ANCA x h-pem | From Capitol Hill to the interwebs: Conducting a new cultural symphony
August 15, 2018 - December 24, 2018
The Armenian ‘Brady Bunch’
The 2018 ANCA Leo Sarkisian interns introduce themselves in a promotional video.
At the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), interns never make coffee or grab dry cleaning—unless it is for themselves. Instead, they are entrusted with the sacred task of strengthening the political and economic vitality of our communities across the globe. Yet in-between meetings on Capitol Hill and conducting important research, these fascinating men and women took the time to contribute to our platform, adding their unique perspectives on Armenianness. Read on to see the result of this exciting collaboration, and why YOU too should get in on the action!
Collaboration has always been a key component of success. Many of the world’s most iconic works of art have been the result of two geniuses coming together to create something magical: from Lennon and McCartney’s timeless ballads, to Picasso and Mili’s hypnotic photographs, to two nerds creating a little company called Google—the list is endless—or, shall we say, googol.
At h-pem, we wish to honor this tried-and-true tradition by learning from, and engaging with, our friends across all industries, who offer different experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives on culture, identity, and art. We firmly believe that everyone has something to bring to the table. A few weeks ago, I was in a bucolic heaven, located just outside of Philadelphia, listening to some of North America’s most creative Armenian youth at the annual Hamazkayin ArtLinks retreat program. Philosophy students, business entrepreneurs, video game creators, health care professionals, painters and singers, leaders and doers, and advocates for social and political change—they ran the whole gamut of society.
About one-fifth of the participants were summer interns of the largest Armenian-American grassroots organization, the ANCA, who road-tripped from D.C. on their weekend off to immerse themselves in a different kind of political work—the cultural kind. When Tereza Yerimyan, their program director, suggested h-pem collaborate with these bright, dedicated individuals, we jumped on the opportunity. In addition to their daily duties, each intern was tasked with writing about his or her experience attending “Armenia: Creating Home,” the aptly titled Armenian celebrations at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival—a landmark event in Armenian-American history. H-Pem would be the hosting ground, providing an outlet for all of their voices, under one welcoming roof.
Representation as resistance
While h-pem does not espouse a particular political ideology, we seek to amplify the many voices of our collective youth that yearn to be heard. Despite the common refrain, Armenianness is not just one thing. From Moscow to Los Angeles, and every place in between, our people encompass every corner of the globe. They speak many languages, work in many different fields, and offer perspectives that vary as much as the Earth itself. We are not detached from the world at large, so why would our ideas be? Though we are not a forum for political debates, what we seek to achieve goes beyond that.
As a subset of this multilayered, dynamic people, we realize that our very existence is a form of resistance. From the #TurkeyFailed to #1915NeverAgain social media campaigns that the youth spurred on a few years ago, partly due to the advocacy efforts of the ANCA and another youth organization called the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), we realize that survival is a statement in and of itself. Yet, it is not enough, and we both aim to delve deeper.
Our friends at ANCA do this by engaging in the political process through outreach and communal advocacy to effect change in policy and law. They also honor the arts through their capacity as official sponsors of the Folklife Festival, where they hosted a showing of the films, The Promise and Intent to Destroy, which seek to raise awareness of the Armenian Genocide.
In our pieces, What’s in a language? A guide to moving beyond shame and finding love in our mother tongue, and Survival Songs, we highlight language and music as forms of resistance. Our creative submissions show the power of a poem in resurrecting a lost city and the use of colors in reflecting a beloved pastime like sipping coffee. Literature and film, paintings and poems, compositions and silence—all can sometimes be, in their own ways, political acts. Politics, for us, is not about right versus left, or red versus blue. It is about sideways and up and down and across the block; it is about yellow and purple and apricot.
For what is politics but the amalgamation of these things? For, what is politics WITHOUT the amalgamation of these things?
