The Haigazian University Armenian Diaspora Research Center hosted Wendy Hamelink for a lecture “Musical Memories of Sassoun Armenians in Turkey” on April 30, 2014, in the University Auditorium. Ms. Hamelink is a Ph.D. Candidate at Leiden University and a research fellow at the Orient Institut, Beirut. She graduated from Leiden University in 2005 in Cultural Anthropology, where she wrote her master’s thesis on the Turkish Asik singer-poets. In 2006 she started her Ph.D. research on Kurdish singer-poets in Turkey, the dengbêjs. She traveled to many places in Eastern Turkey (historically known as Western Armenia) to record interviews and performances. She will defend her dissertation The Sung Home. Narrative, morality, and the Kurdish nation in September 2014.
Ms. Hamelink noted that during her field study in Eastern Turkey the very first Kurdish dengbêj she met was Armenian in origin. Her later encounters with other Kurdish dengbêjs who were Armenian by birth developed her specific interest in studying these dengbêjs.
Through a PowerPoint presentation Ms. Hamelink was able to capture the audience and engrosse them in the life stories of three Kurdish dengbêjs, who were originally Sassoun Armenians but converted to Islam due to persecution and security concerns after the Genocide committed against the Armenians. She discussed the mixed commitment of these dengbêjs to their Armenian identity and highlighted their repertoire as well as its impact on their children. Finally she analyzed the Armenian element in the songs of the Kurdish dengbêjs.