Whether editing images at the Serafina magazine of the Folha de São Paulo newspaper or working on her first photo-book about what it means to be an Armenian woman, Cassiana Der Haroutiounian is always thinking about her relationship with Armenia. Her current project is emblematic of her passion for her ancestral homeland—a short movie in which she is walking through Armenia wearing mirrored clothing; a reflection on issues of identity, silence, and inner world.
Every time I go to Armenia I feel something very strong in me, in my thoughts. It’s more or less like Armenia is my point of creativity. There, I feel free to create, to dream.
Growing up how were you involved in AGBU? I went to AGBU Paren and Regina Bazarian School in São Paulo until I was 13. My family has worked at AGBU since forever. My grandfather was the chairman of AGBU São Paulo, as were my father and uncle.
What is your fondest memory of your time at the AGBU School? Perhaps the preparations for the final party of the Pan-Armenian Olympic games in São Paulo, Uruguay and Buenos Aires is my favorite memory. But just in general, when you went to school it felt like home because all your cousins and brothers were there too. It was sweet.
How did that experience help you grow personally? It strengthened my self-assurance as an Armenian and it was not really conscious, but that planted a seed in me.
How does your Armenian heritage influence your career? It influences me a lot. When I was younger I had no idea about what it meant to be an Armenian and how that heritage influences my personality and would affect my career. But this seed that was planted in me made me think a lot about who I am in Armenia, in those Armenian mountains and in that landscape. I am always thinking about my relationship with this country, more than about my relationship with Armenians around the world. I think there's something inside of me that connects directly with that time in Armenia, with that land, with that space. Every time I go to Armenia I feel something very strong in me, in my thoughts. It’s more or less like Armenia is my point of creativity. There, I feel free to create, to dream. Those mountains inspire me. And with my movies and my book, I am trying to understand what this connection is.
How do you think Armenians are perceived in your city? It is funny. Anytime you talk with someone from São Paulo and tell them you are Armenian, they almost always know of another Armenian. I like that. The Armenians here are everywhere, in all kinds of professions. In my world, I am always surrounded by the same core group of Armenians.
Banner Illustration by Luis Tinoco