As much ink is spilled, yet it would be too low to put it in a chapter called Christodoulos Paphios. It is difficult and risky to attempt writing about this great servant of Shadow Theater in a few pages, but our work would be incomplete if this great personality of Chloraka would have been absent.
Christodoulos Antoniadis (Paphios was its pseudonym) was born in Chloraka on 2 February 1904. His parents were Achilles Vlokkos- an old fisherman and good-voiced chanter – and Panagiotou. He married Vrionou (Fkonou) in 1927. Together they got nine children. Four of their children have Homeric names: Achilles, Patroclus, Paris and Helen. The eldest son, whom he lost in a car accident in Aphrodite’s Rock, had the name of Anthony because he admired and loved his colleague puppeteer, Antoni Molla. When it was the time for his son Patroklos to be baptized – because then it was a tradition that a godfather gave the name to a child – he stood up by the godfather and at the time the latter was about to say the name to the priest, the Paphios with his commanding voice said: “but if Patroclus has not gone”. In 1982 he lost his youngest child – Elpidoforos. His smaller daughter, Patou, also died a few years before, offended by nature, but always stayed at his side during his tough last hours.
Encounter with Karaghiozis and his first efforts
The Paphios met Karagiozis at his eight years of age, when in 1912 the puppeteer Gerasimos of Cephalonia came in Chloraka, to give a shadow theater show. His father helped the coffer-house owner were Gerasimos was hosted, and so he could get into the coffer-house freely and watch the performances. The first time, when he attended the show, he thought firstly that it were small daemons, that he brought down from the roof of the cafe. His father, however, reassured him by telling him that it is pennatzidkia (small figures painted and cut-off from cardboard) and promised the other day to get him behind the screen to see the figures as it then happened. Then, the small Ttooulis began collecting empty boxes of delights and made his first puppet figures imitating different voices.
His love for the Karagiozis was a thunderbolt. He had him constantly in his mind. Once, in the evening when his parents were not at home, he called several friends to play karaigiosis in front of them. He took a bed sheet out of his bed and set it up as a scene. He also took a small guy together with him behind the curtain , as a little assistant who was holding the candle. He put another guy at the door to collect the “fee”. The entry cost two or three matches or some candle cinder. Everything went well until his little assistant touched the bed sheet with a candle causing the fire. Then they panicked and started shouting. His mother, who was in the next house, heard the voices and rushed to see what was going on. Facing the spectacle, she shouted: “Thou, the three-times accursed, burn our sheet! “. She grabbed him then and started to clout him. At the same time his father came in, and when he was informed of the events he started to beat him strongly to remember. After “eating” enough, the guy managed to escape at some point and drudged against the boy that held the candle.
The great fondness for the shadow theater, many hours spent on the creation of figures from one side, and poverty on the other side were the causes that contributed to the fact that small Ttooulis flunked a 4-th grade class of primary school. So, his father took him out of school and took him to a tailor in the Estate to learn the art. But there he found a good field of action for his good fortune, since the shop was full of cardboard and scissors. He picked the cardboard pieces and took to his home where in the evenings he created his puppet figures.
Shortly afterwards the Paphios learned the “construction work”, which was his main occupation until 18. Until then he played Karagiozis only to his liking, and for his friends and, as he said, taking occasionally money.
His first tours
In 1923 he went to Nicosia. There, he found the maestro, Michael Zavras, whom he had met in Paphos when they were building the Diarizos bridge, and who offered him a job. That year, Nikos Smyrnios and Athinodoros played Karagiozis in the capital city. From the latter – he loved him particularly because he was playing patriotic works – he took several lessons. Then, he relinquished the construction work for a while, took a suitcase with the puppet figures that he had made and went to Gerolakkos, where he played two nights. After he went to Astromeritis, where he was hosted by Leonidas Charalambides, who was a teacher in Chloraka some time before and they knew each other. Then he went to Zodies village and then to Kampos.
