Father Land

Front Cover
PowerHouse Books, 2010 - Photography - 153 pages
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When is a city born? When does it mature? When does it acquire an identity? There is just one answer to all three questions: when it looks death in the eye.

This is a land of myths and traditions, where people do not die but, rather, are transformed into legends and live on with their curses and blessings, continuing to put their stamp on their environment, to inspire future generations and to draw up the maps of the country’s culture.
—Vahé Oshagan


Father Land by Vahé and Ara Oshagan is a poetic and personal journey through the rugged, human-and-history-laden landscape of Karabagh. It is also a unique collaboration between a photographer son and his famous, 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 Karabagh’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 Karabagh life. It touches upon topics as diverse as the happenings of the eighth 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 provide insight into the lives of the people of Karabagh on a documentary as well as symbolic level and they reflect his personal encounters in the region. At times capturing an intimate familial moment; at other times, in the street, observing the chaos of life; or reverent in the presence of Karabagh’s millennial churches, the images simultaneously document, explore, and reflect upon Karabagh’s precarious present and uncertain future.

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.

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About the author (2010)

Vahé Oshagan has authored eight volumes of poetry, six volumes of prose fiction, short stories, plays, and literary commentaries, as well as countless scholarly articles and essays on literary and historical topics. Oshagan is the preeminent poet and man of letters of the Armenian diaspora. His 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 collection, iwitness, joined portraits of witnesses of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 with their stories of horror, survival, and redemption. Oshagan has also photographed the Armenian diaspora of Los Angeles in a body of work entitled Traces of Identity. His other projects include Juvies, focusing on the history of youth in the California prison system, and a project about the Ethiopian community of Los Angeles. 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.

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