Stefanos Kouratzis: Charcoal of Cyprus

Tradition and family-run work of charcoal miners in Cyprus. We are very likely looking at the craft that is to become a thing of the past very soon.

© Stefanos Kouratzis | Charcoal of Cyprus
© Stefanos Kouratzis | Charcoal of Cyprus

Traditions are a powerful cultural instrument. It connects generations, sometimes to your ancestors going back hundreds of years, it gives one a sense of belonging, being part of something bigger than oneself and also a feel for one’s roots. Where we come from is extremely important as people are not free radicals floating around on their own - they connect to other people, both from the present and also the past. We carry on traditions and customs from our grandparents, sometimes it would be a Christmas meal recipe, or it could be a type of craft.

© Stefanos Kouratzis | Charcoal of Cyprus
© Stefanos Kouratzis | Charcoal of Cyprus

Stefanos Kouratzis takes tradition and family-run work as a starting point for his project Charcoal of Cyprus. It looks at coal miners in his home country of Cyprus who have recently suffered major setbacks. As the world moves to a greener, more sustainable global economy, people like the ones documented by Kouratzis are seen as collateral damage.

© Stefanos Kouratzis | Charcoal of Cyprus
© Stefanos Kouratzis | Charcoal of Cyprus

They are not offered new jobs or retrained to do something else, they are simply decimated with the discovery that the demand for coal is not as high as it used to be. Perhaps it’s electric heaters or maybe the cheaper imports; the industry has reached such a low point in Cyprus that people who are third and fourth generation coal producers now see it as a hobby rather than a profession to sustain a family. It’s a hard, laborious job that takes plenty of time and effort and it makes you wonder why those people keep going to work if their efforts are not appreciated. Their faces show pride and they simply want to carry on with the family tradition, it’s their heirloom and legacy.

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