After the success he saw on his first tour, he took courage and continued to walk around the villages, mainly in the regions of Paphos and Limassol. Whichever village he went, two or three children went around with a bell and touted its arrival. The performances were then usually made in cafes. Has not always treated by his employers in the same manner. Many were the times when he slept offended, hungry and disparaged by the ugly behavior of people. He then picked his stuff up and left, walking endless hours for the next destination. On the way as he was going, he sworn that he would not let any of his children deal with this profession. From time to time he relinquished the profession of Karagiozis puppeteer to tackle the construction works again. Shortly after 1940, he worked on the construction of the Paphos Military Airport as a caretaker assistant. After the earthquake of 1953 he worked again as a mason in the shanties, which were constructed for the earthquake victims.
But the passion for cheeky Karagiozis did not extinguish, and though he had given it up for a while, he took again his suitcase and started to wonder from village to village.
Events from his tours
Once in a village he had received fourteen piasters from the show he gave. The coffee-house owner allowed half of spectators to get in free. When all the spectators left, the hostess served him the beans to eat and then he slept in a bed in the same coffee-house. When he woke up, he pulled down the scene and moved for the next village. During the afternoon, he sees the coffee-house owner of the village, who came in a wild mood telling: “You left and did not pay your food and your mattress. What did you mean; to get all freebee? “. The Paphios replied, “Hey you, you allowed the half of villagers to get in free to my performance. Do you think that was the Government to send me here to entertain you free? “.
I want you to pay, or see it? said the cafe owner and lifted the stave he brought with him.
How much do you want; asked Paphios.
Four bakiras, replied.
Wow, you ran three miles for four bakiras?
Then Paphios gave him half a shilling and the cafe owner left satisfied.
Another time a well-known teacher of that time told Paphios something that hurt him too much:
We live in the twentieth century with flying irons and thou, Paphios, continue to fool the people with your cardboards?
And Paphios answered:
Okay, teacher, you’re talking like an ignoramus. In vain you learned the letters. At least listen to what they say about my art, the literate people with genuine spiritual stature.
Many teachers were involved in organizing the performances for schoolchildren. But there were also others who forbade children to come to the cafe where he gave his performances. If they managed to find any children, they were kicked off the café, and the other day expelled from the school, although the karagiozis was the only entertainment they had in the villages.
Wherever Paphios went, the cinemas got closed, thus creating many enemies. Cinema owners paid to kiddies to throw stones during the shows. When in 1958 he played in Limassol, someone came in and said:
Did you recognize me, Mr. Paphios?
Who you are; he asked him.
I am one of those who threw stones at you in 1927.
And you came here unashamed to tell me that, you, oaf?
Smite, but listen to me first, he said.
Nah , you are a savvy guy, says the Paphios.
Well, they gave me a pound to throw a stone. I leave the pound. Then no one killed a man with a pound.
The Paphios was esteemed also by the Turkish Cypriots, who understood his work and enjoyed it. Once, he was in a Turkish-Cypriot village and staged the play of Katsantonis. The Greeks, in this work, continually killed the Turks. Then someone got up, went behind the scene and said to Paphios “Maestro, kill here some Christian, because the Turks are seething in there”. Again, another time, when he presented the play of Athanasius Diakos in Panagia. After the show, a Turkish officer approached and said, in a friendly way: “Do not play, Mr. Paphios, such plays in this way, because these are crazy guys, and they can go to Asproyan to slay all Turks.” People who did not go school learned the good and bad times of Hellenism through Karaghiozis.
This great puppeteer did not remain faithful to the text he had before him, or which he remembered by heart, but he added a lot of his own. In Chloraka he played once the ‘Alexander the Great and the Beast.” So, Hadziavatis went to kill the beast, which bellowed too loud. Then, Morfonio asks: “Who roars so?” And he replied: “In Vanna’s tractor”. So, putting real people who were among the audience and satirizing them, he made his work more vivid and spread plenty of laughter to viewers.
During the struggle of EOKA, he went to Fyti, where he played five to six nights. One morning he heard a megaphone to call men to gather in the village church. The British suspected him and after the scrutiny made by them led him to Stroumpi. There he was photographed and then Paphios asked a policeman: “But what they hell they made up their mind to take pictures of mine?” “They thought you were Dighenis,” he says. Then they put him in a lorry with other prisoners and led them to Ktima. In detention facilities of Ktima he was held together with Takis Sofokleous. One day they both got sick and they were taken to the doctor. There Takis Sofokleous found the opportunity and escaped. Then the English started to beat Paphios to testify where Sophocles had hidden, because they believed that he knew. After eight days they released him, and when he went home he learned from his wife that the Englishmen passed and made the house upside down.
