by Anna Bratulic
To mark the 85th anniversary of the 1915 Armenian genocide. the Armenian Students Association has organized a series of commemorative events aimed at educating the public about what happened to their people.
The events, which so far have included an art exhibition and a one-man play, and will include a public reading, were expressly chosen because of the universality of art.
"It's a language that communicates to all people, all over the world. Art talks to people coming from different backgrounds and cultures," said Raffi Niziblian, the events co-ordinator.
The art exhibit was shown at the VAV Gallery March 5 to 11. It included paintings, photographs and sculptures by professional artists, many of whom were of Armenian decent. One painting, called Massacre, 1915, by Garo Margossian, is particularly harrowing. It depicts a dark, almost black, field of white crosses beneath a plum-red sky, and a person with a mane of yellowing gray hair hunched over a rock in the foreground.
The Holocaust was also represented in the exhibition. Polish-born artist Rita Briansky had three of her Kaddish Series paintings displayed as a memorial to victims of the Holocaust. In Hebrew, the word kaddish means prayer for the dead.
Niziblian feels that the difference between the legacy of the Jewish Holocaust and that of the Armenian genocide is acknowledgement. "[In the case of the Holocaust,] the wrong-doers accepted that what they did was wrong, and they tried to make amends, although they didn't, couldn't and never will be able to do it; whereas with the Armenian genocide, it has not only gone unrecognized by the Turks, but [the use of the term genocide to characterize what happened to Armenians living under Ottoman rule] has not been recognized by Canada either," he said.
During World War I, Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were victims of a systematic killing led by the Committee of Union and Progress, or "Young Turks," as they were popularly known. While there is still controversy over figures, the Armenian National Institution, a group based in Washington, D.C., says that nearly 1.5 million people were killed of the two million who lived under Ottoman rule before the war started.
In addition to the art exhibit, the students mounted a one-man play called The Hats of Mr. Zenobe, which was co-written by Concordia Theatre professor Robert Astle and performed by him on March 14 at the D.B. Clarke Theatre. The story is based on the life of a survivor of the Armenian genocide, who, many years later, went on to live in France and eventually began to "demonstrate" the plight of his people in unusual ways on the streets of Paris. The play has been performed across Canada, and more productions are scheduled for Toronto and Saskatoon.
To round out the commemorative events, Dr. Lorne Shirinian, a professor of English literature at Royal Military College who has written extensively on this matter, will read from his new book, Quest for Closure: The 1915 Genocide, Armenians in Canada and the Federal Government. The reading will take place on March 20 at the 7th-floor Faculty Lounge of the Henry F. Hall building at 6 p.m.
Copyright 2000 Concordia's Thursday Report.