An agreement of strategic importance was signed on Monday between the Metropolitan of Kykkos and Tillirias, Nikiforos and Tasoula Hadjitofi, on behalf of the charity “Walk of Truth” for the repatriation in stages of the David DJ Johnson collection as a donation to the Holy Monastery of Kykkos. The David DJ Johnson collection includes around 150 antiquities that encompass a period from the paleolithic (10,000 B.C) to the Hellenistic period (3rd century A.D).
The agreement defines that the objects of the collection will be repatriated in stages, so as the Holy Monastery of Kykkos has the necessary time to create the proper space in its Museum for the exhibition of the objects, which will be available to researchers, academics and the general public.
At the signing ceremony which took place in a closed circle, at the Metochi of Kykkos in Nicosia, in the presence of the Ambassador of the Netherlands in Cyprus, Nathalie Jaarsma, Tasoula Hadjitofi representing the Dutch foundation Walk of Truth, the ownership of the Johnson collection was transferred to the Holy Monastery of Kykkos on behalf of and in the presence of the British collector, David DJ Johnson and his wife Mrs `Catherine Mary Prophrey Johnson. It is worth mentioning that there was a previous agreement in place in December between Tasoula Hadjitofi and the collector David DJ Johnson, who had asked for her help to find a suitable space to transfer the ownership of his collection and have it exhibited while he was alive. The British collector set conditions for this donation, asking Tasoula Hadjitofi to guard them and in case of her death, the Walk of Truth foundation would seek the choice of space and oversee the execution of the agreement.
The terms include points such as 1) his collection should be available to the public, 2) to remain complete and not dispersed, 3) to be used for academic research, in which David DJ Johnson himself will contribute.
The Metropolitan of Kykkos and Tilliria, Nikiforos thanked David DJ Johnson for his important donation to the Monastery of Kykkos and for the love he displayed in his efforts to return the invaluable treasures to Cyprus, and emphasized that the Holy Monastery of Kykkos is preparing a special space in the Museum to welcome the collection over the next few years, as he is fully aware of the wishes of the British collector and will personally ensure that they are kept.
On his side, the British collector David DJ Johnson, explaining why he started choosing Cypriot antiquities, proved the depth of his intelect. “I have always been fascinated by time. We live only partly in the present moment because the present contains all the past and the imaginary future. I have always loved going to museums and archaeological sites. For me archaeology is an exercise of the imagination, like art is. …But for me antiquities… they are not aesthetic objects but containers of the past, of history, so I cannot conceive of owning them without wanting to study the archaeology behind them. I am rather unusual as I fell in love with Cyprus’s past before I had even seen her beautiful mountains or met her lovely people”.
He underlined the originality of the Cypriot antiquities as unique in the world and talked about his ethical dilemma that troubled him as a collector, whether he should actually own antiquities. This ethical dilemma was what drove him to search and contact Tasoula Hadjitofi to help him select the proper space for the donation of his collection.
Tasoula Hadjitofi, the author of the book “The Icon Hunter” and founder of the Walk of Truth foundation stated that “the repatriation of the antiquities symbolizes the yearning of each refugee worldwide to return back home and this is the main motive of my work, as a refugee from Famagusta”.
Tasoula Hadjitofi thanked the donators, David DJ Johnson and his wife, Catherine Mary Pomphrey Johnson, called them aristocrats and explained why the Holy Monastery of Kykkos is the right home for the repatriation of the collection. She added that the Most Reverent Nikiforos, Metropolitan of Kykkos and Tilliria has demonstrated an immense sensitivity and love for culture, byzantine chanting, education and cultural heritage. Mrs Marina Schiza, board member of the Walk of Truth foundation and Stelios Perdikis, the director of the Kykkos Museum, informed her about his vision to expand the museum so as to host antiquities as well. In addition, Tasoula Hadjitofi promised that Walk of Truth will bring over academics from abroad to help the Holy Monastery and the Metropolitan to realize his vision even faster with donations and volunteers.
The ambassador of the Netherlands, Nathalie Jaarsma added that her country is proud for the moral support that it offers to private initiatives and foundations such as the Dutch foundation Walk of Truth and the important work they are doing. Also, she emphasized that Tasoula personally, played a fundamental role in amending Dutch legislation concerning the protection of cultural heritage in case of war, which led to the repatriation of four icons to Cyprus (The Lans case) six years ago. Ambassador Jaarsma also applauded the initiative of David DJ Johnson and confirmed the support of her government to NGO’s like Walk of Truth & the ethical gesture of Johnson today.
Closing the ceremony, the Metropolitan of Kykkos and Tilliria, Nikiforos mentioned that the Holy Monastery has instructed the legal offices of Velaris and Velaris LLC to ensure the legal way to repatriate the Cypriot antiquities of the Johnson collection, as provided for in the agreements between the Walk of Truth foundation and the Holy Monastery of Kykkos, that was prepared by the expert in antiquities, Prof. Dr. Eirini Stamatoudi.
David DJ Johnson also accepted the invitation of Walk of Truth to become an honorary member of their advisory board as an example to other collectors to follow. Johnson ended with a public call to collectors worldwide : “I don’t think I am doing anything very special today, but I hope that it will inspire other collectors to do the same. My fellow collectors, your collections need not disperse and vanish into other people’s private collections when you die, sold off by your children. You have an alternative. You can contact me or Tasoula at Walk of Truth”.