3856 Km to the West
In 2020, Alexandro Yaramis, a Flemish Belgian with Assyrian roots, went on the most important trip of his life. For a Canvas documentary, Vranckx & De Nomaden, he travelled towards south-east Turkey, to the former Assyrian kingdom. Like many others, his parents fled that area in the 1980s and, after some stops, finally ended up in Belgium.
“During this trip, I came across a lot of heritage, interesting stories and unique traditions. I have rarely felt as much at home as I did there. Some people never fled the area, others returned to their homeland after more than 30 years. How strong is the love for one's own country? How do Flemish Assyrians reflect back on their youth? Are the youngest Assyrians still involved with their culture?"
Mechelen seemed an obvious place to look for answers among Assyrians. There is a large Assyrian community living there who were keen to tell their migration story for the 'Dreaming of Home' city project. Heritage hub Mechelen helped with the transition from interviews to exhibition and Torens aan de Dijle found a beautiful exhibition location in the Begijnhofkerk.
The exhibition 3865 km to the West shows six unique portraits of Mechelen Assyrians against a backdrop linked to an Assyrian story. The title represents the distance between the Tigris River and Mechelen City Hall and the distance many Mechelen Assyrians covered when they arrived here in the 1980s.