ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. – Medical speech pathologist and artist Ani Marganian is an Orange Country native who co-founded the Instagram account “Nor Ashkharh” in 2019. Since then, she has created and shared over 150 illustrations and affirmations inspired by culture, color, and creativity.
Ani’s love for Armenia and its rich culture grew immensely when she visited Armenia for the first time with her family in 2016. Her desire to become fluent and literate in Eastern Armenian only became stronger when she volunteered for Birthright Armenia in Gyumri the following year. When Ani eventually returned home, she began receiving weekly Armenian lessons from her cousin Anoush Khojikian. Having a mutual love of positive affirmations, they began writing uplifting phrases together and translating them into Armenian. Affirmations are positive reminders that are used to empower oneself and others. The cousins would share an affirmation with each other, Anoush would translate it into Armenian, then Ani would doodle it, and soon, Nor Ashkharh was born.
Ani explained Nor Ashkharh’s mission: “It was initially to spread joy with color and vibrance and the message of wholeness and worthiness. We just wanted to put it in the universe and let it be and hopefully someone would enjoy it and feel encouraged by it. When something feels so helpful for you and is a reminder for you, or really resonates, you hope maybe it can resonate with someone else.”
Although the Chapman University graduate minored in art and spent four months in Italy taking art history classes, Ani didn’t spend much time creating art until this last year. She reminisced: “I always loved art as a child and my mom and family really embraced it. My mom said, you can paint your walls, you can paint your furniture. My dresser growing up had rainbows and checker-print on it.” Her passion for art was reignited when she visited Armenia and began the journey of exploring her Armenian heritage.
Anoush supports her cousin Ani’s vision by brainstorming with her and of course serving as Nor Ashkharh’s resident translator. She lovingly gushed about Ani’s character, saying: “Ani works to send this message of positivity, compassion, and grace. She has so much to say and the way she says it with her art is just beautiful. I feel like it resonates with a lot of people and the things they’re going through in life. On some of those off days even I just look at her work and it lifts me up. It’s bright, it’s beautiful, it’s fun, and it’s uplifting.”
Ani devotes herself to elevating the Armenian community in any way she can. The tragic explosion at the Beirut port in Lebanon on August 4, 2020 left Mayrig Restaurant in Beirut totally devastated. The explosion not only destroyed the beloved Armenian restaurant, but also injured 25 of its employees and wrecked their homes. After learning about what had happened to the restaurant which she had actually dined at a few years prior, Ani knew she had to do something to help.