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Shadow and Light

Rafi Sarcisan Vancan (#38)


Rafi Sarcisan Vancan: Bachelor of English language, lecturer at Baghdad University's College of Women's Studies. Assassinated June 9, 2003.

Artist Statement

Reading the list of murdered academics was very painful. As a former academic myself, I couldn't help but 'see' all the future students, and students of students, who were denied the light of these people's thoughts and insights, but also their tutelage. [Teaching is such a fundamental part of a university lecturer's work, though we tend to forget it.]

The first aspect of the photo is, for me, the rug on the floor in front of the bookcase, which embodies my connection to these murder victims. Rugs are one of the many areas of overlap between Armenian and Iraqi cultures. But the murdered person I chose is also Armenian, judging from his name—Rafi (a common Armenian man's name) Sarcisan (which is surely the surname Sarcissian/Sarkissian) Vancan. And it also touched me, as a lifelong feminist, that he was teaching at University of Baghdad's College of Women's Studies.

The empty bookcase carries several layers of meaning. To begin with, it lays bare the lost decades of reading and thinking that [the murdered scholar; Rafi Sarcisan Vancan] was denied. And then it makes visual all the scholarship, all the ideas, all the data, all the creativity that now cannot happen because their life was snuffed out prematurely. And finally, it displays all the work by students that they are not inspiring, encouraging, fostering, and commenting on, [since their murder, still today, and on into the future], because they are not here to do so.

As the empty bookcase demonstrates, the murder of an academic or artist does not just end their own life and thought, but also their participation in all of ours.

Anahid Kassabian