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100 portraits of exile, the search for identity of Armenian refugees

 

“100 portraits de l’exil, la quête d’identité des réfugiés arméniens” (100 portraits of exile, the search for identity of Armenian refugees) is the title of an on-going exhibition at the Musée d’Histoire de Marseille (19 March – 27 September 2015). The exhibition is a coproduction of the Mayor of Marseille, the Association Recherche et Archivage de la Mémoire arménienne (ARAM), and the Marseille History Museum, conducted as part of the commemorations of the centennial of the Armenian Genocide of 1915.

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, as part of the Mediterranean area, a political border and a landing place, historically experienced immigration. History, culture, place names and the economy of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur bear the imprint of the migrants who actively participated in the development of the area.
For years, multiple actors – associations, communities, heritage institutions, social and cultural structures, artists, researchers, activists, etc. – have written, valued and participated in the history migrants, since the Network for the History and Memory of Immigration and Territories (Le Réseau pour l’histoire et la mémoire des immigrations et des territoires) was established in 2009, with the aim of creating a permanent platform to share, store, communicate, pool and enhance these actions and productions.
A charter (La Charte du Réseau) affirms the values and the common intentions of the Network.

Marseille particularly experienced an influx of Armenian survivors in the early 1920s. First housed in transit camps, they gradually integrated in the local society by founding a very strong community, based on mutual solidarity. The exhibition showcases 100 portraits of survivors, photographed on their arrival at Marseille between 1922 and 1926 and follows the specific course of the life of three of them, since the moment when they left their homeland until they achieved the status of alien resident.
The photographs exhibited come from the records of the Prelature of Armenians of South of France and were taken in order to issue certificates of birth and baptism to the refugees, to prove their identity – the first step in a long process of reconstruction. Obtaining identification papers for the survivors was an important step in their journey. The certificates included photographs, were written in French and were used as temporary civil status records.
The portraits show people who were born in Anatolia and who, throughout their all lives, had been thinking wistfully about their homeland. The images are complemented by the presentation of original documents in display cases.

The exhibition will be followed in September by the third edition of the Biennial “Histoire mémoire des immigrations et territories”, an opportunity to present the diversity of approaches to immigration and promote initiatives of local actors in PACA region.

 

Réseau pour l’Histoire et la Mémoire des Immigrations et des Territoires en région PACA

La Charte du Réseau

Biennale Histoire mémoire des immigrations et territories

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