George Seferis (1900 – 1971) was a Greek modernist poet, a diplomat and a Nobel laureate. His body of work is deeply rooted in the themes of land, migration and exile. Reading Seferis, one can easily infer his cosmopolitan experience and how he found refuge in writing, and language by extension, as a remedy. In his poems he manipulates myth and symbolism to comment on and juxtapose contemporary political and social issues of the time.
Seferis also maintained very close – professional and personal – ties with the island of Cyprus. Reading his poem Helen (translation by Edmund Keeley), we were caught by the line ‘Platres: where is Platres? And this island: who knows it?’ We put together an artist edition around the notions of land, Cyprus, and that of knowing a place. We decided to play with the language in which Seferis found refuge by replacing the letters with a unique cipher.
‘And this island: who knows it?’ is a reconstruction of the general map of Cyprus issued by the government – the text set in a new typeface created for this purpose: Seferian. Research tools for Seferian included traditional literature and city walks in Nicosia. Seferian’s characters are inspired by local graffiti as well as European and East Asian characters and typefaces. Seferian was hand drawn and designed originally on paper in order to simulate the feeling of a manuscript, and later digitally forged into a typeface.
‘And this island: who knows it?’ was created by Stephan Takkides and Stelios Hadjithomas as part of the exhibition Tribute to George Seferis 1900-71: An exhibition with artists’ books (Museums of the Pancyprian Gymnasium, Nicosia, Cyprus, 2017).