Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s Armenia Program to Feature Cultures of Survival

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival's Cultures of Survival flyer.
The Armenia: Creating Home board standing before the United States Capitol.

The Armenia: Creating Home board standing before the United States Capitol.

ANCA Endowment #KeepThePromise Initiative Sponsoring Narrative Sessions and Film Screenings about the Preservation of Cultural Identity and Heritage through Crises

WASHINGTON D.C. — This summer’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s landmark program, Armenia: Creating Home, will feature a robust focus on the theme Cultures of Survival: From Displacement to Resilience, highlighting the central role of culture in preserving identity and promoting resilience for tens of millions worldwide displaced by genocide, war crimes and other violence.

The ANCA Endowment Fund #KeepThePromise initiative serves as a major sponsor of the Folklife Festival and, along with the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, is supporting narrative sessions, presentations and film screenings around the theme of food, music, crafts and the arts contributing to cultural resilience and survival.

A roadside vendor in Armenia selling traditional Armenian dried fruits and other foods.

A roadside vendor in Armenia selling traditional Armenian dried fruits and other foods. (Source: The Smithsonian)

Among the themes that will be explored are: Making Meaning: Economic and Healing Power of Crafts, Giving Voice: Language and Cultural Survival, Tastes of Home: Food Enterprises, and Storytelling: History, Healing and Hope. Two films screenings — The Promise and Intent to Destroy — will explore the role of culture in preserving identity and national survival in the face of genocide.

“The ANCA Endowment Fund is pleased to serve as a major sponsor of this summer’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s Armenia: Creating Home programs exploring the global role of cultural heritage, remembrance and rebirth in building resilience and ensuring survival in the wake of genocide, war and forced displacement,” the ANCA Endowment’s Aram Hamparian said. “These universal themes speak powerfully to all those around our world who — like the Armenians — have drawn heavily upon cultural traditions to survive and thrive in new homes.”

Armenian dancers wearing traditional attire. (Source: The Smithsonian)

Armenian dancers wearing traditional attire. (Source: The Smithsonian)

Armenia: Creating Home is partnering with On the Move, a series of Folklife Festival programs exploring how American culture has been shaped by the movement of people to and within the United States. It is also partnering with the American Anthropological Association to explore the role of cultural heritage during forced displacement, with a focus on the ways it builds resilience and ensures survival.

The collaboration, Cultures of Survival, is a series of narrative sessions featuring Armenian participants and others with similar histories of forced displacement to share their stories and discuss how they’ve drawn on their heritage — specifically language, music, craft and food — not only to survive, but also to thrive in new communities.


The Smithsonian Folklife Festival's Cultures of Survival flyer.

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s Cultures of Survival flyer.

The full schedule of the Cultures of Survival programming is provided below:
Armenians in America
June 28, 2018 | 3 p.m. & July 7, 2018 | 1 p.m.
Hyurasenyak Stage, Armenia: Creating Home

The Armenian American Diaspora(s) are made up of several waves of migration. This session explores the legacy of Armenians in America and Armenian involvement in humanitarian efforts around the world today. Participants include historian and author of Armenians in America: A 400-year Heritage Hayk Demoyan; Armenian-American entrepreneur, philanthropist and co-founder of Aurora Humanitarian Initiative Noubar Afeyan; and Chairman Emeritus and Board Director of the Near East Foundation Shant Mardirossian. This discussion is moderated by Jim Deutsch, the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage curator.

Making Meaning: Economic and Healing Power of Craft
June 29, 2018 | 2 p.m.
Hyurasenyak Stage, Armenia: Creating Home

Survival is the singular focus for those displaced by genocide, war crimes or other violence. Traditional craft is proven to play a role in healing trauma and also provides a livelihood that can provide financial security in unfamiliar environments. Syrian-Armenian embroiderers Maral Sheuhmelian-Berberian and Ayda Sandourian discuss the role craft has played in their personal and family histories, from surviving genocide to leaving Aleppo and settling in Yerevan. This discussion is moderated by Adam Gamwell, the podcast host/producer of This Anthro Life.

