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Despite Artsakh Blockade and Azerbaijan Drone Attacks, Sunrise Stepanakert Festival Opens Friday

In the hours and days leading up to the Sunrise Stepanakert Festival, ever more attention is on the backdrop of why the festival has moved to a hybrid format.

The third edition of the Sunrise Stepanakert Festival is set to open this Friday, with the festival splitting exhibitions, film screenings, and workshops between Stepanakert, Yerevan, and digitally online in due part to the Artsakh blockade at the Lachin Corridor.

Posters from last year's Sunrise Stepanakert Festival. Photo by Pappa Design Studio.
Posters from last year's Sunrise Stepanakert Festival. Photo by Pappa Design Studio.

The humanitarian crisis in Artsakh is nearing seven months, as the Azerbaijan government's blockade of the Lachin Corridor continues to obstruct transportation of goods into the region, in addition to the Azerbaijan government cutting off electricity and gas to the area for distinct periods of time.

The Armenian government and Artsakh parliament have made little to none actionable headway opening up the road that connects Armenia with Artsakh.

In the darkness of early Wednesday morning, the Azerbaijan government used UAV drones and heavy artillery to attack Armenian military posts in Martakert and Martuni in Artsakh. The Artsakh Defense Army reported that four Armenian servicemen were killed: Yervand Tadevosyan, Gagik Balayan, Samvel Torosyan, and Armo Abgaryan.

Armenian FM Ararat Mirzoyan (right) on Tuesday with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken (center) and Azerbaijan FM Jeyhun Bayramov.

As the U.S.'s Secretary of State Anthony Blinken continues trilateral negotiations today with Azerbaijan's Foreign Minster Jeyhun Bayramov and Armenia's Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan in Arlington, Virginia, a sense of belief still brews on Artsakh and Armenian soil for a brighter day.

And that ray of light comes from the work of Shoushan Keshishian, Lilit Hakobyan, and the young team behind Sunrise Stepanakert, the interactive arts, music, film, and culture festival that first opened in 2021 following the 2020 44-Day Artsakh War.

After a successful 2022 sophomore showing - of which MIASEEN's work was featured and presented by cinematographer Margos Margosian - Sunrise has remained defiant in culminating extreme talent to the festival and building on their reach.

The riveting animated film and Armenia's Academy Award submission "Aurora's Sunrise" is set screen July 2nd in Artsakh's Vallex Garden Hotel Cinema, with films including "One, two, three" and "Donkeymentary" to be shown at TUMO Stepanakert.

Photographer and writer Tamar Haytayan and her earthy images will be on display as part of the festival's exhibitions at Yerevan's Armenian Center for Contemporary Experimental Art, alongside psychedelic illustrator Vera Reiner and surrealist audio / visual artist Misak Samokatian.

Photo by Tamar Haytayan.
Photo by Tamar Haytayan.

A compelling element of the festival resides in their interactive workshops. The festival travels to Gyumri for a khachkar cross-stone carving workshop with Narine Poladian on July 1st, while on the same day at Stepanakert Stadium, professional dancer Diana Hambardzumyan will lead a class to emphasize the "Art of Movement".

Every touch point of the festival gives a platform to creative and emotional expression within a chaotic climate.

Attendance information both in-person and online is available on Sunrise Stapankert's website and Instagram.

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