His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, has deemed 2013 the “Year of the Mother of the Armenian Family” and asked Armenians throughout the world to organize activities in order to reflect on and to explore the central role of mothers in the past and present of our nation.
With this idea in mind, the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC) sponsored a symposium, “Armenian Women as Mothers and Artists,” to offer some insights into the richness, depth, and breadth of the issue. The symposium was held at the Pashalian Hall of St. Illuminator’s Armenian Cathedral in New York on Saturday, October 5, 2013 in the afternoon.
It is encouraging to note that the three speakers belonged to the new generation of Armenian Studies scholars, and thus, they introduced refreshing subject and ideas during the symposium, which were warmly welcomed by the audience.
The first presentation was by Dr. Melissa Bilal, a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer at Columbia University, Department of Music, who recently defended her Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Chicago. She has written on the historical and ethnographic aspects of Armenian lullaby in Turkey as a genre of intimacy, testimony, and protest. Unfortunately, due to health problems, Dr. Bilal could not attend the symposium and Ms. Essajanian read her paper, illustrated with musical fragments, in a very inspiring way. The presenter discussed how songs, especially lullabies, powerfully mediate the transmission of loss, particularly with relation to the Armenian Genocide. She argued that lullabies created, remembered, and sung by Armenian “grandmothers,” either in Armenian or in Turkish, provide the listener with an orientation toward a mode of knowing and feeling. The lullaby, at the same time, in many instances, enables silent mourning.
The presentations at this symposium highlighted various manifestations of Armenian women in their role as mothers in different spaces and places, and left the audience with considerations for Armenian mothers in the 21st century.
The Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC) is a joint project of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Armenian Relief Society, Eastern Region, and provides guidance, coordination, and assistance to the Saturday Armenian Schools and day schools within the jurisdiction of the Prelacy. In addition, ANEC makes publications and organizes lectures, language courses for adults, summer studies for teens, and seminars for teachers. For more information, visit www.armenianprelacy.org/anec, write to Armenian National Education Committee, 138 E. 39th Street, New York, NY 10016, call at (212) 689-7231/7810, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.