Giving Voice: Language and Cultural Survival
July 1, 2018 | 2 p.m.
Hyurasenyak Stage, Armenia: Creating Home

How does language shape the sustainability of culture and identity in migrant communities? What are the pressures that threaten language sustainability when people are forced to leave their communities of origin? What are some strategies for preserving language?

This session explores these questions through conversation with Armenian program participants and representatives of the D.C.-based Mayan League, an organization working to sustain Mayan culture, communities, and lands. Participants include Syrian-Armenian artisan Ayda Sandurian; Levon Avdoyan, an Armenia and Georgia area specialist at the Library of Congress; and Alejandro Santiago González (Maya Ixil) and Mercedes M. Say Chaclan (Maya K’iche’) of the Mayan League. The discussion is moderated by Mary S. Linn, the curator of cultural and linguistic revitalization for the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

Sounding Memory: Music & Migration
July 4, 2018 | 2 p.m.
Hyurasenyak Stage, Armenia: Creating Home

Music is one of the human expressions where rootedness and distant influences can be readily identified. Kumera Genet, D.C.-based musician, youth educator and community organizer, leads a conversation with Arto Tunçboyaciyan, a renowned composer, multi-instrumentalist and leader of the Armenian Navy Band. Their discussion explores how heritage, migration and exile shape creative practices, and the way Armenian musical traditions have influenced and been themselves transformed through transnational experiences.

Tastes of Home: Food Enterprises
July 5, 2018 | 2 p.m.
Hyurasenyak Stage, Armenia: Creating Home

A source of sustenance and the centerpiece of social gatherings, food can function as a touchstone to heritage, a form of expression and communication and as an avenue for improving livelihoods. Andy Shallal, D.C.-based artist, activist and entrepreneur (owner of Busboys & Poets), leads a conversation on this topic with Armenian and U.S.-based food entrepreneurs whose businesses have been shaped by contemporary migrations caused by conflict and war. Panelists include Andranig Kilislyan of Abu Hakob, a family-owned restaurant that moved from Aleppo to Yerevan in 2014; Noobtsaa Philip Vang, founder of D.C.-based Foodhini; and Liana Aghajanian, Detroit-based journalist and producer of the Dining in Diaspora blog.


The Stuff of Thought: A Gallery Talk on Arshile Gorky’s Khorkom
June 23, 2018 | 2:00 PM
Kreeger Museum, 2401 Foxhall Road, Washington, DC

Born Vostanik Manoug Adoian in the village of Khokorm near Lake Van in the Ottoman Empire, Armenian American Arshile Gorky (c. 1902–1948) was one of the most influential painters of the twentieth century. The land of his birth—as well as the loss and suffering experienced in it—found its way into an extraordinary body of work. One such painting, Image in Khokorm, is now on view in at the Kreeger Museum. Join us for a spirited talk on the piece and what it says about place, longing, and creativity, led by museum docent Irene Abrahamian. The afternoon will include music and light refreshments.

Storytelling: History, Healing, and Hope
Films presented by ANCA Endowment Fund #KeepThePromise

June 29, 2018 | 6:30 PM
U.S. Navy Memorial, 701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
The Promise
An Armenian Genocide-era epic of love and survival by Academy Award-winning Director Terry George, starring Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon and Academy Award winner Christian Bale.

Thursday, July 5, 2018 | 6:30 PM
E Street Cinemas, 555 11th Street NW
Intent to Destroy: Death, Denial and Depiction
Filmmaker Joe Berlinger meets with historians and scholars to discuss the Armenian Genocide and its denial, set during the filming “The Promise.”

Ara and Onnik Dinkjian with the New York Gypsy All-Stars
July 3, 2018 | 12:00 PM
Coolidge Auditorium, Jefferson Building, Library of Congress, 10 First St. SE, Washington, D.C.

Onnik Dinkjian, at eighty-eight years old, remains America’s most renowned Armenian folk and liturgical singer. He has preserved Armenian folk songs from the villages of Anatolia in eastern Turkey, especially in the unique dialect from his ancestral city of Diyarbekir. Onnik will be joined by an ensemble that includes his son Ara, a highly accomplished oud player. Presented in partnership with the American Folklife Center.


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