A new multimedia arts festival in Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, is providing a platform for local youth in the war-torn town to heal through creativity.
Sunrise Stepanakert is the first offline event organised by the Artsakh Art Initiative, a digital platform conceived during the Armenian-Azerbaijani war in October 2020. It showcases artworks created by Armenian artists in response to the conflict, which saw Azerbaijani and Armenian troops fight for territory in the region. The festival’s aim, as the name emphasises, is to show that “the dawn begins after every sunset”.
“We believe that the revival of Stepanakert will happen thanks to art, as [culture] is one of the best ways of development,” the organisers explain.
Taking place at the House of Paul Éluard, a French cultural institute, between late June until mid July, the festival’s programme seeks to help the local population heal through music, film, photography, and art. Across town, local bands, ranging from Armenian folk ensembles to experimental pop duos, will be performing for free, while the venue will also host film screenings, photo and art exhibitions, and workshops by leading Armenian creatives.
“The post-war recovery period of Artsakh [the Armenian name for Nagorno-Karabakh] is one of the most difficult periods in our history,” the organisers say. “With the festival, we want to ask ourselves: what does it mean when war becomes a part of society? Is there still space for beauty?”
Conflict broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh region on 27 September 2020, ending a 26-year ceasefire. During six weeks of heavy fighting, which was eventually brought to an end by a Russia-brokered peace deal, the Armenian populated town of Stepanakert suffered heavy shelling that destroyed much of the city’s infrastructure. More than 6,000 troops were killed in the fighting, as well as 188 civilians.