PODCAST: Gallery Girl Meets Diaspora In Bloom

On this episode of the Gallery Girl Podcast my guest is Akadina Yadegar, who together with Nardin Sarkis co-founded Diaspora In Bloom, a group exhibition showcasing emerging contemporary Assyrian artists.

“It was born out of a desire to see Assyrian art that centred around modern day Assyrians”, says Akadina of the exhibition, “Assyrian art is almost exclusively presented in its most ancient forms and only centering on our ancient lineage. So we really wanted to see modern depictions and speak to the contemporary issues Assyrians of today face.” The exhibition has now run in two editions, the first in person gallery show took place in 2019, while a digital expanded exhibition opened this August, both confronting issues of identity, diaspora, culture and language preservation.

The exhibition’s name comes from an Assyrian idiom that means spring does not occur with one flower alone. “So we mean to say a movement does not occur with just one person, it takes a field of flowers to bloom in order for spring to arrive”, explains Akadina, “The goal of the show is to bring together the art of our nation that has been scattered across the globe and to show that it’s still found a way to blossom into a movement.”

So how did Akadina and Nardin go about preparing the exhibitions? For the first iteration they rented a gallery and crowdfunded, doing a lot of learning along the way. This year however, for the one year anniversary they went for a digital edition creating a virtual gallery which allowed them to present the art to more people from around the world, attracting over 1,000 views in just one week. The first exhibition included the works of Esther Elia, Atra Givarkes and Rabel Betshmuel, who were invited back for the second edition along with Larsa Kena, Shamiran Istifan and Maryam Yousif. In true millennial fashion, Akadina and Nardin found the artists via Instagram and they hired a VR designer to help them build and design the virtual gallery. “It was definitely tricky and a huge learning process, but we made it”, says Akadina. 

As well as presenting visual art, Diaspora In Bloom also worked with other Assyrian creatives. The gallery mix was provided by Eden Danilo and they also worked with Kathryn Pauline  aka Cardamom and Tea, an award winning Assyrian food blogger, who provided a recipe to create a signature cocktail for the virtual opening.

Speaking of the response to the shows, Akadina explains that it was overwhelmingly positive. “Because we came at it as outsiders and with a really genuine desire to see this kind of work done in our community people appreciate that”, she says, “And then they just love the artists, and that’s so great.” And because of this response, she is hoping that future exhibitions will follow. 

So, what does Akadina want people to know about Assyrian art and culture? “We just want them to know that Assyrians are here and we have a lot to contribute to the Middle Eastern conversation”, she says, “We just want to be part of that.”

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier aka Gallery Girl is a writer and curator based in London. Her work has been featured in publications including Dazed, Hyperallergic and Vogue Arabia. She was curator of Perpetual Movement during AWAN Festival 2018 and in 2019 had a residency at the Lab at Darat Al Funun in Amman, Jordan. She has also worked with Armenia Art Fair for its inaugural edition and previously worked as an editor at I.B.Tauris Publishers. In 2019 she co-founded Arsheef, Yemen’s first contemporary art gallery. She has given workshops at Manara Culture in Amman, Jordan and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK. As of 2020 she is currently in law school, with the ambition of greater understanding the intersection between art and the law.

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