Hundreds of members of the Los Angeles Armenian community, including Mike Antonovich, Los Angeles County Supervisor, gathered at Grand Park to witness the unveiling of the Armenian Genocide monument on September 17.
Architect and designer, Vahagn Thomasian worked alongside artist, Levon Parian and photographer, Ara Oshagan, to create the Armenian Genocide Monument. The monument was a continuation of the iWitness project which they did together last year at Grand Park in commemoration of the centennial of the Armenian genocide. After such a positive response to the project last year, the LA County team were urged to join in the iWitness project to unveil the monument which now stands at Olive Court in Grand Park.
The unveiling was led by Antonovich and Armenian religious leaders, after which followed a series of featured presentations by these three collaborators, as well as a keynote speech by the director of the USC Armenian Institute, Salpi Ghazarian.
Standing at the foot of the monument, Garine Avakian gave a moving tribute to the Armenian nation. The clergy carried out prayers after that and was joined by Antonovich and the collaborators as they unveiled the monument and released white doves into the air to symbolize peace.
The monument which is now a permanent feature in Grand Park was created using black, volcanic tuff rock from Ararat Valley in Armenia. Tuff is endemic to the Armenian highlands and deep-rooted in the history of the region. It has been used for centuries to build many churches, historical buildings, and artworks. The monument is a silent witness to that history and also bears witness to the Genocide itself.
The five-ton rock was sculpted by Thomasian who explained how the structure was carved to symbolize the influence of the genocide on the Armenian nation. He said that the split in the center of the rock was symbolic of the division which the genocide caused in the lives of so many Armenians. The rough edges are in memory of those who attempted to survive but were killed. The smooth portion of the monument is an "ode to survival" and to the future generations of Armenians and all nationalities.
A quote from a well-known Armenian-American author, William Saroyan has been inscribed on the monument. It reads: "In the time of your life, live — so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it."
Oshagan said that the idea of the rock itself being a witness might be unusual but is very significant. This piece of material was there in that nation during the genocide and history is embedded in it. Oshagan said, "A witness need not speak to be a witness. Just like the trees around Auschwitz are witnesses to the Holocaust."
[caption id="attachment_2876" align="alignleft" width="300"] Architect and designer, Vahagn Thomasian who created the memorial using volcanic rock from the Armenian Highlands[/caption]
The presence of both smooth and rough surfaces on either side of the iWitness monument further symbolizes the past and the present and also re-emphasizes the disruption between these two realities.
Thomasian said that the angles, four degrees, twenty-four degrees, and nineteen and fifteen degrees, at which the monument was sculpted represents the date April 24, 1915, and has great significance.
The unveiling ceremony drew to a close with an outdoor concert which featured musical performances by the band Green Card, and also separate performances by members of the Element Band, Ara Dabandjian, and Sosse Aramouni, much to the delight of the crowds.