The project Blossoming Roots had the objective of collecting life narratives in order to create links between youth and elder members of our community. By transmitting cultural references of a rich heritage through the telling and recording of the elders’ life stories, the experiences of the older generation will be cherished and archived rather than lost and forgotten. Within the process of a two-way learning experience, the elders, keepers of our collective heritage, will on the one hand allow this past to “blossom” by transmitting it to the youth through stories of their lives. On the other hand, the youth will inscribe and further consolidate the blossoming roots of their own identity by recording and witnessing the narratives of the elders, an important source of their identity. The project began in April 2008 and ended in July of the same year, and was made possible thanks to a grant received by Heritage Canada. It was carried out under the general coordination of Hourig Attarian, PhD, with the enthusiastic support of Hay Doun’s administrative council. This undertaking was an excellent occasion for the students, to develop skills in the areas of oral transmission, of journaling, as well as carrying out interviews and completing transcriptions.
By building tangible bridges between the past and the present, this activity served as an intergenerational catalyst that gave rise to the creation of an indelible link between the young participants and the elders by way of transmitting oral history. Moreover, the project provoked reflective thinking about the deep connections between personal and collective memory, as well as social memory.
For the elders who were involved, “Blossoming Roots” provided a unique opportunity to take their rightful place within the community as actors and authors of migratory experiences and stories that are sources of inspiration for future generations. The project equally helped break the social isolation experienced by many elders. For the youth who collected life stories, as well as for those who will come in contact with this material in the future, “Blossoming Roots” offers an invaluable teaching. It retraces the trajectories of the youths’ ancestors and creates an intergenerational link that remains indispensable for learning and understanding their history, their identity (shaped by a diversity of Armenian diasporic origins from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Turkey, Ethiopia, …) and the cultures of their present reality, both Canadian and Québécois. It will equally serve as a means for them to reappropriate their origins and to fully embrace the true value of the past as it influences their present lives.
This collective heritage was shared with the community at large in the framework of public discussions. There were two “café- rencontres” which were organized accordingly. The first one was with the oral history department of Concordia University and it was held at a café in Mile-End. It was later followed by a second discussion with members of our community at the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU).
The last aspect of this project will be to publish a book that will encompass the life narratives of the elders involved. The launch of this book is expected for autumn 2010.
As Gabriel García Márquez eloquently reminds us, “life is not what we live, but what we remember and how we remember in order to tell it” (2003, loose translation).