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Reflections of a Collective Memory

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  • Reflections of a Collective Memory reflects and explores how a community constructs its identity when it is built on a common memory. Through a series of portraits, a story unfolds of these immigrants of Armenian descent who currently live in the Greater New York Area. Though my subjects are from different stages in life and styles of living, they all share a memory of the Armenian Genocide that happened almost a century ago.
    Telling this story in black and white, this body of work highlights how the memory of the Armenian Genocide is reflected in many areas of the Armenian community’s life today. The viewer is invited to witness the effects of a painful past and how it can reflect its shadow on the present. And yet, observe as well the notable expressions through painting and dance that capture this unique collective identity as it continues to grow in vibrancy from world-wide denial of the genocide.
    After a Century... they Reflect
  • Peruz Kalousian
    Birthplace: Palu, Turkey

    At the age of 6, what she remembers is how males over the age of 15 in her village were taken and never came back, including her 2 uncles.
    Her grandfather sensed that something was about to happen to the Armenian people and therefore, decided to send his son to America to work and build a secure future for his family.
    When the genocide started, her father was already abroad, while her mother worked as a maid for a rich Turkish family. This saved both of them. Later they escaped to Beirut, Lebanon.
    She stayed for more than a year in an Orphanage in Beirut, until her father was able to bring his family to New York City around the early 1920s.
  • Charlette Kechejian
    Birthplace: Nikhda, Turkey

    Walking for long miles through the desert, escaping persecutions by the ruling Yong Turks.
    Today what she mostly remembers how great and caring her mother was throughout this painful journey.
    Her mother always promised her; this will be over we will be free, walk a little more and we will find comfort and happiness again.
    Eventually they arrived to Beirut, Lebanon. Her mother worked as a nurse in an orphanage for almost 2 years.
    In the early 1920s the family moved to New York and started a new life.
  • Julia a young dancer watching a traditional Armenian dancing performance with the residents of the Armenian Nursing Home in Flushing, Queens, New York.
    Claiming Identity
    Shushi, young dancers performing on Easter, Saint Vartan Church in New York City.
  • Historical records show that Armenian dance has the most ancient origins in the world. From the 5th to the 3rd millennia B.C. many rock paintings were found with scenes of country dancing.
    Today, one of the activities that bring the Armenian community together is traditional dancing. It could be a way of unconscious reconnection with the past, or it is simply a way of getting young people together.
    The Armenian identity is depicted through the characterization of its dance. The dancers, costumes, and music often generate a story telling scene with a strong emotional expression.
    To Armenians dancing is reflecting on the past and constructing the present identity of the Armenian community. An identity that is inseparable of the memory of the genocide.
    Performances and concerts are held occasionally. Many love to watch the young performers dancing on very traditional Armenian songs.
    There are numerous popular dancing groups in the greater New York area and most likely in any other American city with significant Armenian presence.
  • Rehearsals, Shushi Dancing Ensemble, Tenafly, New Jersey
  • Backstage preparations for a performance event in Hackensack, NJ - Shushi Dancing Ensemble
  • Shushi Dancing Ensemble, Hackensack, NJ
  • Shushi dancers, Raele Sabounjian and Lorig Setrakian both have been dancing with Shushi for 10 years or more
    I am a Descendant
  • Art in its own way tries to understand and heal what cannot be addressed through tribunals only. In this case tribunals are absent from history and replaced with denial that often accompanies those painful memories.

    The Armenian Genocide had a great impact on Armenian art. This impact was and still represented in various mediums, from painting to singing and so forth.
  • Kevork Murad, a New York based painter.
    Of Armenian-Syrian origin, the recent violence in Syira along with his childhood memories of the Armenian is strongly overshadowing his latest work.
  • Anias Tekerian, a New York based singer.
    Revives old and traditional Armenian songs singing with her band "Zulal".
  • Aram Jibelian, New York based photographer.
    His latest work deals with the idea of living in exile and denial.
  • Nora Armani, New York based actress and director.
    Her latest work "Moving Stories" deals with how moving from one place to another can be a traumatic experience.
  • Nishan Kazazian, a New York based architect and artist.
    Memory and identity is always reflected in his artwork and many of his voluntary activities.
  • Claire Kedeshian, Musician and Lawyer in New York
    Reconnecting with the past and the roots ... through "Heritage Tourism"
  • A large number of Armenian thinkers, scholars and politicians dedicated their lives, researching, writing and raising awareness about the Armenian Genocide. These efforts are more exacerbated by the denial, rather than the genocide itself.

    Instead of dealing with grief, soon the Armenian struggle became a cause for recognition. Denial certainly shaped this struggle in a different way and became a central issue in the literature of any topic dealing with the Armenian Genocide.

    The process of international recognition of the Armenian Genocide is indeed one of the top priorities of most Armenian politicians and thinkers. For the most part, the struggle for recognition will never stop as long as denial is the only answer.

    The issue of denial is not only driving scholarly efforts, but it is also a key influencer for maintain the Armenian identity across generations.
  • Anny Bakalian, a scholar and writer. New York
    The image on the screen is a photo of an abandoned church since 1915, taken during her last visit to Turkey.
  • Dennis Papazian, founder of the Armenian Research Center at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. on the 97th memory of the Armenian Genocide Dennis speaks about ways of reaching the younger Turkish generation, through translating Armenian history books to Turkish.
  • Ruth Thomasian, is the founder of Project Save in Boston, MA. Her project is about collecting archival images, even before the genocide, from historical Armenia. The project also documents Armenians in the Diaspora, mainly in North America.
  • For many years, Hirant Gulian served as chairman for the Knights of Vartan Times Square Armenian Genocide Commemoration Committee. Times Square closes twice per year, once on New Year's Eve and once on April 24th where hundreds of Armenians commemorate the memory of the Genocide
  • One of the first demonstration in Times Square in memory of the Armenian Genocide asking for recognition -

    For more on this project, see the book on blurb: