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Il faut que les braises de Constantinople s'envolent jusqu'en Europe

Il faut que les braises de Constantinople s'envolent jusqu'en Europe [The embers of Constantinople must fly all the way to Europe], Turkey , 2021 - in progress.

With the support of Cnap and the Fondation des artistes

"Il faut que les braises..." is a photography project at the intersection of documentary and fiction, about the Armenians of Turkey and the consequences of the genocide-denial discourse on the people living in Turkey today.

The project is made up of two angles: a genealogical investigation into the traces of my ancestors in Istanbul and Anatolia on the one hand, and an investigation into the Armenians of Istanbul today, made up of portraits and interviews on the other. In this way, I intend to play back and forth between the past and the present, the intimate and the documentary, past tragedies and current struggles.

In 1922, my Armenian grandfather, a teenager, immigrated to France on a Nansen passport (a stateless passport), fleeing the young Republic of Turkey where new massacres threatened the survivors of the Armenian genocide. Like many others of his generation, he passed no knowledge of his past on to his children and never spoke of what he had experienced in Turkey, in Constantinople and Talas in Anatolia. The only clue to his past is a note inserted in a novel about the genocide that he gave to his children (A dagger in this garden, Vahé Katcha), in which he reveals how his family survived.

Considering that the disappearance of family history is one of the expected effects of genocide, in the same way as the destruction of memory and culture, I decided to investigate the history of my family on the spot, and to find the traces of these people who were, for me, almost a myth. This first part of the work has been completed.

At the same time, I'm trying to understand the consequences of a policy of rewriting history, negationist and discriminatory, on Armenians in Turkey today. Deprived of freedom of expression, imprisoned or murdered when they speak out, the Armenians of Turkey are little heard and therefore often forgotten. Their history and their stories, however, represent in the extreme the experiences of minorities in Turkey today, and reflect the ambiguity of a policy that is officially assimilationist but in reality, racist. Above all, it is a particular feeling in everyday life: as the only genocide not recognized by its perpetrators to date, State denial has diffused consequences on everyday life and psychology. How does it feel to live in a country whose national hero is a criminal? When streets and schools bear the name of one of the architects of the genocide? When the President himself calls you a "remnant of the sword"?

Through the prism of my personal story, and my exploration of my family history and the territory of Istanbul, the aim is to capture something of the diffuse feeling of living in an environment where your history is denied.

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