"Greetings from Leiden"

performance by Sonja van Kerkhoff, May 2009

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff   
9 May 2009, heading towards
the Ledra Street border crossing from North
into South Nicosia.


"Greetings From Leiden" is a performance featuring origami elephants bearing local news of my city in the Netherlands, the city of Leiden.

The performance involves laying these elephants out along a street, one by one, and responding to people's questions.

Questions such as what is a greeting, about communication in general, or the relevance of communication (or a greeting) in a situation of tension between local communities. As an outsider to the country of Cyprus and to the Ledra Street border, it seemed most appropriate not to bring a statement but rather a greeting. A greeting from one stranger or foriegner to another. In fact the performance was really about dialogue, and how one might go about this.

The short animation "And these... ...Y aqeullas" with music by David Dely + the band, Tumba y Quema, was shown in the accompanying exhibition.

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff   
9 May 2009, heading towards the Ledra Street border crossing from North into South Nicosia.

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff   
9 May 2009 close to the northern border of the
Ledra Street crossing.

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff   

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff   

Naturally, there were other implications intended by this piece apart from the expression of a 'greeting' or the oddity of assembling a herd of elephants, imported from the Netherlands and one of my goals was to see how close to or how much into the buffer zone I could take my herd.

Another aspect of my performance was to care for these beasts as they were knocked over by passing feet or the wind.

This work was part of the go-ganesha-go project organized by Rose Marie Gnausch.
Initially I placed the first elephant where the exhibition of other works on the northern side of the border stopped and headed for the border. At some point someone put a brick beyond the furtherest elephant as at times I had to leave the herd unattended or there was a crowd around me. So I didn't see who had put the brick there!

I then continued to move this brick elephant-by-elephant closer to the border. I stopped about 1 metre before the buffer zone began, not because of the border guards who having seen my very slow approach were now relaxed and informing others about my "news"-paper herd of elephants. No, I stopped because I ran out of elephants. I had only bought 54 with me.

In general, the border guards explained in Turkish that this was art and usually there was a bit of smiling and discussion. Most tourists spoke German and in general I kept to my story that I was taking my dutch herd across the border (and back again).

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff   

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff   
9 May 2009 close to the northern border of the Ledra Street crossing.

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff   
10 May 2009: at the Ledra Street border crossing, South Nicosia, Cyprus.

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

On the
second day,
I started
close to the
Greek Cypriot
Lidhras street
checkpoint and
headed north,
taking my
elephants
to as
far into the
buffer zone as
I was allowed
to by the
border guards.

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff
10 May, 2009
Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

I managed to get one of the
elephants into the buffer zone
before the guards told me to
stop. I then took the rest in
my bag along with my passport
through to the other side.

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff
10 May, 2009, at Lidhras Street border (the Greek Cypriot side).

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff
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Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff
The elephant on the right is in the buffer zone and the other
crosses over from the border of southern Cyprus.

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff
The origami elephants on 7 May, 2009
on the Lidhras Street (Greek Cypriot side of Nicosia).

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff   

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff
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version of this image


Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

Two days earlier, on June 7th, began laying out my herd of elephants about 500 metres south of the Lidhras Street border crossing. It seemed appropriate because I'd arrived in Cyprus from the south. In consultation with a local Bahai, this seemed a good spot because I didn't want them to be too close to the border. I wanted the elephants to start in a relaxed area, where people would be shopping or walking. Initially I did the performance at the request of this man because he wanted to bring his students to encounter this, and so it had to be on a weekday. I decided to walk the elephants northward until I ran out.
Later, I realised that here I encountered more Greek Cypriots than I had at the border a few days later. They were shop owners or shoppers.

Some were quite critical of the use of an elephant as a symbol for peace which was then an opportunity for a discussion on what symbols were suitable and why.

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

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version of this image


Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff


The teacher of the class wanted to know why the elephants were going in a straight line and my response was "because it was easier to keep them under control".
He then sat down on the street which forced me to change direction.

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff
The t-shirt I was wearing was an artwork by British artist, Elaine Arkell, also a contribution to the go-ganesha-go project. Her intention was for someone to wear the t-shirt during the festival and I wore it as part of my uniform for the performances I made in Cyprus.
Her image is of elephants blowing out peace symbol bubbles.


Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff



After about two hours I packed them up into a shopping bag and carried them across the border to a historic inn (the Büyük Han) on the north side of the checkpoint.


Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff   
The origami elephants on 7 May, 2009
in the Ottoman built Büyük Han (The Great Inn).

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

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version of this image


The Büyük Han (1572) under renovation for a decade (1992-2002) and among wth earliest of the Ottoman public works is now a social meeting place and a tourist location. The lodging rooms on the two floors that surround a courtyard are in use by artisans and artists as studios or shops.

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff
>> Click to view a high quality
version of this image


Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

Performance on the street by Sonja van Kerkhoff

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