Armenian Photo Exhibit acknowledges the past


Anisa Jibrell – News Writer

Faculty and students gathered at the John Lyman Center lobby gallery on Thursday for the opening of the photography exhibit “Bearing Witness to the Lost History of an Armenian Family: Through the Lens of the Dildilian Brothers.”

The exhibit consisted of only photos and text and was prepared by Armen Marsoobian, chair of the philosophy department at Southern, from his own family collection. It recounts the Armenian experience in Ottoman Turkey from 1888 to 1922, through the eyes of Marsoobian’s grandfather and great uncle Tsolag and Aram Dildilian during of the fall of an empire and a catastrophic genocide that shook the world.

“It’s a story of tragedy and suffering but at the same time it’s a story of survival,” said President Mary A. Papazian, whose grandparents were also survivors. “It’s an incredible and moving story that just brings to life a very tragic moment in Armenian and world history.”

Tsolag and Aram Dildilian both resided in a town based in Ottoman, Turkey called Marsovan and both worked as photographers at Anatolia College. Many of the photographs were passed down to Marsoobian, and most date from 1888 to 1922.

“The story didn’t end in 1922, it went on,” said Papazian. “And I and professor Marsoobian and many others in this room and around the world are the evidence that this story continues. In truth, the Armenian story is humanity’s story and I think that’s why it’s so compelling.”

The Armenian genocide took place between 1915 and 1922, when the Ottoman government embarked upon the systematic decimation of its civilian Armenian population. An Armenian population that was roughly at two million was brought down to virtually nothing.

“It’s a very personal thing, but it’s a human story, it’s a story that belongs to everyone,” said Papazian.

Papazian presented the President’s Medal to Ruben Mirazakhanyan, rector of Armenian State Pedagogical University after Khachatur Abovyan, for his unwavering commitment to improving education in Armenia. The President’s Medal is given periodically by presidents to celebrate and honor only exceptional contributions.

“Your involvement in the development of culture and your service to the state, the people and the Armenian church have brought you numerous well deserved honors,” said Papazian.

The crowd erupted in applause as Provost, Bette Bergeron, the Vice President of Academic Affairs, along with Papazian placed the lofty medal around Mirazakhanyan’s neck and posed for pictures. Thursday marked Mirazakhanyan’s second visit to the university. The first visit was during Papazian’s inauguration, according to Papazian.

“Please accept my deepest respect to the academic community that is awarding my modest job today,” said Mirazakhanyan. “And my honor grows even more due the fact that I am receiving this award from a leading expert in her professional sphere, from a real researcher, splendid academic manager and finally, distinguished daughter of her nation.”

Following Mirazakhanyan’s speech, Papazian introduced Marsoobian who shared with the audience how the exhibit came into existence.

The exhibit opening featured a variety of Greek and Armenian delicacies including stuffed grape leaves, kalamata olive tapenade, lahmacun (a piece of dough topped with minced meat and cheese), beef satay or strips of skewered grilled meat, cucumber yogurt sauce and more.

The exhibition is scheduled to be on display from Sept. 10 to Oct. 18.

Photo Credit: Anisa Jibrell – News Writer

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