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Inheritance Project | art and images beyond a silenced genocide

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Jacqueline Doumanian

Doumanian Essay
Artist. Armenian. Two words that are cornerstones of my existence: of how I show myself to the world. Words that partially define the blueprint of my soul and accompany me in this life — first breath to last. As indelible to my identity as fingerprints, these words provide emotional and psychic sustenance and are among the first that come to mind when someone asks me, "Who are you?"

As a second generation Armenian-American, I was never told about the horrors of the Turkish massacres. It wasn't in the history books and my grandparents did not want to relive the terror. Being surrounded by my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, it never occurred to me that my personal history was bankrupt. No one told me my ancestors were driven from their homes, raped, tortured, and starved. No one said this is a recipe that has been in our family for ten generations, or, your great-grandmother taught me this lullaby. No one said you descend from a long line of bankers, priests, singers, or goldsmiths. Much is forever lost or shocked from memory. The secrets are buried deep — much deeper than the surface graves of my forbears.

Artist. Armenian. Both words begin with A – the infamous Scarlet Letter rune, representing the pride and guilt of shameful acts. An artist continues the story. Do I have the courage to go beyond the silenced tongues and broken hearts to face my adulterated past? If I trust completely, will the lines of my drawings release cellular retention generation to generation?

I know that the act of drawing quiets my mind and loosens the bindings of my heart. I can trust the creative urge and intuitive impressions that come to light. The intelligence and passion of the line never fails to seduce me. These drawings are about the joy of awakened insight and the failure of others to believe — denial in the face of truth. They are about fear of the unknown and awe when the unknown is revealed, silent watching and remembering.

As memories snag and stick to the paper surface and the pencil whispers secrets across the page, I see the brilliance and brutality of the collective whole. How can I say I don't know? I know everything. My family worked the land. They sweated their souls into the soil that grew our food. The creativity of my grandparents and parents went into their sewing, singing, farming and cooking. When they clothed my back, filled my belly and kissed my cheek, they smuggled their memories into those loving acts and told me their story the best they knew how.

Jacqueline Doumanian
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