Serpent and Lily

Serpent and Lily (2018) derives its name from the first published book by Nikos Kazantzakis. In Serpent and Lily (1906) the author commits himself with a diary and is found in time, love, and death. His love for an Irish woman begins to take over his rational thinking. His passion against corruption becomes distinctive in the work. He correlates himself with a serpent lusting for the lily and his youth is tangled among the urgency of love, passion and fantasy. 


Serpent and Lily is a violin bow out of human hair.  The project began in 2018 as an experiment to study the sensitivity behind the aesthetics of the hair.  I called out women from my home country and asked them if they are interested to participate in this project by cutting off a part of their hair and donate them to the project.  Their hair would result towards the construction of the violin bow.

The idea to ask women from my home country came about due to the history of Cyprus and the invasion by Turkey in 1974.  During the invasion many women were left unprotected, raped and lost their children due to the war.  Through this work there are lots of symbolisms, associations, autobiographical narratives, and historical facts that contribute towards the historical weight the object carries.

Through the story telling of what is Serpent and Lily, I see my autobiography through my family’s history, the untold traumas, and how it is transferred to the following generations.  In Serpent and Lily, I don’t try to suggest any views nor critic on the political situation of Cyprus, but rather I explore this affiliation to understand my autobiographical traumas that are either conscious or subconscious concerning violence, conflict, fragility, love, beauty, vulnerability, sacrifice, memory, purity, fantasy and resistance.


Hair imply individual and group identity (Synnott 1987; Pergament 1999).  Hair in most cultures  is a cause on how one body is perceived within the social constructs and is a way to communicate sexual desires and restrictions (Leach 1958; Pergament 1999; Synnot 1987), gender-based preferences, religion beliefs, political stances, social classes (Hirschman 2002: 358; Mazur 1993), paganistic traditions and ceremonies, emotional and psychological states, as well as social taboos depending on the gender choice.  Based on Synnott, even if hair communicate rejection of those signifiers they still imply an opposition to the same issues (Synnott 1987; 382; Hirschman 2002: 361).  Even if hair in reality is dead tissue in our bodies, it still has a strong symbolistic weight on the body due to how it was used in the past and what it implies for the socio-economic structures concerning the market of aesthetics and beauty (Hirschman 2002: 355).


Courtesy of the artist

Copyright © 2018 by Nicolina Stylianou. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part, by any means, without written permission is prohibited.