The Paphios on TV
Around 1977, the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation sought to document and publicize the art of Shadow Theater, an art that television had mangled. Paphios rejoiced for the proposal they did, but he was not very excited, because he felt that he was getting older and could not give the performance as skillfully as he wanted to. The first project that had been recorded was rejected after rehearsal because he committed blasphemy. Then he played it again and it was approved. He was ashamed, as he said himself: “Having been a Karagiozis – puppeteer for so many years, and I didn’t figure it out that it was bad habit to commit blasphemy. I admit my mistake, above all, when I think that it would be watched by the kiddies.”
The reputation of puppeteer from Chloraka had flown outside the borders of Cyprus. At the invitation of Cypriot expatriates, he traveled twelve times to Greece to give his performances. In one of his trips, in 1958, he tried to join the association of puppeteers, to get his pension when he would grow old, but the Greeks colleagues did not accept him as he was not a permanent resident of Greece. He also went for performances to England and Germany. In Munich in 1978 he received very positive feedback and his scene and the puppet figures were bought by the Museum of the city.
Paphios – the painter and his acquaintance with Vempo
Paphios, in addition of being a famous Karagiozis – puppeteer, was also s very good painter. He decorated his scene with his fine works. As he says, he deals with painting since 1946 when he met Sophia Vempo: “She came into my heart ahead. Since the time she had been moving around the camps during the war, entertaining the soldiers. And when I saw her the first time so friendly mellowed, sweet-faced, sweet-eyed, a force inside me pushed me to paint. Designed and redesigned, erasing and re-erasing, but finally I finished. I went to Athens at her theater and sent her the portrait with a taxi driver. One evening I sat in the front row and offered her a bouquet, she thanked me and welcomed me. I did not dare to get close, me – a humble creature, and she – a princess of Art. I celebrated her, I loved her as a saint. ” When after some time Vempo came to Paphos and sang, they said that she did it for the sake of Paphos. Paphios participated in the exhibitions of folk, self-taught painters, and many works have been purchased by art lovers, while many of them were donated by himself.
The end of the prominent puppeteer
Since 1970 the Paphios ceased to work professionally with Karaghiozis. He wanted to stay close to the “Chatzini” and to take care of his small orchard. He even bought a motorcycle and he liked to ride. One evening in 1983 he got up in the dark, fell down and broke his leg and get stuck in bed until his end. His daughter Helen got him close to her and looked after him, together with her sister, with love. During his last hours, journalists and other intellectuals walked in and out in the house of the hostess – Helen, to interview him, to say a couple of words. They understood what was Paphios, who was the man who would leave from this world.
The tradition continues
As mentioned above, Paphios did not want to make puppeteers of any of the children. Only his son Achilles, who died in 1987, followed his father’s profession for one year and then dropped off. Seeing the limbo, hunger and deprivation, he understood how difficult his father’s profession was and preferred a quieter life. Since 1988 his children – Achilles, Christos, Giannis, Anastasios and Kostas – continued the tradition of Shadow Theater with performances at various festivals. They organized a show of puppet figures, a scene of shadow theater, paintings and a collection of poems. Among the figures there were some made by Paphios himself and by Achilles. Also, a worthy successor of Paphios is his grandson, Christodoulos Antoniou, a son of his daughter Helen, who, since childhood, has followed his grandfather in various performances and learned firsthand the art of shadow theater. He has his own workshop in Nicosia where he creates the puppet figures, and in summers he moves around the villages for performances, as his grandfather did. Many journalists and experts have visited Christodoulos Antonios, and have written the best reviews for him.
Karagiozis, Morfonios, Hadziavatis, Barba-Giorgos , Veligkekas, Stavrakas, the Soldering Gun, all of them being lifeless cardboard creatures, took flesh and bones with the power of voice and craftmanship of Christodoulos Paphios’ hands. The whole generations were nursed, taught, cried and laughed with his stories. With his restless spirit and creativity, Christodoulos Paphios was impossible to stand being the prisoner of the bed. In 1987 Paphios closed his eyes sideways to figures that he had created and loved so much, leaving behind a tremendous legacy.