Inspired by her grandfather's eyewitness accounts of the 1915 Armenian genocide (he was the only adult male of his family to escape the Turks), London artist Perouz (Pearl) Seferian pays tribute to the 1-1/2 million who died in the slaughter, in an exhibition Jan. 21 to March 12, 2006 at the St. Thomas-Elgin Public Art Centre (www.stepac.ca). Located at 301 Talbot St.
Lives in Canada. Rob Maguire's grandmother.
'HEART-WRENCHING': SEFERIAN WORKS ARE A MEMORIAL TO FAMILY MEMBERS KILLED IN THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE By Kathy Rumleski, Free Press Reporter
London Free Press, Ontario, Canada Jan 23 2006
Artist Pearl Seferian is shown with some of her art. Her message: "Genocide is real. We have to make it stop. It diminishes all of us."
(Dave Chidley, LFP) The Voice Of The Caravans
An exhibit by Pearl Seferian at St. Thomas-Elgin Public Art Centre, 301 Talbot St., till March 12
When Londoner Pearl Seferian talks, she paints a mental picture of the hell of the Armenian genocide.
When she paints, the 72-year-old grandmother tells the story of one family's anguish that plagued three generations.
Seferian's time is consumed with her painting and installation art that preserves the story of her family, most of whom were murdered along with 1.5 million Armenians during the 1915-1923 genocide.
"I work every day, all day long. It's my life," says Seferian, who received a fine arts degree from Western last October and was the gold medal winner as tops in her class. "Underlying everything in my work is the names (of those who lost their lives)," Seferian says.
An exhibition of her work -- The Voice of the Caravans -- is on display at the St. Thomas-Elgin Public Art Centre.
"This is a memorial to her family," says centre executive director Debra Seabrook-Page.
"It's so heart-wrenching. It will reduce the average person to tears."
The exhibition includes 32 works. The number is significant because of the 32 women and children murdered in her father's family.
Seferian's father and grandfather were the only two in the family to survive, although each did not know the other was alive.
They were re-united several years later.
"It was just a fluke. Someone had seen (my grand-father) and told (my father). He could not believe it. They took him to where he was and they did find each other. It was an absolute miracle," she says.
Seferian's father escaped by hiding in a manure pile while his brothers were being massacred. His mother was sent in a death caravan to the desert.
None of the men in her mother's family survived. She and her sister were placed in an orphanage.
Seferian's mother and father met in Canada and raised a family of five.
She says the adults rarely talked about what they witnessed and the deep hurt they felt, although she remembers her grandfather curled up on the floor in a fetal position, weeping.
"They found it very difficult to speak about. They felt it was a burden they were placing on their children," says Seferian, who is dressed in black for an interview in her home, where she has two studios.
Seferian recalls when she was pregnant, her father opened up a bit and told her he'd seen a baby being cut out of a woman with a sword.
Even though her parents rarely talked about it, Seferian didn't escape the horrors. Reading her father's journals and painting what happened is like living it.
"Genocide affects the generations," she says.
One work in the exhibition shows a young girl, Seferian, with red hands and a nearby vulture eating human flesh. A baby's feet are shown.
"My grandmother had three children. One was quite young. She carried that one and (the daughter) died of starvation in her arms," Seferian says in explaining the work. "She had to put that baby by the side of the road. She knew vultures would eat (the body)."
Seferian's art is based on her father's journals, some published. She has 700 pages of his journals.
"I feel like I work in collaboration with him," she says. "It's . . .
eye-witness documentation of events."
Seferian's work will also be shown in Montreal, Edmonton and Scotland in 2006.
The main message she hopes her art will say to people is: "Genocide is real. We have to make it stop. It diminishes all of us."
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