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She Loves Collective staged a protest-performance at the Los Angeles River on Sunday, October 24 (photo by Hilma Shahinian)

LOS ANGELES — It’s golden hour and the sun begins to fade behind the Los Angeles river. We are sitting under an overpass, red and white roses and dead leaves scattered across slanted concrete, and the thundering echo from the cars above pops like crossfire. A woman sits still like a sentinel, a semi-automatic rifle boldly printed on her dress, and a rug woven in Armenia lays under her feet. Next to her, a large banner warns us, “The rifles our ancestors didn’t have.”

A large banner read, “The Rifles Our Ancestors Didn’t Have” (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)
(photo by Hilma Shahinian)

Thus begins a peaceful demonstration led by She Loves Collective to raise awareness of the war in the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh, which reignited on September 27. In the past month, more than 1,000 Armenians have been killed and thousands more have been displaced from their homes. Last week, She Loves Collective led demonstrations in Downtown Los Angeles, in front of City Hall and the Broad Museum, but even in a city that has one of the largest Armenian populations in the world, the war has received little media attention. 

(photo by Jake Hagopian)
The stage for the She Loves Collective protest-performance (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

In a silent procession, the demonstrators, each in a rifle dress and traditional Armenian jewelry, made their way to a row of seats. They sat and worked on crafts, like embroidery, calligraphy, and sewing. On a large cloth, one woman splashed paint, black in the shape of a gun and bright red for blood.

One woman splashed paint, black in the shape of a gun and bright red for blood. (photo by Jake Hagopian)

“WE are the rifles our ancestors didn’t have,” She Loves Collective Executive Producer Ani Nina Oganyan wrote to Hyperallergic. “We — the descendants of the survivors, we — the diaspora, we — the artists, musicians, healthcare workers, lawyers, business women, inventors. Our bodies, our minds, our craft, our love, our language, our food, our traditions are a connection to a land that so many of us have never even seen before.”

The women walked to the edge of the river, where they plucked petals from roses and cast them into the water. (photo by Jake Hagopian)

Behind the women, a video projection depicted recent bombings. Villages have been turned to rubble, and irreplaceable Christian sites have been destroyed. The women walked to the edge of the river, where they plucked petals from roses and cast them into the water. Each petal could represent at least a dozen lives lost in the last month. They were gently swept into the current, ready to wilt in the Pacific Ocean. The last thing we saw on the projection was a simple message, #WeWillWin.

(photo by Jake Hagopian)

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Renée Reizman

Renée Reizman lives in Los Angeles, where she is a research-based interdisciplinary artist and writer who examines cultural aesthetics and their relationship between urbanization, law, and technology....