Aram Krikorian on Activism, Intersectionality, and Their Book Ճանապարը (The Road)
Written by Alexa Gris
28 December 2021
Aram Krikorian’s intersectionalities run deep. Aram is a nonbinary queer artivist based in Berkeley, California. They are Armenian, Palestinian, French Canadian and American. Using their unique lens and background, Aram creates artwork that connects directly with public activism. Though Aram never imagined they could be a public artist, over the past few years, they have eloquently bridged art and activism into one.
To help their cousin’s children learn more Armenian, Aram created a hand-drawn coloring booklet using his grandmother’s inspiring story. In this interview, Aram shares the creative journey they took to make the booklet.
Alexa Gris: What is the inspiration behind the book? What was the creative process like?
Aram Krikorian: The motive for creating the book was my growing acquaintance with lots of Armenians in communities like the Bay Area, NYC and LA who are at different levels of Armenian language knowledge.
My cousin’s kids live in Pasadena, CA and want to know more Armenian, but they don’t have time for extra language classes. So I decided to make a simple booklet for them to play around with. Color it in. See the alphabet. The story of the book is based on my cousin’s and my Nene’s family stories.
My grandma/Nene/Nevart was born and raised in Jerusalem. Her parents were genocide survivors from Ottoman Anatolia. Nene’s mom, Heghineh, (the character in the book) was from Zeytoun. She was orphaned super young and somehow found her way to this German nun’s church in the middle of nowhere. When she grew up, she made it to Jerusalem.
My Nene always told this story to my sister and I. Now she has passed away. Getting additional details from my auntie and uncles was hard, because (for good reason) they get emotional about explaining their grandparents’ trails through heavy duty devastation. But over repeated polite (enough) requests, I got the extra valuable pieces to work with. And everyone’s been enjoying the end product; a storybook and workbook combination!
AG: You integrate all of your identities and inspirations into your work so eloquently (certainly in this book!). How is the story grounded in your family experience?
AK: My Nene must have instilled in me, my sibling and cousins an ownership of her stories. They’ve become our stories too. I think I’ve always been a femme enthusiast. I guess that might come from experiencing my grandma as a lifestyle icon overall. With this special Armenian Palestinian-ness as my inheritance, I’m developing all the ways to share it and pass it on. My cousin’s kids and my chosen family members seem happy to inherit the love-infused tales we got passed down to us by our lovable Nene.
AG: What would you share with young queer Armenian activists aiming to make change through creative means?
AK: When community/family/friends support my artivism, I am fueled to continue ahead. I think the only real option for the future is mutually driven art. I’d rather have more and more queer Armenian artists and activists making our way through the world from here on out than any other alternative. We just need support. Luckily, I always recommend working for trade. I will work for food. Trade art with each other. Swap herbs. Whatever. I’ll do any number of things to keep these movements going. And I love getting to know other individuals who have come to the same realization along the way.
It’s been nice to present my queer Armenian Palestinian-ness and raise the volume over the years. I look forward to motivation and connection with lots of other folx who identify or relate similarly. I see more and more allies stepping up to keep our existence safe and flourishing. This is new. It is very exciting.