Kafedaki with Penny Kyprianou

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Name & line of work?

My name is Penny Kyprianou and I am the Cultural Programs Manager for the Greek Centre in Melbourne.

Where were you born & where do you live now?

I was born in Melbourne, Victoria and I live close to the city in Richmond.

Where in Greece do your ancestors come from?

My family are from Cyprus.

What are you doing & working on at the moment?

Our tiny team is working on this year’s Greek Film Festival, which opens in October. Along with a number of events we’re holding at the Greek Centre including Flavours of Greece, Live at the Greek and a new Storytelling Festival later in the year.

How has your upbringing influenced what you are doing now?

My upbringing has certainly helped shape a love and appreciation for preserving culture and wanting to share that culture in contemporary and meaningful ways.

My Cypriot father was a school teacher and he imprinted Hellenic ideals and the value of maintaining Greek culture but without forcing it upon us. In my early twenties I moved away from Greek culture but came back to it later with a much deeper respect.

Apart from your family, what Greeks have influenced your life?

More recent influences include contemporary Greek artists like film-maker George Lanthimos (Dogtooth, Lobster) who has certainly helped solidify my passion for the arts. I find it exciting that someone is telling a very different stories in unconventional ways. He has a different way of seeing, he’s breaking the mould of Greek Film-making in a way.

Do you regard yourself as Hellenic or Greek? Have you been to Greece?

I think those terms are interchangeable. I feel a strong connection to my Cypriot roots, which certainly helps to deal with Greeks on a daily basis. I have travelled to Cyprus and Greece, and fall in love a little more each time.

What advice would you give your Greek cousins?

I’de have to say that Greeks and Cypriots are far more advanced culturally. I’d love the opportunity to collaborate with Greek artists for the Greek Centre especially now that the art scene is thriving.

What is a piece of ancestral knowledge you still remember to this day?

“Ta lefta den ta perneis mazi sou,” which basically means, “you can’t take your money with you when you die.” Essentially we should enjoy what we have while we’re alive to enjoy it.

What is your favourite Greek food?

Gemista (Stuffed tomatoes).