Memory as well as Ruins

The Ruins of Ani


Didem Yildirim Boström

‘Ani Defteri’ / Journal of Reminiscence

“I once thought of loneliness as my grandma.
Legends, during those years, would begin as bandit songs.
No thyme-perfumed forests pealing out partridge melodies
resounded in my grandma’s voice;
rather, if anything,
blood-soaked mountains
sentenced to be so by official decree.”
– Hasan Ali Toptaş

I’ve met my grandmother, but we never had an actual conversation.
She spoke Kurdish; I couldn’t. I spoke Turkish; she did just a tiny bit.
She was Kurdish; so am I, partly. I’m also partly Armenian and Turkish.
I was twelve the last time we met; she was seventy.
She had a beautiful tattoo in the middle of her two eyebrows. I wished I had it too.

The woman who spoke a different language visited our home once every other year. She did the doctor visits and enjoyed the pictures on the TV screen because she didn’t really understand what was spoken. My parents moved to Ankara in order to leave their identity behind when they were young. They weren’t Kurds or Armenians anymore, and neither were their children. I heard them speak my grandmother’s language only when they wanted to talk about something secretly. My grandfather is Armenian, but he preferred not to speak Armenian. He is from the same city as my grandmother: Kars. I visited my grandparents’ city once. I don’t remember much because I was around five. Many years after my grandmother’s passing, my cousin, who became a teacher, was assigned to return to Kars. There, all the children in the classroom only spoke Kurdish, but all the books were written in Turkish. I asked him how he dealt with the situation. He said it was easy as he forbade them to speak Kurdish, just like his nation state does.

There is a beautiful and magnificent archeological site in my grandparents’ city called The Ruins of Ani. It is located on a secluded plateau that forms Turkey`s natural border with Armenia. The medieval city Ani was the capital of Greater Armenia for centuries. Nowadays, it is becoming a popular tourist site in northeast Turkey. The city’s presentation has been falsified by the Turkish government in order to shadow Armenian history and in 2016, Ani was added to UNESCO World Heritage List. In this research, by giving a performance in Ani, I`m aiming to build a relationship with my maternal and paternal grandparents, and their mixed Armenian, Kurdish and Turkish roots, as well as their home city, Kars. I also want to examine the process by which Ani became a World Heritage site, in its pre- and post-nomination phases, seeking other truths and the answers to the following questions using a decolonial perspective: Whose history? Whose memory? Whose heritage?

Remember me – A virtual visit to The Marr Museum of Ani