Southern Cross University artist to star in ABC show

Published 18 November 2007

Southern Cross University visual arts graduate Joanna Kambourian is to star in an ABC television documentary which will take her back to her cultural roots in Armenia.

The Coraki print-maker, who has just started her own handmade wallpaper business, is being kept in the dark about the exact nature of the upcoming trip with an ABC film crew, for the documentary series Family Footsteps.

“All I know is that they are flying me to Armenia and will be putting me into situations similar to those I might have experienced had I grown up there,” Joanna said.

“It is incredibly mysterious and exciting – I can’t wait. They plan to surprise me every step of the way.”

Joanna applied to have her story told after watching the first series of Family Footsteps earlier this year. “They were calling for applicants and I thought I’d give it a shot,” she said.

“I knew very little of my Armenian heritage until I travelled to the US last year on a Southern Cross University scholarship to the famous Pratt Institute in New York, where my Armenian grandmother lives.

“I was born in Sydney but my dad was born in New York of Armenian parents. His family fled to New York to escape the attempted genocide of the Armenia people by the Turks during World War 1.

“No-one in the family has ever spoken to me much about that time … it is so bound up in grief and suffering. When I met my grandmother in New York for the first time last year I became really interested in my family history and spent endless hours going through old papers and photo albums with her, piecing it all together.

“I found out my great-grandfather was the surgeon-general in the Turkish Army – a post which initially protected his family from being killed, but over time he was pressured to abandon his family and take a Muslim wife.

“My Armenian great-grandmother traded all she had and escaped to America with her children. There, my grandfather subsequently married my grandmother, having met within the Armenian community in New York City.

“The trip really got me thinking about what my life might have been like if I had been born and grown up in Armenia, so this will be an amazing experience for me.”

Photo: Joanna Kambourian is heading off to Armenia this week to begin filming for the ABC television documentary, Family Footsteps.

Media contact: Zoe Satherley Southern Cross University media officer, 6620 3144, 0439 132 095.