Weekend Activities in Southern California

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By Kevork Keushkerian

LOS ANGELES — Two extraordinary events marked the weekend of September 26 to be memorable for the many members and friends of Tekeyan Cultural Association in the Greater Los Angeles Area.

The first one was the presentation of the newly-published art book of surrealist Jean Kazandjian and the exhibition of his recent paintings. It was organized by Tekeyan Cultural Association’s Los Angeles Chapter, on the occasion of its 40th anniversary of its inception. It took place on Saturday, September 26, at the Boyadjian Hall of the Armenian General Benevolent Union’s Manoogian complex in Pasadena.

A capacity crowd was gathered there to admire the many works of the famous artist, who was there in person with his wife, Christine and two sons. Notable among the art connoisseurs were Very Rev. Baret Yeretzian, representing Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, the Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America, painter Joseph Jeraco with his wife, as well as Prof. Osheen Keshishian of the Armenian Observer, and many others.

Master of Ceremonies Parsegh Kartalian welcomed the audience in three languages: Armenian, English and French, as the artist currently resides in France. He then introduced Gloria Orenstein, professor of comparative literature at the University of Southern California, to present the book and the artist.

The most attractive of the works was a huge masterpiece, hung on the wall behind the podium, named “Victory.” It was composed of nine diagonal pieces, put together in three sections. One could see the head in the middle section, with two stretched hands in the adjoining sections, giving the impression of a soaring eagle. This was no surprise to the audience, as the artist is an architect, by profession.

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At the conclusion of the presentation, the artist answered questions raised by the curious members of the audience. A book signing and reception followed.
It is noteworthy to mention that Kazandjian’s album of his recent paintings was also presented to the public at the Armenian Library and Museum of American in Watertown, Mass. on September 10. The presenter there was art critic and former Mirror-Spectator editor Krikor Keoseyan.

The second event was the celebration of the 140th birthday of poet and writer Hovhannes Toumanian, organized by Tekeyan Cultural Association’s Pasadena-Glendale Chapter. It took place on the evening of Sunday, September 27, at TCA’s Beshgeturian Center in Altadena.

Master of Ceremonies Kevork Keushkerian welcomed the audience and introduced the keynote speaker, Hratch Sepetjian. Sepetjian is the chair of the Armenian Department at the AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School in Canoga Park. He graduated from the AGBU Garmirian Elementary School in Antelias, Lebanon and attended the AGBU Melkonian Educational Institute in Nicosia, Cyprus. Upon graduating in 1987, he attended the Yerevan State University, graduating with a master’s degree in Armenian philology and pedagogy in 1994. He’s been residing in California with his wife since 2002. He has two daughters.

Hovhannes Toumanian was born in Tsegh, a village in Armenia’s Lori region. He is well known for his poetry, prose and especially his short stories, whose themes involve ordinary people and their naivety about the facts of life and their daily routines, said Sepetjian. Toumanian himself wasn’t much different from the people he depicted in his stories, continued Sepetjian, who then  related a few stories from the poet’s life, to prove his point.

Toumanian had a big family and often he did not remember the names of his own children. Once, he went to a school and inquired about two of his daughters. But unfortunately they were not there, as they were attending another school. Embarrassed, he went to the other school and inquired about them. The headmaster burst into laughter and told him that they were not there, as they had graduated.

Once, strolling in the marketplace, Toumanian saw two pairs of beautiful red shoes. Unaware of shoe sizes, he bought them, thinking they would fit at least two of his daughters. Unfortunately, they didn’t and to save money, he returned the shoes to the store. A few weeks later, Toumanian spotted the same shoes in the same store and totally oblivious to his previous experience, he bought them again.

Toumanian is the author of the lyrics of Dikranian’s “Anoush” opera. Some of his famous works are: Katch Nazar, Paregentan (Shrovetide), A Drop of Honey, The Dog and the Cat and the Death of Gigos.

A musical selection, With My Homeland by Toumanian, was rendered a cappella by Khatchig Nahabedian and a poetic recitation of two of Toumanian’s works, The Death of Gigos and A Drop of Honey was rendered by professional actor-director Setrak Bronzian.

Closing remarks were rendered by Yeretzian. He noted that Toumanian was instrumental in establishing “Vernadoon,” the poets’ salon, in Tbilisi, Georgia. He further concluded that Tbilisi was a haven for the writers of the Eastern Armenian, just as Istanbul was for the writers of the Western Armenian dialect.
A light reception followed.

In conclusion, it’s noteworthy to mention that although Toumanian died and was buried in Tbilisi, his heart was transplanted in his birthplace, Tsegh, upon his wishes.