...The amazing and wonderful sons of the Armenian nation have yet to charm the world, the entire Planet and us, their compatriots with their success, achievements and outstanding acts in the fields of art, culture, science and other fields and with their pro-national activities aimed at preserving the Armenian identity for many years to come. They always remind people that there is a small and heavenly land called Armenia where there is a brilliant and creative nation, that the Armenian Genocide took place 101 years ago, that nomadic tribes had forcefully displaced the Armenians from their Historic Homeland and massacred them so that not even one witness of the crime would remain and not even in a museum…However, with the piety of God, the Armenians lived, continued to create material and spiritual values, remembered the dark days and transmitted the history to the generations, and those memories turned into songs, stories, poems, paintings and photographs.
…Vivid evidence of this is the photo exhibition called “The Armenians in Turkey” and the album “The Armenians” that Istanbul-Armenian photographer Nouran Akkaya opened and presented during an event organized by the RA Ministry of Diaspora at Arno Babajanyan Concert Hall on November 24. On the occasion, though it was difficult, but I managed to take an interview from the photographer surrounded by several people and media representatives through Bedros, Akkaya’s kind translator. The interview is for Hayern Aysor electronic newspaper of the RA Ministry of Diaspora.
Karine Avagyan: Nouran, I congratulate you on the opening of your exhibition and on your first visit to Armenia. I wish that these photos showing the destiny of the Armenians are shown around the world.
Nouran Akkaya: I thank the Minister of Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia, the supporters, the audience, my Armenian colleagues in Armenia and Turkey and you for your kind wishes. I am more than happy to be in Armenia and have the opportunity to present my album “The Armenians” and showcase my 60 photos.
Karine Avagyan: Nouran, I thought this exhibition would have opened on the occasion of either the 100th or the 101st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Weren’t you able to make it?
N. A.: I had decided to do that, but I was late. However, this topic is always current. The important thing is that it was held. I am glad that the exhibition opened in Armenia.
Karine Avagyan: What motivated you to take photos devoted to this topic? Let’s talk about your roots.
N. A.: I am from Istanbul, but my roots are from Sebastia. We Turkish-Armenians live as incognito Armenians. So, I wanted to lift the curtain in the 21st century.
Karine Avagyan: Is your name and last name also the result of being incognito?
N. A.: No, it has nothing to do with that. I never had an intention to keep my name a secret. It’s just that Turkey used to have a law on names and last names. There was no intention to change my name and last name.
Karine Avagyan: If, by a miracle, you were born again, which name would you like to have?
N. A.: I would like to have the name Hrant. I was baptized as Hrant. I am Hrant!
Karine Avagyan: And so, Hrant, which of your theme-based photos is the closest to your heart?
N. A.: All of them because they are devoted to episodes of Armenian history and show images of the spiritual values that the Armenians had in the Historic Homeland. For me, spiritual values are the Armenians having turned into parchments, cross-stones, Armenian homes, districts, water fountains made by Armenians, Armenian churches and cemeteries portrayed in these photos. Look, this photo is a photo of an old Armenian woman who has created something that looks like a round map of her village based on her father’s stories. The map shows her family’s home, the village school, as well as the church and the streets. When taking some photos, people would open their hearts and share the memories of their ancestors. In another photo you can see the ceremony of making of Armenian harisa in one of the villages (Vakifli) Musa Ler, the 40 boilers placed on the fire. Another photo shows an Armenian man kneeling in front of an ancient and broken cross-stone and praying…I can’t set aside any one of the photos. They are like a history book, and all the pages are familiar and interconnected.
Karine Avagyan: Hrant, I know you also have another profession…
N. A.: Yes, you are right. I am not a professional photographer. I simply worked on a project for seven years. I am a specialist of electronic medical equipment.
Karine Avagyan: Is this your first visit to and first exhibition in Armenia?
N. A.: Yes, I am visiting Armenia for the first time, and this is my first exhibition ever. So, it is a special visit.
Karine Avagyan: Have you met all the heroes in your photos in real life and taken photos of them?
N. A.: I have met all of them. I have not taken their faces from any other place and have not told them to pose in a special way. I took photos of them praying, crouching on a tombstone, hands up high and in a natural state.
Karine Avagyan: Hrant, I really regret the fact that you practically don’t speak Armenian, though I feel that you understand a little. Didn’t your parents or grandparents speak Armenian?
N. A.: My parents don’t know Armenian, and my grandparents passed away when I was very little. Armenian is not used at my workplace. We speak English or Turkish.
Karine Avagyan: Dear Hrant, let’s hope we definitely speak Armenian during your next visit to Armenia. Thank you for this interview, for the exhibition of your beautiful and impressive photos and for your album. I cordially congratulate you on receiving a certificate of the RA Ministry of Diaspora.
…I end my interview with the photographer Nouran-Hrant, who looks like an Armenian and within whom I can see the Armenian, wishing that he holds more exhibitions around the world.