NEW YORK—Father Land by Vahé and Ara Oshagan is a poetic and personal journey through the rugged, human-and-history-laden landscape of the mountainous Nagorno–Karabakh Republic. It is also a unique collaboration between a photographer son and his well–known, writer father. A family steeped in Armenian literature and art, Vahé and Ara Oshagan’s work is the result of an intensely felt connection to their heritage and homeland. Father Land is a literary and visual contemplation of Karabakh’s present–day, its history and its culture, as well as a meditation on transnational identity, land, and paternal bonds.
Springing from a deep understanding of the Armenian people and their unique past, Vahé Oshagan;s essay presents a reflective, yet witty and fluid, account of his encounters with people from all walks of Karabakh life. It touches upon topics as diverse as the happenings of the 8th–century BC, the recent war of liberation, the dialect of the people, their worldview, their contradictions, their body language, their spirituality, and their legendary hospitality. It is an accomplished piece of imaginative literature, weaving between literary and literal, creative and factual, objective and subjective reflection.
Ara Oshagan’s photographs depict a complex and layered vision of Karabakh. Functioning on documentary as well as symbolic levels, they reflect his encounters in the region as seen from his own intensely personal point of view. At times capturing an intimate familial moment; at other times, in the street, observing the chaos of life; or reverent in the presence of Karabakh’s millennial churches, the images simultaneously document, explore, and reflect upon Karabakh’s precarious present and his own place in this Father Land.
Taken together, the text and images are symbiotic and deeply connected—like the father and son who produced the work–and they portray a region and a culture as old as the bonds of family and society themselves.
Vahé Oshagan is the preeminent poet and man of letters of the Armenian diaspora. He has authored eight volumes of poetry, six volumes of prose fiction, short stories, plays, and countless scholarly and literary articles and essays. Oshagan’s career as a writer was marked by a clear break from the past and the introduction of new literary ideas and forms into the Armenian language. In 1998, the President of the Republic of Armenia awarded Oshagan the Movses Khorenatsi medal for a lifetime of service to Armenian culture and letters–the highest Armenian honor given to a living person. Vahé Oshagan passed away on June 30, 2000.
Ara Oshagan is a photographer whose work revolves around the intersecting themes of identity, community, and memory. His first series, iwitness, joined portraits of witnesses of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 with their stories of survival, and redemption. Oshagan has also explored is own identity through photographs of the Armenian diaspora of Los Angeles. His other projects include Juvies, an image/text project with youth in the California prison system. Ara Oshagan’s work is in the permanent collection of the Southeast Museum of Photography, Florida; the Downey Museum of Art, California; and the Museum of Modern Art in Armenia.