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ABOUT THE ARTIST

My name is Olivia Melkonian. I'm a multi-media artist from London, currently based in Brighton, U.K. My parents and young sister moved from California to London in 1999 to live closer to my paternal side of the family, who had moved to London in the 1980s following the outbreak of the civil war in Lebanon. My baba's parents were both refugees of the Armenian Genocide, who had escaped to Beirut. My mum Colleen, who is from New York with Irish heritage, embraced my paternal families Armenian heritage, teaching herself the language within the space of a few months while living in Pasadena with my baba, Jacques (Hagop). My mum has always been my go-to for all help with translations. She is not only a pivotal part of this project, but also of Armenian history, for her incredible work to learn it, embrace it and bring us up with it as children in a new country.

 

When I was 17 I returned to England to attend University after living abroad with my mum, sister and now late-step father in Sharjah, UAE for five years. It was an incredible experience to say the least. When I began my media production degree and found Sound to be the medium I most admired, with a massive thank you to my devout tutor, Lee Gooding, I really started to see how Armenian history differed from other nations and how important it was to keep creating pieces that informed our accurate history, by our own people. This is a population that faced eradication throughout the late 19th and early-mid 20th centuries in the Ottoman Empire (modern day Turkey); these war crimes and trauma are still fresh, deep wounds to us. We are spread out all over the world. In each of the places I have lived (London, Sharjah and Brighton) I have always known one Armenian, or one Armenian family. It has never been more than that. While this is precious that we have been able to grow small Armenian communities in the most unexpected of places, I still yearn for the communities our ancestors inhabited, living with our people and our land. We connect through culture and through history, wherever we have been displaced in this world.

ABOUT THE PROJECT

Oral histories are imperative for communities like the Armenians. Our history have been passed down to us through the voice, through our families. Our language has been learnt orally, each family's tongue unique to the lands of their ancestors, however slight. These are precious parts of history that I fear, in the modern era, could be left behind. Through my work I hope to share my history with others, those who can relate and those who cannot. I am aiming to document Armenian history from Armenians themselves, as well as contribute to it. Our ancestors fought hard for our privilege to exist, now we must continue sharing our voices as resistance. Let me humanise to you the struggles, and the absolute joys, of being Armenian.

 

It hurt me to imagine a future with the history I've known to go forgotten - I want to further explore my history and those who came before me. I want to keep their histories alive. This website is the first attempt to display the range of my work. Please venture in and get lost. This project aims to engage, inform and connect people, so please use this space freely and enjoy. Thank you for lending your time to our voices.

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