Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust supports Armenian exhibition
A new exhibition explores one of the world's oldest civilisations and its connections to north west England.
Aratta, at Manchester’s Central Library until 16 June 2019, takes a look at the lives of some of the Armenian diaspora who have been making the region their home since the mid-nineteenth century.
The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust, part of The University of Manchester, has supported the project.
The free exhibition includes photographic portraits of and interviews with first-to-fourth generation Armenians who have settled in the area, along with historical images of Greater Manchester’s Armenian families.
Fifteen people, aged from 22-66, have recorded oral histories interviews where they talk unguardedly about their lives, experiences , family stories and memories. The portraits were taken at locations chosen by the interviewees, by photographers Robert Binder and Darren Bullock.
Galina Baghishyan-Manders, 43, is an ethnic Armenian who was living in Azerbaijan when war broke out between the two neighbouring countries. In 1986, aged, 11, she was airlifted to Armenia. Now married to an English man and living in Worsley, Greater Manchester, where she is an accountant, Galina's portrait and interview are included in the exhibition.
“It was horrible,” she said. “I’ve still got really bad memories about that. I remember the day that we left. My father bought us tickets for the plane … just to save us from being killed. They were selling those tickets three times more expensive, I remember that. But they were priceless. At the time no one was looking at the price as long as you get those tickets just to be out, to be safe.
Helen Drummond grew up in West Didsbury in the 1970s, attending Cavendish Community Primary School. During her interview she recalls memories of her Armenian grandfather, who lived in Northenden. Towards the end of his life he began to hint at the atrocities he had witnessed during the Turkish capture of Smyrna.
“Grandad Mezbourian used to have quite a lot of melancholy spells when he used to just go and play the piano,” she said. “My mum was led to believe that was to do with missing his mother. It was only afterwards, as he was coming to the end of his life that he said ‘go to the library and find out what you can about the Armenians.’ It’s only after that and reading what he wrote on a trip he made to Armenia in 1922, that we’ve realised he saw some terrible things in the burning of Smyrna.”
The project was initiated and managed by Zara Hakobyan – an Armenian researcher living in the north west- and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Once the exhibition is over, the recordings will continue to be available on an Aratta website, and will be preserved in the archives of the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre at Manchester’s Central Library.
Zara said: “The aim of Aratta exhibition is to draw attention to people with Armenian heritage or intricate ties to Armenia – the seldom-acknowledged faces that make up the fascinating world of the Armenians in Manchester.
“It focuses on the constructs of identity and Armenianness, showing people’s differences and similarities through combining photography and oral history interviews.
Jennie Vickers, community engagement manager at the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust, has been supporting Zara with the project, ensuring that that the researcher and her volunteers produce archival quality materials. She said: “Community histories project like Aratta are vital if future generations are to retain a connection with their past. And they help all of us to gain a deeper understanding of the people we call friends, neighbours and colleagues.”
The Armenian Diaspora and Armenians in Manchester
Today, there are around 20,000 ethnic Armenians in the United Kingdom, the majority based in London and Manchester. Approximately 3 million Armenians live in Armenia and over 10 million live in other countries. Since the earliest recorded times, Armenians have established communities in many regions throughout the world. However the modern Armenian diaspora was largely formed as a result of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, when the Armenians living in their ancestral homeland in eastern Turkey, were systematically exterminated by the Ottoman government.
The first Armenians who settled in Manchester in 1835 were silk merchants. And by 1862, it is estimated there were 30 Armenian businesses in the city. The Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church, on the city’s Upper Brook Street, was consecrated in 1870 and is the oldest Armenian church in the UK
Aratta: Armenian Heritage in the North West
Until 16 June 2019
Central Library basement, St Peter's Square, Manchester M2 5DP
Monday-Thursday 9am-8pm, Friday and Saturday 9am-5pm, Sunday closed
T: 0161 234 1983