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TUMO x h-pem | Literature as a weapon: TUMO students take h-pem by storm!

July 05, 2018 - September 05, 2018

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By Loucig Guloyan-Srabian

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TUMO x h-pem | Literature as a weapon: TUMO students take h-pem by storm!

Shuffling life’s dreams, evoking “The Scream,” teasing fictitious politicians, spinning an earthquake-era tale, and composing an ode to cleanliness are unusual themes for a tech-oriented learning hub like TUMO. But how did they end up on our platform? Here is the story of a robust collaboration very much in the spirit of h-pem…

Have any phobias and wish to overcome them by illustrating your demons? Fancy a calligraphic map of Greater Armenia? Perhaps you would prefer a gastronomic map of Yerevan or a sense of its metro sounds? How about some glitch art, designing your skateboard, or watching a chameleon move through a cityscape? Well, TUMO students can do it all! They can even parade a robot in a 3D fashion show for your amusement or ask one to make you a cup of tea while you take in their futuristic shrine of artistic enlightenment nestled strategically in the wide space above the Hrazdan Gorge and Tumanian Park in Yerevan.

Tumo Center for Creative Technologies (Photo: Serouj Ourishian, Wikimedia Commons)Tumo Center for Creative Technologies (Photo: Serouj Ourishian, Wikimedia Commons)


The fact that TUMO is an acronym of Tumanian is a starkly ironic juxtaposition of Hovhannes Tumanian, the national poet of Armenia, alongside technological tools that evoke tales of ingenuity and engaging learning experiences. While TUMO may or may not have anything in common with the beloved bard, whose fairy tales have lulled generations of young Armenians to sweet or sad dreams, it surely has found its way into the heart of millennials by making their dreams come true. And although literary fiction, an orphan genre of 21st-century Armenian letters, is not even offered on TUMO’s menu, somehow it crawls over the margins of animation, filmmaking, graphic design, photography, and robotics in most unpredictable ways.

It was a TUMO student who, back in 2017, won the Zabel Yesayan Graphic Design T-shirt Contest in Artsakh by coming up with a stylized portrait of the Armenian author and human rights activist. The Yesayan quote on the design read: “Literature is not an ornament, a pleasant pastime, a pretty flower. Literature is a weapon to struggle against injustice.”

The interior of the center (Photo: TUMO)The interior of the center (Photo: TUMO)


A few months later, in the summer of 2018, while h-pem was bubbling with the excitement of its birth pangs, a call from Dr. Khatchig Mouradian sparked the beginning of a much-anticipated collaboration with TUMO. Four graduate students from Columbia University’s MFA program were traveling to Armenia to lead creative writing workshops for 16 TUMO high school students. One of the instructors, Theresa Lin, was interested in writing about her experience for h-pem. Later, it was decided that the strongest submissions from the Columbia-TUMO workshops would be published on our platform.
 

The leap from preservation to innovation

Theresa Lin’s article, entitled The Future of Armenian Literature through the Eyes of the Young Writers at TUMO," does more than frame the students’ creative output—it brings a fresh perspective to the state of Armenian literature and tells how, we, Armenians can make the leap from preservation to innovation.

“I tried to extend the significance of what the students accomplished in these six weeks to beyond the scope of the students' own writing careers or that of TUMO,” explained Lin, a Chinese-born American pursuing her MFA at Columbia. “I considered what it means for Armenian students specifically to access education in creative writing and how this aids in the greater preservation of Armenian literature.” 

A scene from the creative writing workshop (Photo: TUMO)A scene from the creative writing workshop (Photo: TUMO)


Astghik Hambardzumyan from the Communications Department at TUMO reflected on how the center has become a crossroads of diverse perspectives:

“TUMO has a program consisting of permanent workshops and learning labs where we invite professionals from around the world who volunteer their time and come to Armenia to teach students new skills,” she said. “It's very interesting to connect two important sides of an educational experience—leading professionals from all over the world and wonderful young people that are eager to learn.”

Lending her voice to highlight the impact of the creative writing workshops and making the final selections, Hambardzumyan noted that “nothing could be more amusing than witnessing a student's transformation throughout each of the workshops. From the very beginning to the presentation of the final results, one could see the evolution of their ideas, ways of storytelling and vision.

The workshops yielded some surprisingly delightful results and workshop leaders selected five works that would be the best fit for h-pem.


An aura of charm and sophistication

The TUMO Center for Creative Technologies in Yerevan has sparked a sprawling scientific, educational, cultural, and social movement that spans national and geographical boundaries. Since its opening in 2011, its tentacles have reached not only to the far ends of Armenia and Artsakh, but also to Europe and the Middle East. Emulating TUMO’s technological education program has been placed on the agenda of international policymakers who have seen and experienced the place.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hasan Rouhani were the latest among prominent politicians who were escorted to this dazzling landmark. If the Armenian brandy sent by Joseph Stalin to Winston Churchill tickled the British Prime Minister’s fancy, TUMO with its imaginative “Tumoians” continues to impress world leaders in showcasing the tech-driven future of the country.

A delegation of world leaders, including Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov, and Moldovan President Igor Dodon, take in a presentation by Managing Director Marie Lou Papazian at the TUMO Center (Photo: TUMO)A delegation of world leaders, including Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov, and Moldovan President Igor Dodon, take in a presentation by Managing Director Marie Lou Papazian at the TUMO Center (Photo: TUMO)


What happens inside this state-of-the-art space exudes an aura of charm and sophistication. Armenian teenagers seeking a competitive after-school learning environment are offered a wide world view, a motivating experience, and exciting possibilities to achieve their full potential. Young diasporans who wish to discover the cutting-edge spirit of their homeland are greeted by smart contributors to the digital revolution—a phenomenon that empowers many with a new sense of Armenian identity.

It was one such diasporan pro, Columbia University MFA non-fiction student Taleen Mardirossian, who, after several trips and careful examination, together with fiction student Theresa Lin, devised the idea of holding creative writing workshops at TUMO. Talented candidates chosen among more than 50 applicants not only got a chance to write their own fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, but also to edit and refine their craft as professionals. H-Pem was the final destination of their creative journey—a platform where they could publish their work.

The tech-oriented TUMO was so resourceful, that it could even handle literature as a “weapon,” not necessarily against injustice, but as a tool for making young voices heard.

 

Read the five TUMO writing workshop submissions to h-pem and hear young Armenian writers discover their voices in surprisingly creative ways...

 

Dreaming in colors by Ellen Petrosyan
NaOCI solution by Artavasd Ganjalyan
The prime minister by Hayk Sargsyan
A story written by the earthquake by Arus Melkonyan
The unforseen revival by Naneh Harutyunyan

 

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