The Artsakh Scrolls imagine a potential futurity for a community and nation violently deracinated from its indigenous lands.
In November 2020, the imperialist state of Azerbaijan invaded the small region of Artsakh and its indigenous Armenian population. With a vastly superior military and support from Turkey, it occupied and colonized most of the area, displacing over 100,000 Armenians from their ancestral homes. Part of a century-long campaign of genocide and destruction against the indigenous population of the Armenian highlands.
Colonization is not an event but a process: alongside the dispossession of land, is the gradual erasure of culture, language and way of life. It expunges indigenous context, landscape, ecosystem and infrastructure and casts the native community as rootless, floating, “othered” on their own land. The Artsakh Scrolls collect the scattered fragments of this community into a panorama of life and possibility. Can we imagine life post-colonization: a life that can resist erasure of its Indigeneity, can thrive? Can we imagine a process of de-colonization?
The scrolls are digital collages comprised of fragments extracted from my photographic series, “FatherLand”, from Artsakh before colonization. The scroll backgrounds are pages from my grandfather Hagop Oshagan’s notebooks—a novelist who was himself deracinated from his indigenous land in 1915. The scrolls create a historic arc from that catastrophe to the one still unfolding today. Contextualized by this history of genocide and violence against the Armenian nation and the colonization of the Armenian highlands, the scrolls also speak to a cyclical panorama of history that ebbs and flows where resistance and de-colonization are still possibilities.
The scrolls celebrate indigenous strength and resilience against the violence of the colonizer. They imagine a time-space where all peoples and communities can co-exist in peace.