Struggle is intersectional

After more than a century of quiet cowardice, the United States House of Representatives voted to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide, condemning the killing of 1.5 million Armenians and other Christians by the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923.

405 members of Congress voted in solidarity with Armenians while 11 voted against the resolution and three abstained. A nearly unanimous, bipartisan House vote raises the question: why has it taken more than 100 years for Congress to form this consensus?

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, the only Democrat to abstain from voting rather than recognize the genocide, calls the vote a “cudgel in a political fight” against Turkey, amid tensions involving military operations in Syria. According to Omar, the genocide should be recognized “based on academic consensus outside the push and pull of geopolitics.” The Congresswoman also used the vote as an opportunity to call for a “true acknowledgement of historical crimes against humanity” which addresses not only the Armenian Genocide, but also the transatlantic slave trade and systematic murder of Indigenous people.

According to academic consensus, the Armenian Genocide accounts for some of the most brutal instances of human rights abuses in history. Raphael Lemkin, the man who coined the word “genocide,” named the mass murder of Armenians as a definitive example of the term. Over 30 countries announced solidarity with Armenians prior to the United States in the wake of violence experienced by their ancestors as well as the continued violence perpetrated by genocide deniers.

It’s naive of Omar to suggest that the Armenian Genocide could exist “outside the push and pull of geopolitics.” The mass extermination of a group of people doesn’t happen by accident; it’s calculated, organized, and entirely political. The fact that Turkey, along with many other countries, will not acknowledge the struggles of Armenian people to have their history recognized, emphasizes the importance of the House’s decision to vote.

Perhaps this is what’s so jarring about Omar’s position; instead of acknowledging the collective trauma involved in a 100-year-old contested genocide, the Congresswoman uses the House as a soapbox to speak over the issue at hand, advocating instead on behalf of black and Indigenous people and the systematic violence they have faced. Although black and Indigenous struggle in America predates the Armenian Genocide – not to mention both groups continue to face discrimination and violence – it’s hypocritical to advocate for an intersectional call to arms encompassing all genocides only to abstain from voting in solidarity with Armenians. Intersectionality and solidarity involves showing up for one another; the House has passed resolutions recognizing the struggles of black and Indigenous people in America before, but this is the first affirming the Armenian genocide.

Though America is not the first country to pass this kind of resolution, its position encourages a dialogue about accountability and solidarity which  may motivate other countries to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide in the future. 

Graphic @sundaeghost


Media production panel by the pros

Learning about ressources and teaching students how to succeed as filmmakers

Non-profit group Community. Empowerment. Education. Development. (CEED) invited Concordia students to connect with award-winning filmmakers for a series of screenings, talks and workshops at the John Molson School of Business, on Tuesday Jan. 29th. The panel of filmmakers was composed of Concordia students, video artists and a National Film Board (NFB) alumni.

She’s a Woman, the first screening of the evening, filled the room with the steady rhymes of Gulu-based rapper and music educator MC Twitch. Directed by Concordia student filmmakers Sandra Hercegova, Jane Lakes and colleague Karane Tuhirirwe, She’s a Woman highlights music as a means of empowerment for Ugandan youth. The film was produced during their summer internship with CEED, which partners Ugandan and Concordia-based videographers with youth in Gulu to produce community-driven projects.

Martine Chartrand, who said she is not a filmmaker but rather an animator, was the second panelist of the evening. Her NFB-produced film, Âme Noir  is a painting come to life; purple and blue paint swirl in abstract configurations until they finally settle into the shape of a woman and her grandson. Calling Âme Noir “a film about childhood,” Chartrand paints black history through time, tenderness and hardship. Her brushstrokes conjure scenes of slave ships, the underground railroad and speakeasies playing jazz. As a Haitian adopted by Québecois parents, the artist found it important to deconstruct her dual identity and explore the theme of otherness in her work.The panel concluded with Anna Grigorian’s video art; juxtaposing elaborately constructed sets of toilet paper and glittering word art alongside the political speeches of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, Grigorian obscures the boundary between reality and the absurd. When asked how to get your work out in the world, Grigorian recommended FilmFreeway, a hub for film festival submissions worldwide.

Following the panel, workshops were hosted by Amber Jackson from CUTV and Shanice Bernicky from Concordia’s Feminist Media Studio. Jackson focused on developing a voice as a creator, whereas Bernicky facilitated a discussion on representation and marginalized identities in the mediascape.

Both CUTV and the Feminist Media Studio are excellent resources for filmmakers. CUTV offers production workshops for Concordia students, lends out recording equipment, and possesses an iMac-equipped atelier outfitted with editing software. The Feminist Media Studio is a network of graduate and PhD students offering a community space for cross-platform creation, generative discussion, and also lends camera equipment to members.

Photo by Annie Yeo.


Synths and cellos slow dance to Syngja’s folklore

A Saturday night performance feels more akin to a ritual than a concert

Synths and cellos slow dance, then tango to dream-pop fables by Montreal storytellers, Syngja. Appearing on stage like apparitions in a dream, their Sept. 15 performance at Brasserie Beaubien feels more akin to a folkloric ritual than a musical act. Watching Týr Jami and Justin Guzzwell is like overhearing a secret you’re not supposed to know about.

Lights of all colours spill into every crevice of the room, alongside images from another time and place. Much of Syngja’s music is inspired by tapes—Jami’s great grandmother would record and send them to family members following her migration from Iceland to Manitoba. Tonight, spinning projections of lang amma (Icelandic for great-grandmother), light the way for Syngja as they time travel through her memory.

The journey begins in a landscape of reverberating sounds, like whispers on a cave wall. Between slow tambourine samples and anxious strings, Jami and Guzzwell seem to be warning the audience of a sinister presence, one which lyrics caution is dangerous “when you lock eyes” and “when you can’t see.” This new song, “Water Spirits,” is more experimental than the pop-beat anthems of Lang Amma, Syngja’s last record, and shapes a vision of what their upcoming releases might be like.

The eerie tambourines soon evaporate, replaced by the popcorn beat from “Surface of the Sea.” Guzzwell’s synths and Jami’s cello entrance the audience while lyricism weaves the tale of “a madman about to find love.” The crowd sways back and forth to the oscillating beat. During the last song, “Palm Reader,” Jami puts down her cello and dances alongside Guzzwell, sometimes bouncing, other times gliding in a sparkling mirage of sequins. Syngja’s musical acts are frequently accompanied by dancing and theatrics, often involving a troupe, but tonight, it is just the duo. Zuzu Knew, mastermind behind the evening’s visuals, is absent, but nevertheless feels present among the many pools of light emanating from the stage.

Having recently returned to Montreal after an artist residency in Iceland, Syngja is preparing for the release of their new album, Echoing Rose (Live in Iceland), on Nov. 3 at The Diving Bell. Their first release since 2016, Jami said Echoing Rose will continue to explore the mythology of lang amma’s memory. Through dreamlike, sonic storytelling, Syngja will once again offer mere mortals an opportunity to travel through time and space.

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