Culture comes in many shades
The pieces below are reflections on the Smithsonian Institution’s honoring of Armenian culture earlier this summer, aptly titled, “Armenia: Creating Home,” just steps from the U.S. Capitol building, where some politicians continue to deny the truth of our survival from the ashes a century ago; yet, we resist in quiet, but large ways: the participants of the festival honored our multifaceted Armenianness—defined by centuries of contact and collaboration with other cultures and peoples. Our brothers and sisters brought their skills to the festival and represented our culture proudly, imbued inextricably with a desire to share and a curiosity to connect.
Lucine’s interview with a Syrian-Armenian needleworker, who proudly showed off the stitching style she inherited from her grandmother, a genocide survivor from Marash—another land tainted by exile and heartache—pays credence to the ingenuity that has seeped into our collective skin. The fabric of history binds us together in a lacework of irony, fate, and sweet human resilience.
Half-Armenian by name, full-Armenian by soul, Adrienne was particularly moved by Armenia’s ancient, and at once burgeoning, wine scene—and hopes to visit the country soon for the first time, to drink from an authentic karas with a real-live view of the Mt. Ararat from the pictures.
Lilit felt the brush of her ancestors from a simple carving of her initials into a slab of wood, an ancient and indelibly Armenian tradition.
Antranig is excited at the prospect of Armenia’s growing tourism, following the country’s recent peaceful revolution, and Megan finds inspiration from a fellow Armenian-American, who has created one of the most innovative companies in Armenia today.
Chris sees intersections in different Armenian experiences through the art of our ancient khachkars (cross-stones), gaining a deeper appreciation for belonging to this small, but venerable, tribe.
Victoria finds intercultural and generational commonality through the meals of our ancestors. For her, the festival’s motto, “creating home,” is a recipe of the spices and ingredients that symbolize the matriarchs in her life.
Join our Symphony!
One of America’s many great preachers of the 20th century, H.E. Luccock, stated that “no one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.” Though the interns have wrapped up their fruitful summers on the Hill, we are confident that they will carry the lessons and stories they have learned to their respective communities, and continue to enrich our collective Armenianness, one string at a time. But we hope that this is just the first of many, many symphonies to come.
Are you keen to experiment with art and culture but don’t know how to pursue your project? Perhaps you’re a photographer searching for concept ideas or a dancer seeking to showcase your expertise to a broader audience. Or maybe you know a promising band searching for a video editor or a talented painter trying to book an exhibit.
H-Pem is here to support you, every step of the way. From linking you with other creative minds to providing you with a platform to get your idea out to the masses, we are eager to join forces so that you can become a force to be reckoned with. Whatever it is, let h-pem be your launch pad for experimentation and collaboration.
So, what’re you waiting for? Send us your ideas, comments, and/or suggestions for collaborations today!
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2018 has been the year to be Armenian. From a political revolution in April/May to a full Armenian village in the middle of the U.S. capital in June/July, to the upcoming Metropolitan Museum of Art’s (Met) exhibition on Armenian art in September, Armenianness has never been more in the spotlight. As the political discussion around immigrants grows increasingly hostile here, at home, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s decision to shine a light on Armenian heritage and culture this summer in our nation’s capital is a proud occasion for our community to showcase, as the President of Armenia calls it, “the cradle of civilization—after Africa.”
Hamazkayin’s ArtLinks is an annual weekend-long forum for diasporan youth aged 21-35 to come together and participate in workshops and panel discussions helmed by some of the most creative minds and souls of our community: leading (as well as budding) artists, writers, journalists, musicians, actors, and activists. Last summer was the fourth installment of the program, which has doubled in size since its inaugural year, quickly becoming one of the most popular and stimulating events for Armenian youth in North America. Read on to know why!
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Since the days of Mesrop Mashtots (the fifth century inventor of the Armenian alphabet*), the Armenian script has played a vital role in the cultural and artistic legacy of her people. Like ancient relics in a museum, each decorative stroke illustrates a story that is steeped in thousands of years of history, literature, art, and religion. Fast forward 1,600 years and this ancient tradition is at a crossroads for survival, with knowledge and usage almost all but forgotten. Yet, once again, one man is at the helm of a movement—a new zartonk (“renaissance”) in Armenian calligraphy. Using a wide range of multimedia, artist Ruben Malayan is ushering in a new era for this unique, yet overlooked art form