David Ohannessian and the Armenian Ceramics of Jerusalem

Feast of Ashes - The Life and Art of David Ohannessian

By Barlow DerMugrdechian


Along the cobbled streets and golden walls of Jerusalem, brilliantly glazed tiles catch the light and beckon the eye. These colorful wares—known as Armenian ceramics—are iconic features of the Holy City. Silently, these works of ceramic art—an art that graces homes and museums around the world—also represent a riveting story of resilience and survival. 

Author Sato Moughalian will speak on “David Ohannessian and the Armenian Ceramics of Jerusalem” at 7:30 p.m.,  Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020, in the University Business Center, Alice Peters Auditorium, Room 191.  The lecture is free and open to the public. Parking is available in Fresno State Lots P6 and P5, near the University Business Center, Fresno State. Free parking permits are available by using a parking code available by contacting the Armenian Studies Program at (559) 278-2669. “Feast of Ashes” will be on sale at the lecture. The talk is the first in the Spring Lecture Series of the Armenian Studies Program and is supported by the Leon S. Peters Foundation.

In 1919, David Ohannessian founded the art of Armenian ceramics in Jerusalem, where his work and that of his followers is now celebrated as a local treasure. Born in an isolated Anatolian mountain village, Ohannessian mastered a centuries-old art form in Kütahya, witnessed the rise of violent nationalism in the waning years of the Ottoman Empire, endured arrest and deportation in the Armenian Genocide, founded a new tradition in Jerusalem under the British Mandate, and spent his final years, uprooted once again, in Cairo and Beirut. 

Feast of Ashes - The Life and Art of David Ohannessian book cover
Feast of Ashes – The Life and Art of David Ohannessian

Moughalian will detail the lineage of her grandfather David Ohannessian’s ceramic tradition and document the critical roles his deportation and his own agency played in its transfer—aspects of the story obscured in the art historical narrative. She will speak about the process of coming to terms with her family’s past, the ways in which that served as an impetus to excavate and reconstruct her grandfather’s history through archival research, and the importance of preserving the stories of peoples displaced through migration.

Sato Moughalian
Sato Moughalian

Moughalian is the author of “Feast of Ashes: The Life and Art of David Ohannessian” (Redwood Press/Stanford University Press, 2019). She is also an award-winning flutist in New York City and Artistic Director of Perspectives Ensemble, founded in 1993 at Columbia University to explore and contextualize works of composers and visual artists. She serves as principal flutist of the American Modern Ensemble and Gotham Chamber Opera, and can be heard on more than thirty chamber music recordings for Sony Classics, BIS, Naxos, as well as YouTube, Spotify, and other major music platforms. Since 2007, Moughalian has traveled to Turkey, England, Israel, Palestine, and France to uncover her grandfather’s traces, has published articles, and gives talks on the genesis of Jerusalem’s Armenian ceramic art. 

For more information about the lecture please contact the Armenian Studies Program at 278-2669, visit our website at http://www.fresnostate.edu/armenianstudies or visit our Facebook page at @ArmenianStudiesFresnoState.

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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