armenian-women

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Armenia faces a severe crisis of widespread violence against women and children. Due to the cultural and safety concerns of reporting violence, many women do not report violence and are often stigmatized for doing so. As a result, the Armenian government is able to deny the problem. Furthermore, Armenia currently has weak domestic violence laws and no law addressing sexual violence. Encouraging greater reporting and greater awareness of the problem is the first step to legislative advocacy and legal enforcement. (x)

Born in Alexandapol (present-day Gyumri), Armenia, Shushanik Kurghinian became a voice for the voiceless. Kurghinian was a feminist and socialist poet and writer, with her first published poem, Taraz, coming out in 1899. Later, she founded the first women’s political group in Alexandrapol. To escape arrests from the regime, she fled to Rostov-on-Don. Kurghinian was educated at an all-girls primary school before going to the Alexandrapol Arghutian Girl’s school. She continued to write poems throughout her adulthood, many of which have been published. Kurghinian passed away, due to her health, at the age of 51 in 1927. She is revered for being one of the founders of feminist and proletarian literature in Armenia. 

One of her poems:

I WANTED TO SING

I wanted to sing: they told me I could not,
I wove my own songs: quiet, you are a girl!
But when in this troubled world
an elegy I became,
I spoke to the hearts of many.
The more I sang:
the sooner she’ll get tired, they said.
The louder I sang:
the faster her voice will fail.
But I kept singing endlessly,
that’s when they started to cajole.

1907

(from I Want To Live, AIWA Press, 2005)

(Image) (Information taken from Victoria Rowe’s “A History of Armenian Women’s Writing”)

Armenian woman in national costume, Artvin, ca. 1905, by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (in the Library of Congress).

As we mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, I’m remembering the terrible murders and exile but also celebrating the incredible strength and creativity of the Armenian community. I have fond memories of living near Watertown in Boston and stopping by Armenian bakeries for tahini bread. 

And yes, in case you’re wondering, they did do henna in Armenia!

Born in Armenia in 1989, Nareh Arghamanyan began playing the piano when she was five years old.  Three years later, she began her studies with Alexander Gurgenov at the Tchaikovsky Music School for Talented Children in Yerevan.  In 2004 she was the youngest student to be admitted to the University for Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, where she studied with Heinz Medjimorec, and chamber music with Avedis Kouyoumdjian. Currently she continues her studies with Arie Vardi in Hannover and with Avedis Kouyoumdjian in Vienna. Nareh Arghamanyan is a laureate of more than 18 piano competitions including the 1st Prize at the 2008 Montreal International Music Competition, 1st Prize at the 2007 Piano Campus International Competition in Pontoise, and the 2005 Josef Dichler Piano Competition in Vienna.

(Image and biography taken from the Arts Management Group’s website)

tomarza asked:

do you have any info about armenian henna? i know this is a blog about jewish henna but i saw a post and it's pretty cool!!! do you know what kind of patterns armenians might have drawn, or anything about the traditions? thanks so much!

Actually, as it turns out, I do! I had an earlier post about it, which linked to this article I wrote last year. Here are some highlights:

In his 1830 book The Armenians, Charles MacFarlane, a well-known Scottish travel writer, describes a 19th-century Armenian wedding in Pera, the Armenian quarter in Constantinople [today Istanbul]. The henna ceremony, which he spells khennagedje [probably Armenian hina-gisher = henna-night], took place on Sunday night, and he notes that henna “has always been deemed an essential ingredient in an Armenian marriage” (1830: 211).

Once the bride’s family had welcomed the groom’s family into the house, the yeretzgin, or wife of the priest (remember that priests can be married in Orthodox Christianity) was honoured with the henna application: “The Khenna… was produced with great solemnity, and it was part of the functions of the chief Armenian priest’s wife to die [sic] the bridal fingers” (1830: 213). After both hands were hennaed, the bride was given presents of clothes, slippers, and a large decorated candle…

Armenian scholar Florence Mazian writes that the henna party took place in the bride’s home the Thursday or Friday before the wedding, and that after the bride was hennaed with simple designs; the children were hennaed as well (1984: 6):
“The Henna Party took place at the home of the bride-to-be given by the women of her family and her friends. Henna was applied only to fingernails, and young women put henna designs (e.g. a crescent) on the back of their hands. On this evening, girls sang and danced… Henna was applied by older women to the fingers of young girls. Little boys’ hands were dyed for fun. In former days, the yeretzgin (the priest’s wife) usually applied the henna and was remunerated with a small amount of money for her services. However, this custom had slipped into disuse by 1914…”

A number of traditional henna songs were recorded by Armenian ethnomusicologist Mihran Toumajan in the 1920s and 30s; German choir Ensemble Karot transcribed them with notes for their album Traditional Wedding Songs of Armenia. You can listen to samples of them here.
Interestingly, the songs reference a custom of hennaing only one hand to leave the other free to do housework. I thought the whole point of doing henna was to get out of doing work!

Mek dzerkd hinaye (from Akn)
Color one hand with henna;
Don’t color the other,
To take the cares of your mother.
Color one hand with henna;
Don’t color the other,
To take the cares of your father-in-law.

Hinan ekav, shaghetsek (from Armtan)
The henna is here, mix it.
The henna is here, mix it.

Harsanekan yerg hinayi (from Akn)
This henna is not ordinary henna,
The boy [groom] who sends it is very handsome.


So in terms of Armenian henna: they definitely did it! It was an important part of the wedding ceremony but women also used it for beauty (and men used it to dye their beards!) during the year. In terms of designs it seems that traditionally they did simple designs that could be drawn with a stick or one’s fingers, but I don’t see why you couldn’t adapt designs from traditional Armenian folk — embroidery! Ceramics! Jewelry! Go wild.

All tell the same story and bear the same scars: their men were all killed on the first day’s march from their cities, after which the women and girls were…robbed of their money, bedding, [and] clothing[,] and beaten, criminally abused, and abducted along the way. Their guards…allowed the baser element in every village through which they passed to abduct the girls and women and abuse them. We not only were told these things but the same things occurred right here in our own city before our very eyes and openly on the streets… There must be not less than five hundred abducted now in the homes of the Muslims of this city and as many more have been sexually abused and turned out on the streets again.

Srpouhi Dussap (née Vahanian) was the first Armenian woman novelist and the first Armenian writer—male or female—to address the social struggles particular to Armenian women. Born in 1842 in Constantinople, Dussap came of age during a period of cultural reawakening for Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, during which women began to carve out a place for themselves in the public sphere. One of these pioneering women was Dussap’s mother, Nazli Vahan, a staunch advocate for women’s education and the founder of charitable and educational organizations to help Armenian girls.

(Read the rest of the article by Jennifer Manoukian here) (Image)

Anna Kazanjian Longobardo was the first woman to receive the B.S. in mechanical engineering from Columbia in 1949, after attending a pre-engineering program at Barnard College. She earned the M.S. in mechanical engineering, with honors, from the University in 1952. A Trustee Emerita of Columbia, she is the first woman to receive the Egleston Medal for distinguished engineering achievement, the Engineering School Alumni Association’s highest award. A devoted alumna and advocate for SEAS, Longobardo has served as the Chair of the Engineering Council, (now the Board of Visitors), President of the CESAA Board of Directors, and of the Columbia Society of Graduates. She was the first woman and two term president of the University Alumni Federation—an organization with 18 associations and 200,000 members.

Read more about Anna here