Recovering an Art: David Ohannessian and the Armenian Ceramics of Jerusalem
Sato Moughalian, award-winning flutist and author of “Feast of Ashes: The Life and Art of David Ohannessian"
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
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Along the cobbled streets and golden walls of Jerusalem, brilliantly glazed tiles catch the light and beckon the eye. These colorful wares—known as Armenian ceramics—are iconic features of the Holy City. Silently, these works of ceramic art—an art that graces homes and museums around the world—also represent a riveting story of resilience and survival. In 1919, David Ohannessian founded the art of Armenian ceramics in Jerusalem, where his work and that of his followers is now celebrated as a local treasure. Born in an isolated Anatolian mountain village, Ohannessian mastered a centuries-old art form in Kütahya, witnessed the rise of violent nationalism in the waning years of the Ottoman Empire, endured arrest and deportation in the Armenian Genocide, founded a new tradition in Jerusalem under the British Mandate, and spent his final years, uprooted once again, in Cairo and Beirut. Ms. Moughalian will detail the lineage of her grandfather David Ohannessian’s ceramic tradition and document the critical roles his deportation and his own agency played in its transfer—aspects of the story obscured in the art historical narrative. She will speak about the process of coming to terms with her family’s past, the ways in which that served as an impetus to excavate and reconstruct her grandfather’s history through archival research, and the importance of preserving the stories of peoples displaced through migration.
Sato Moughalian is the author of “Feast of Ashes: The Life and Art of David Ohannessian” (Redwood Press/ Stanford University Press, 2019). She is also an award winning flutist in New York City and Artistic Director of Perspectives Ensemble, founded in 1993 at Columbia University to explore and contextualize works of composers and visual artists. She serves as principal flutist of the American Modern Ensemble and Gotham Chamber Opera; guest flutist with groups including Imani Winds, American Ballet Theatre, American Symphony Orchestras, and the Orquestra Sinfonico do Estado São Paulo, Brazil. She can be heard on more than thirty chamber music recordings for Sony Classics, BIS, Naxos, as well as on YouTube, Spotify, and other major music platforms. Since 2007, Ms. Moughalian has traveled to Turkey, England, Israel, Palestine, and France to uncover her grandfather’s traces, has published articles, and gives talks on the genesis of Jerusalem’s Armenian ceramic art.