Interlacing elegance across a Cypriot cultural heritage

Lefkara lace or Lefkaritika

Pretty in their delicateness and prized a trove in heritage residing, the uniquely artistic and as artistically named craft of the lefkaritika is a proud possession of the native people of a place dignified already in its distinction as being among the most beautiful towns in Europe. From the village of Pano Lefkara nestled in the island country of Cyprus emerges this tradition in exquisite beauty as a continuing legacy of a good many centuries, unleashing its glamour in all essential simplicity beckoning out of the pristine expanse of its being in characteristic manner of just how it should be.

Namesake indeed in its identity as the Lefkaritika, the Lefkara Lace unique to the picturesque town celebrated as well in this glory of embroidering craftsmanship is an indigenous stemming unfurling since at least the fourteenth century. Prominent in its visage as alluding to the immaculate realm of white embroidery, this handcrafted representation in tradition and mastery alike sums up a significant span of identity for the women of Pano Lefkara engaged in this weaving of a heritage poignant indeed in its amassment of many an influences marking its times in origin.

Distinctive in its prominent elements of the hemstitch and cutwork as well as the satin stitch fillings and needlepoint edgings, the Lefkara lace unwinds along such trails of history that sees it incorporating traits of such character as stemming from the embroidery practices of Venetian courtiers ruling over the country at one point in time as well as finding resplendent expression in the imbibing of ancient Greek and Byzantine patterns in intricate manifestations of geometry. Incredible a treasure of cultural especialness and one that is incredible in its appearance as well as in lesser tangible aspects of assertion, it sure is fitting only for such a craft of immense allure to find inclusion in the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. And thus it continues its elegant run along the edges of an existence distinctively Cyprusian, as an art and entity alike dramatically unfurling either way as a lineage discrete indeed to standout as an entire identity in and by itself.

Every single thing about the Lefkara Lace makes for a discovery in remarkability. But what makes this already stunning specimen of spectacular skill all the more intriguing in its very premise of being is the reversible feature of it. Availed out of the expanse of pull thread embroidery, as a satin stitch detailed definition around its edges, the original crafting out of a white cotton fabric native to Cyprus has since evolved to also allow for silk and linen to characterise its nature. The palette of hues coloring this trail of tradition hinges on the allure of subtlety and necessarily as well, keeping in line with its white embroidery classification to take upon thus tinges of the whites and the creams and the ecrus and the browns.

Lefkartika might itself be a ingrained element in indigenous appeal but it actually is the evolution upon another technique ruling the realm of the weaves across textiles. Emerging from the asproploumia type of weave that refers to the white threaded work upon an identical white or cream expanse of fabric, the original iteration of the lace occurred in sync with the old elements of its forerunner. ‘Founded’ thus upon a premise covering an entity already traditional, the lefkara lace has since encompassed an identity of its own while retaining still its characteristic features of origin to today make for an assertion locally revered and globally distinct as well.

cyprus craft unesco intangible cultural heritage
Source: Facebook

The cultural continuity of the lefkartika craft across the ages might be embodying an essence that has treaded the organised scheme of its viability as a product after all. In fact, the making of the lefkara lace has been a commercial pursuit taken to by the native women in their definite embroideress identity of the “ploumarisses” since quite long in history. But even then the dignity of this assertion of textile has not a bit waned along the spectrum of the purely artistic. Emerging as a leisurely pursuit indulged in as a pastime and therefore not prominent as a ‘thing’ yet outside of the local popularity has been the lefkartika that owes in fact its definite characteristics today manifesting as a marker of aesthetic quality to this very reverence of exclusively native leanings. As an integral part of the wedding dowry that every woman of the village carefully stored away in all lovingness to secure for themselves their life partner, the lace assumed then a position of utmost cultural and social relevance before beginning to scout out a similar reputation in the global market.

Charting out a measure of success commercially might be what endowed upon the lefkartika an identity so significant to have it seek out that world status in representation but the integrity of this mode of the tradition has remained intact in its occurring still along native lines of crafting. The knowledge of this form of the artisan is passed on by mothers to daughters generation after generation saving not just its fading away into the shadows of oblivion but in the process also ushering in a continuously evolving nature of its essence.

As young girls take to this craft in all recognition of its significance for the very existence of its region of origin after which it is named as well, what emerges is a unique juxtaposition of design and styles. Adhered to indeed in the many basic components of the traditional but interpreted also in such manner that reflects through the more contemporary aesthetic woven into these dainty delights of delicateness, every lace thus made assumes therefore a uniqueness alluding not only to the valley but to every individual artisan as well. Entailing out of that account are such assertions of the lefkara lace that decks up everything from tablecloths and table runners and table covers, as well as napkins and showpieces and doilies and the like in such striking renditions that help further the cause of its being as a distinctive work of art standout in its essence unlike anything else.

The modern mavericks shaping out from the myriad influences that sums up pretty much the true character of the lefkaritika craft is an ode indeed to its enduring legacy. As the story goes, the lefkara lace today decorates the Duomo Cathedral in Milan though not so much alluding to its modern day prominence as it does to its authentic amassing of the allure. How this particular length of the lace found its way to Italy is what makes this narrative distinctive in its ‘validating’ the lefkaritika legacy. Supposedly brought by renowned Renaissance painter Leonardo da Vinci upon his visit to Cyprus in the 15th century would be this assertion of beauty that is also reputed to feature in the painter’s ‘The Last Supper’ piece of art. And thus it embarked, along this specific path of no lesser a distinction, taking upon a new lease of life in the definite zigzag needlework that has since come to be known as the da Vinci design.

Intricate in the entire length of its working out in a single thread, eking out through the deft employment of needlework such geometric designs, often as trellises enclosing stylised plant designs within that span out exactly the same both ways of its running. Availed through a combination of a many stitches and cuts would be such motifs and patterns deriving from the many beautiful expressions of nature and appearing thus as flowers and rivers and the like that ended up beautifying also everyday pieces of garments. French thread upon Irish linen happens to be the prevailing mode in indigenousness today with still the color pattern adhered to in all strict maintenance of authenticity. Endowing thus the Lefkara lace with a legacy so integral to its continued furtherance in living of an entire village is this traditional practice of a truly remarkable art form that has since come to significantly account for considerable chunks of its cosmopolitan cultural identity.

lefkara lace craft cypriot
Source: North Cyprus

Perhaps a skill acquired from the Venetian noblewomen of the time, this exquisite drawn-and-counted thread embroidery continues to still mark the alleys and arbors of the quaint little town as skilled local women engage in this endeavor of crafting art out of each piece of linen. The old world ambience of the charming Pano Lefkara fame resides still in every prick of the needle eking out these wonders of the weave that today might be a luxurious peep into the legacy of an entire nation but that speaks simultaneously of a story of subsistence at some point of time in history.

Of exclusive artistic fluency in its beginnings as a leisurely stepping into a world steeped with the riches of the arts to emerging to be a veritable savior of an entire existence within the confines of the village faced with the dooming prospect of an economic decline during times as recent as the the late years of the 1800s and the early days of the 20th century, the Lefkara craft has assumed an essence steeped not just in the resplendence of its unfurling as beauty in flourish but also encompassing fully the responsibility that necessarily follows every entity priding itself in an identity of its own. Dainty might be the demeanor upon which this signature unfurling of the particular Cypriot revelation comes to rest but it is history indeed the Lefkara lace has come to adorn, in all its dignified decking up of a culture even when perilously almost hinging on the ends of it.