Postage stamp design in the Republic of Cyprus through the eyes of citizens: a contemporary take on traditional culture

Sonia Andreou

Punctum, 4(1): 9-26, 2018
DOI: 10.18680/hss.2018.0003


The present study is part of a larger research into the connoted messages transmitted via postage stamp design as part of a country’s official image repertoire, the ideologies behind them, and how they are perceived by the citizens of the state. We concentrated on the Republic of Cyprus, a relatively newly-founded, post-colonial state, which gained its independence in 1960. We followed a mixed methods approach which allowed the deeper comprehension of the messages promoted by the authorities through postage stamp designs, while simultaneously studying the views of Cypriot citizens. During the first phase we categorized the corpus of stamps (998) with the aid of quantitative content analysis, a tool that enabled us to map the messages that the issuing authorities aimed to transfer. The second phase involved the exploration of how citizens perceive the official image repertoire through stamp design using a survey research (384 adult participants), followed by focus group interviews and photo elicitation. Furthermore, we employed semiotics to study a variety of stamp imagery taking into consideration parameters such as colour and shape, point of view and frame, as well as verbal elements. According to our findings the official image repertoire favoured topics that underline Cyprus’ ancient heritage and the role of religion. The citizens nevertheless sought a renewed way for the official representation of their country. Their need for a more inclusive repertoire was expressed through stamp design depicting local folklore culture, ideologically linking it with an almost ‘rebellious’ way of expression not imposed by any hierarchy. This newfound interest in folklore forms of expression intensified in recent years due to the difficulties arising from the financial crisis of 2012, as well as the current discussions for resolving the Cyprus dispute. The aim of this study is to examine how design becomes embedded in the everyday and cultivates a shared sense of belonging to the citizens of the state.

KEYWORDS: postage stamps, Cyprus, folk culture, visual communication, ideology
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