B&WEuropeStoryA country and her people; Armenian Wound by Antonella Monzoni

Armenia was for me a real discover, with its oen wounds and its history, its bittersweet land, its proud, open and vital people. I felt as if Armenia asked me to go back many times, I traveled the whole country, walked around, met people who were willing to share their stories.

In this project I look for document empathetically the deep wounds of the Armenian people. Entitled “Ferita Armena” (Armenian Wound), the photographs in this series express a perspective of life in Armenia, a country and her people cut deeply: the genocide of 1915; neighbouring Turkey laying claim to Mount Ararat, a place the Armenians consider at their own “spiritual home”; the terrible earthquake of 1988; the collapse of the Soviet Union; a four-year fratricidal war with neighbouring Azerbaijan.  

Combined with constant political and economic difficulties, these events have left wounds so deep, they’ve never healed. Armenia was for me a real discover, with its oen wounds and its history, its bittersweet land, its proud, open and vital people. I felt as if Armenia asked me to go back many times, I traveled the whole country, walked around, met people who were willing to share their stories. I soon found out that everybody there, even youngsters, are open and willing to share with you the deepest wound of their people, which was inflicted some 99 years ago, and this is because their parents, their grandparents, even their great-grandparents spent their lives telling them about it, among the family, which is the one of the most engrained and alive Armenian aspects. This wound is the genocide or Yeghèrn Metz(the great evil), in which over one and a half million Armenians were exterminated at the hands of the Young Turkish government; it is a little-known genocide on a world-wide level and has never been recognized by Turkey.

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My search shows through the symbols that define the Armenian culture, like the carved sepulchral stones, called khatchkar, which can be found in the cemeteries and next to the ancient monasteries or the engravings inside the medieval churches. Such engravings are written in the Armenian alphabet, which is probably one of the most ancient aspects of the union of the entire Armenian community. There’s also the Eternal Flame Memorial in Yerevan, where every year on the 24th of April (Memorial Day), Armenians gather from all over the world, bringing a flower in memory of the genocide inflicted on their people. It’s a long and silent pilgrimage that takes place from the dawn until the middle of the night. I can’t forget all the graves I saw that would bring me back to the civil war with Azerbaijan (1989-1993) when some 30,000 people lost their lives. And there were the trophies of war, as I call them, like the Azerbaijani wall of license plates: they remind us that in one night, by foot, thousands of families had to abandon their home to flee the Armenian revenge against the constant raids, pogroms. Also, I remember decaying buildings next to the remains of Stalin statues, heritage of another chapter of Armenian history, the to Russia, which lasted over 70 years and left the country financially in pieces. My pictures focus on another Armenian wound: the dramatic magnitude-9 earthquake on the Richter scale that shook and destroyed Northern Armenia in 1988, leaving 25,000 dead and 500,000 people homeless. I also photographed something that, in my view, is the most important cultural symbol of Armenia: the Arat Mountain, which is now in the territory of Turkey, adding insult to injury. The next year, 2015 will be the 100th of genocide and my desire is to publish a book. This project won the first prize winner of the Vienna International Photo Awards (VIPA) 2012 for documentary photography. [Official website]

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Photo by ©Ryotaro Horiuchi | Japan | Issue#14
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