Esther Elia


Esther Elia is a visual artist from Turlock, California, currently living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She received a BFA from California College of the Arts in Illustration and is currently getting her MFA in Painting at the University of New Mexico. Her interdisciplinary practice explores large-scale paintings, sculpture, clothing, and furniture pieces that all use family folklore as the basis for understanding mixed ethnicity and the question of how to be Assyrian in diaspora. It has focused in the past on the refugee experience and has shifted more recently to understanding the pursuit of safety and how that shows up in ancient Assyrian visuals. Her past work started from collecting oral histories from family members from the 1915 Assyrian genocide, and is committed to creating an archive of contemporary Assyrian art.

In her new work and MFA thesis project, she is interested in capturing today’s Assyrian community in our own words, using a practice that has existed in our community for centuries: writing on bowls. She has become increasingly aware that Assyrian culture has been isolated to surveys of ancient art history and other niche academic fields. Relegating Assyrian culture to the past not only suggests that we are irrelevant to the present, but also promotes the erasure of contemporary Assyrian identities. Her project, The Assyrian Prayer Bowl Archive, directly confronts that notion. This new body of work uses the words of the living, breathing, thriving Assyrian community as a direct antidote to the wound created by those who ignore our existence. The written submissions are being named “prayers” as a celebration of our religious heritage and using the format of incantation bowls as a remembrance of our rituals around healing and protection. She is partnering with Diana Atureta of Assyrian Circles, who is designing a structure for building this prayer repository using Assyrian Circles gatherings and bringing this exhibition to life in as many facets as possible.

Esther is trying to collect as many prayers for this project as she can, and is asking Assyrians to respond to the prompt: What do you hope for the Assyrian Nation? Please submit today by using the QR code here! It will take you to our website where you will find more information about the project, and to submit, click “Submit a Prayer”

floral separator
prayer bowl