 Bank of Cyprus, Nicosia Lions, Nicosia.
2001 Bank of Cyprus, Nicosia Telethon, Nicosia.
2002 Cyprus painters of the millennium, Nicosia K Gallery, Nicosia.
2003 Melina Merkouri Foundation, Nicosia.
2005 International Biennale of Contemporary Art, Florence.

Other participations

2003 Poster Design, Ministry of Education and Culture, Cypru
2004 UEFA Stamp design, Cyprus Postal Services.
2005 Cyprus Art in the 20th century, Unops published in Cyprus.
2005 Member of ENCATC European Network of Cultural Administration Training Centres.


"Aphrogennimeni"– foam-born: one of the epithets of Greek goddess Aphrodite (“foam-arisen”), who was born, according to one myth, of the sea foam, near Cyprus. In recent times, especially in the post-colonial era, Aphrodite has been an integral part of Greek Cypriot, collective self-representation – especially for the sake of outsiders. In a (mostly Greek Orthodox) Christian community, a pagan goddess can only be a superficial ‘cultural’ reference, mostly for tourism purposes. Yet, at the same time, Aphrodite is a fragment in a larger ideological edifice, that lays claims on an ‘unbroken’, centuries-long, cultural ‘continuity’. Kakia Catselli-Trachoniti’s “Aphrodite”, in her installation, ‘foam birth’, undermines dominant stereotypes, refrains from participating in dominant discourse(s), and lays claims on a different (part of) tradition. Instead of overused visual prototypes – such as the Hellenistic, 1st c. BC statue of Aphrodite from Soloi, on the west coast of Cyprus, or, more famously, Botticelli’s ‘Venus’ – Catselli’s female figure is a ‘generic’ one: a mannequin – such as the ones used by seamstresses – armless and headless (perhaps, a reference to partly-damaged ancient statues, such as the aforementioned Hellenistic ‘Aphrodite’), made of plasticised, press foam (an equally skewed reference, this time, to the goddess’s mythological birth). The figure stands raised above a platform that is covered with a floor pattern, of the kind that was used in Cypriot houses during most of the previous century, imbuing the set-up, additionally, with a quality of domesticity. Like an a-historic sacred symbol, indifferent to, yet about to receive, people’s offerings, like a woman about to try on her dress-in-the-making, like a blank surface needing to be inscribed, the raised figure stands motionless. And she gets dressed, she gets inscribed. Her plastic dress – also, a cover-shelter – is decorated with colourful, schematic, floral motifs. These are motifs copied off the ones used in the age-old tradition of making ‘mandilas’ [mandila = (head) scarf, kerchief, mantilla]. The making of ‘mandilas’ is now extinct, in Cyprus. It was an old tradition, consisting of small family businesses, each safeguarding its secrets regarding the making of dyes, with which the organic motifs were coloured, after their outlines had been printed on the fabric, using wooden-block stencils (manas). The entire process resembled work in a medieval alchemist’s workshop, and the safeguarding of the trade’s ‘secrets’ contributed to the tradition’s demise. The ‘mandila’ was an integral part of women’s (and, occasionally, men’s) attire, and often carried various symbolisms Its public uses included a (still-practiced) brief ritual, in which the parents pass a ‘mandila’ around the waists of the bride and groom, indicating familial ties, and blessings wished upon the young couple. On other occasions, wearing a black ‘mandila’ was a sign of grief and mourning. It is to this popular tradition that Catselli’s work refers. The replacement of cloth by plastic, for the ‘dress’, alludes to the death of the elaborate, manual-skill procedure–ritual of ‘mandila’ making. At the same time, it constitutes a resistance to a nostalgic, cliché-ridden, and thus superficial, tapping into the local past. Instead, and this is reinforced by the large, palimpsest-like prints that hang on a pole, standing next to the main ‘figure’ of the installation, the entire construction acts as a bearer of personal memory. A memory that inevitably carries aspects of the collective consciousness (as well as of the unconscious), which, however, resists hegemonic, collective discourses. Despite the apparent references to recent tradition, and the supposed allusions to time-honoured mythology, Catselli’s ‘foam birth’ remains stubbornly personal, yet not hermetically sealed: it is open and is inviting individual, one-to-one encounters and exchanges.

Dr. Antonis Danos
Assistant Professor
Department of Art and Design, Intercollege, Nicosia, Cyprus