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Art and war.
When I think of these two words together, Picasso’s Guernica is the first work that comes to mind. It’s his powerful protest against the Nazis’ 1937 bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish civil war, a riotous snapshot of death and chaos. The famous story goes that when the Gestapa pointed to the painting and asked Picasso, did you do this, he replied, no, you did. Art history overflows with examples of war art – Trajan’s column, Washington Crossing the Delaware, Goya’s The Third of May, the list goes on. Artists understandably find it hard to ignore war. Art marks the moment, vents grief, tells the story.
Today, I’m turning my attention to Armenia and the war that’s been raging in that ancient land in the southern Caucasus mountains at the border of Europe and Asia. If that conflict – between the largely Christian Armenians and the largely Muslim Azerbaijianis — has not been on your radar, it’s likely because it’s largely ignored by the American media, consumed as it is with the pandemic and the aftershocks of the election. But it might also be because, as one of our guests today observes, Armenians can be resistant to having their story told. The four Armenian artists who will join us today are among those telling the story nonetheless.
Along the way, you will hear the word “genocide.” Though Turkey has made it an actual crime to mention its systematic mass murder and expulsion of 1.5 million ethnic Armenians between 1914 and 1923, it happened. Another word you’ll hear is Artsakh. That’s the Armenian term for the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic against whom Armenia were fighting. In the few days since this interview was recorded, a deal was brokered by Russia that ended the fighting but to call that peace is a misnomer. As Mari Firkatian, one of our artists, put it: “It is a land grab of historic proportions,” as that land has been pafrt of historic Armenia for over two millenia. Mari recently helped organize a rally in West Hartford, Connecticut, in support of beleaguered Armenia. We’ll hear a little audio from that – the last voice you’ll hear at the rally is Mari’s – and then the interview. Thanks for listening!
Link to the trailer of his documentary: scarsofsilence.com
Left: “Girl — Hussenig” in Kharpert, Turkey, and right, “Chengiler,” in Yalova, Turkey, villages from which Nubar’s maternal and paternal grandmothers, respectively, fled the genocide.
Marsha Nouritza Obadashian (marshaobadashian.com)
Left, “Broken,” onion skin dye and drawing media on paper. 23″x30″. And ” Altamira,” onion skin dye, collage, drawing materials, and acrylic paint on paper. 84″x124″
From the “Clouds” series.