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"A Peabody artist visits Turkey to gain insight on his family's history - and to stare down the specter of genocide," by Dinah Cardin.
"While Spreading the word about the Armenian genocide, Peabody artist Apo Torosyan hopes to prevent another," by Rich Fahey, The Daily Item. (Article originally appeared on the Living Weekend column, The Daily Item, Nov. 6, 2003).
Never again, says Peabody artist Apo Torosyan, echoing the cries of other survivors of unspeakable atrocities committed against humankind.
Tomsyan has taken the horrors of the Armenian genocide to heart and vows such an event will never happen again.
He also realizes hate and violence will do little to present such an event - or similar events - from occurring. Instead, he believes dialogue and openness will bring light where there is darkness.
Torosyan will present "Bread Series" - A Perspective on the Armenian Genocide" tonight from 7-9 p.m. at the North Shore Community College's Lynn campus on Broad Street, as part of the college's 14th annual Forum on Tolerance.
Between 1915 and 1918, some 1.5 million of the 2.5 million Armenians living in Turkey at the time were sytematically eliminated under what most Armenians believe was a "master plan" that originated at the highest levels of the Turkish government.
The Turkish government denies many of the claims, but Toroosyan and others say there is both factual and anecdotal evidence that backs their assertions and that the US. government archives contain such evidence.
"It was a case of forced deportation," said Torosyan in a telephone interview earlier this week. "The Turks took the men out of the villages and killed them. Without them, the women and children had no protection. Elderly women and children were forced to walk long distances and were attacked by mobs and bandits. The government let criminals out of jail to just to attack Armenians."
The Armenians who lived in Turkey were well educated and, for the most part, well off. They also happened to be Christians, while the Turks were Muslims. It all combined to breed resentment among many Turks against the Armenians.
Torosyan said Armenians were also treated as second class citizens, subject to a "neck tax," for instance, that amounted to double taxation.
The Turkish government also mounted a disinformation campaign, Torosyan said, that branded Armenians as traitors and rebels, and residents of small Turkish villagers didn't know better.
Despite it all, Torosyan said there will no hate in the talk he gives tonight.
"We have to create a dialogue between the Turkish people and the Armenians," he said.
He said the best thing that would help bring healing between the two peoples is the Turks recognizing what happened and sharing in the resulting pain."
"The Turks will say that what happened in those years (1915-18) was a result of World War I and only the guilty were punished," said Torosyan. "They should cooperate and tell the truth."
He said the excuses and the reasoning used by the Turks to explain what happened would later be echoed by the Germans as the horrors of The Holocaust unfolded.
Torosyan was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey, the son of an Armenian father and a Greek mother. He lost many family members in the genocide of 1915.
The artist has shown his works all over the US., Canada, and Europe, in museums, colleges, universities, and art institutions. Torosyan's artworks are in the permanent collection of the Musee D'Art Moderne, Tonneins,.Bordeaux, France, and of the Armenian Library and Museum of America, Watertown.
The forum will feature a discussion and presentation on Torosyan's "Bread Series" of artworks as well as the Armenian genocide itself, including the personal story of the artist's family history.
He will also present his 30-minute video, which contains over 70 images of his artworks, music, and explanations, and follow this with a question and answer period. Torosyan will also show images and information about his ancestors, including his grandparents' village in Turkey, which he first visited in 2000 and again recently.
Torosyan is an American now, and spends much of his time campaigning for peace all around the country.
He is particularly proud that at an upcoming appearance at a peace forum in Minneapolis, where he will also exhibit his works, among those attending will be former President Jimmy Carter.
In the end, the story of how Torosyan came to America and found a country where he was free to speak his mind and pro.mote the ideas of healing and brotherhood is not just a story about one person or one race of people.
"This is my story - this is everybody's story," said Torosyan.
"'Everybody's Story' Artist marks 89th anniversary of start of Armenian genocide - Finding peace with the past," by Christine Gillette (Article originally printed in The Salem News, Salem, MA - Thursday, April 15, 2004).
A man is shot, the bullet virtually tearing his ear away from his head.
Alone, save for the gunman responsible for the wound, the man leaps into a deep hole in the ground to save his life.
Cold, dank, the ditch is full of horrors almost worse than not surviving the gunshot: It is a mass grave, full of tens, if not hundreds of the dead. It is also where the man hides for three days until the area is safe enough for him to make his way home.
It's a story that dates back nearly 90 years, but one of so many that influence every day of West Peabody artist Apo Torosyan's life.
The year was 1915, and during the throes of the Armenian Genocide, Torosyan's uncle was forced to live out that very scene. Years later, he carried with him not only the scar of the bullet, but of living through a wave of death at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.
An estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed over the course of two years, more than half of the total in the Ottoman Empire. For the record, the Turkish government denies the Armenian Genocide ever occurred, but for Torosyan, his family's memories are enough proof.
The story of his uncle is just one of the many chilling tales Torosyan can relate, not only verbally, but in his contemporary art, and through videos.
His "Bread Series" of artwork - slated to go on exhibit next month at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago - is fueled by just one of the ways his family was tormented, through starvation. "Bread was used as a weapon to kill them. They were deprived of bread, they were deprived of water, they were deprived of life," Torosyan said.
"My paintings are related to my ancestors. My ancestors were starved to death," he says, his voice still tinged from his years in Istanbul, Turkey, although he has lived in the United States more than 35 years, 30 of which have been on the North Shore."
While the Armenian Genocide that fuels Torosyan's work is never far from his mind, the tragedy is one that took more than 70 years for many nations, including the United States, to officially recognize, and is unlikely to be mentioned in any history lesson. Yet the memories are not just Torosyan's. The 89th anniversary of the start of the genocide will be marked locally by two events in which Torosyan's work will take center stage.
The 30-minute video was filmed by Torosyan during a trip to Turkey in September 2003, where he interviewed villagers and the last survivor in his family of the Armenian Genocide. Combined with music and scenes of abandoned Armenian homes, Torosyan calls the work a "poetic documentary." In addition to next week's screening on the North Shore, it will be presented May 16th at the Armenian Library and Museum of America in Watertown.
While one might expect that first the brutality of the Armenian Genocide and the little recognition it receives would make Torosyan bitter in his artistic expression. But it's actually quite the opposite.
"In my message, there is no hate; hate is what created my ancestors' (plight)," he says. "Like Ghandi said, 'An eye for an eye will make the world blind.'"
Torosyan says he works out his anger, and strives to make others recognize they must do the same, whatever the source of the emotion. "Most of us go through life without realizing we are alive," he said. "We have so much anger, we vent it out other ways, on other people,
from government to social (situations) to family. That was my message for the Minnesota show."
Torosyan is referring to "Making Art, Making Peace," the program he presented in February at the 16th annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., where former President Jimmy Carter was the keynote speaker.
"Everyone talked about one word. Guess what that word was? Hope," he says. "If I can convert one person to the wisdom of love, not hate, I have accomplished my goal."