Written by Elsy Melkonian????
The Armenian population in Syria adds much to the cultural and artistic fabric of society. Armenian Cultural Days was a celebration of the art, culture and history of this unique community.? Syria witnessed a great many cultural events in 2008, most of them rightly focusing on the celebrations of Damascus, Capital of Arab Culture. Still, some of these occasions also presented cultural experiences focusing on some of the many minorities that make up the population of Syria. One of these events was the Armenian Cultural Days celebration, held from 26 November – 01 December 2008.
Organized by the Syrian Ministry of Culture and the Armenian Embassy in Damascus, the celebration of Armenian Cultural Days was officially opened by the Syrian and Armenian Ministers of Culture, Dr. Riad Naasan Agha and Hasmig Boghossian respectively; at Dar Al-Assad on November 26. The Cultural Days celebrations took place in four cities across Syria: Damascus, Aleppo, Latakia, and Kamishli.
In Damascus, the National Museum hosted three exhibitions that showcased different elements of Armenian culture through the ages. All the exhibits on display were brought to Syria from the National Museum of Yerevan. The first was an exhibition of the works of 36 renowned Armenian painters. Works on show included: scenes of Armenia, including the famed Church at Etchmiadzin; paintings of Gospel stories; and miniatures from the sixth century (including a portrait of David the Invincible). The second exhibition featured ancient coins (dirham and dinar) struck in Armenia during the Abbasid and Ummayyad periods and the third displayed samples of manuscripts written in Armenian, Farsi, Turkish, and Arabic.?
Two Armenian movies, ?The Symphony of Silence,? and ?The Poet has Returned? were screened during the celebrations. The first was about a successful American businessman called Mel who was formerly a patient in an insane asylum in Armenian during the Soviet era. After the fall of the USSR, he decides to return to Yerevan and spend his time in the asylum he lived in for years and to grant his fortune to those in need. ?The Poet has Returned? was a documentary about the Armenian philosopher Givanni who lived in both the 19th and 20th centuries, portraying the situation of Armenians through his perspective and viewpoint.
There was culture for children too, with the puppet theatre presenting two short stories: ?The Lazy Houri? and ?The Undefeatable Chicken,? written by Armenian poet and short story writer Hovhannes Toumanian. Toumanian, who died in 1923, was known as the ?Poet of all Armenians?, and was famous for his satirical comic tone, criticizing the prevailing values of his time. His characters advocate morals and ethics and are carefully chosen to be close to the hearts of children. ?I really enjoyed the performance,? says eight-year-old Natalie, clearly touched by the performance. ?I will be a hardworking girl, because nobody likes lazy people and that's what happened to Houri. She?s lazy and she deserves what happened to her,? she adds.
Perhaps the most impressive part of all the activities was the performance of the National Dance Group of Yerevan. The dancers were accompanied by genuine Armenian music and were rewarded with a standing ovation from the clearly thrilled audience. ?Our band was established in 1958 and has survived until now repeating our success in every performance,? says the group's technical director Erik Chanchourian. ?We feel very proud to take part in this celebration of Armenian Cultural Days and we are very pleased to have had positive feedback from both Armenians and Syrians,? he adds.?
Talking with the Armenian Ambassador???????
In an exclusive interview with What's On, the Armenian Ambassador to Syria; Dr Arshag Poladian, talked about the preparations for the Armenian Cultural Days:
How would you characterize Syrian-Armenian relations?
The relationship between Armenia and the Arab World is not new. [First contacts between Syrians and Armenians date back to the seventh century when the Emirate of Armenia was a province within the larger Islamic Empire. Armenia was then ruled by an Armenian Prince who was recognized by both the Islamic Caliphate and the Byzantine Emperor]. Modern official relations between Syria and Armenia began after the decline of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR); of which Armenia had been a member. Independence came in 1991 and we established an embassy in Damascus in 1992 and a general consulate in Aleppo in 1993.
Our relationship with Syria has always been very positive, especially because Syria was the first Middle Eastern country to develop diplomatic relations with Armenia. The Syrian people have always been good friends to us, and of course there is a large community living here ? mostly based in Aleppo.
What distinguishes Armenian culture from other cultures?
Armenian culture is a tradition which was handed down from one generation to the next. It is a complicated issue very hard to be summarized in few words. Armenians excelled in architecture, arts, literature, music and other fields.
What could you say about facilities offered to you by the Syrian Government?
The joints efforts of Armenian and Syrian officials achieved very fruitful results. We didn't have any difficulties because the many treaties and agreements between us always ensure the approval of such activities.
Your final word:
I want everyone who lives in Syria to have a chance to experience Armenian Cultural Days. I also hope that in the future there will be more cultural activities between Armenia and Syria to promote both our cultures and our close cooperation.
Source: ?What?s on Syria?, 07 January 2009
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