Nouneh Sarkissian

Nouneh Sarkissian was born in Yerevan, Armenia. After graduating from Yerevan State University, she worked at the Matenadaran, one of the world’s premier research institutes of ancient manuscripts. In 1991 she moved with her family to London, where she obtained an MA in History of Art from Goldsmiths College.

In addition to writing prolifically on art, music and culture, Nouneh has published 19 books of stories for children. Her children’s books translated into Arabic, Italian, Georgian, Russian, and Ukrainian have gained huge popularity among young readers in Europe and beyond. In 2021, Book One of her The Adventures of Bluey and Pinky series was distinguished for excellence and nominated by the International Board on Books for Young People for the IBBY Honour list 2022 as an ‘outstanding book’. Her works have also been selected for inclusion among the top picture books chosen by librarians of the International Federation of Library Associations for the World Through Picture Books programme.

Nouneh Sarkissian lives in London.

Her mother was a teacher and her father a journalist. Nouneh “who was brought up in a book”, has written 19 books for children, is a mother and grandmother, a supporter and author of works of arts and culture, and an artist herself. Her upbringing in a strict communist regime did little to inhibit her love of words. Visits to concerts were gifted to schools by the state so children were  able to access opera, music and the theatre throughout their early education. 

They were brought up to appreciate Culture and to study and comprehend the importance of the written word in society. Nouneh’s love of language and her relationship with words, music and books fostered an early interest in performance and at the age of seven years old she studied music alongside school life. At eight she wrote to a local radio station requesting an audience with the producers in order to obtain a working role there. This bold approach, seeking to contribute to and be a part of a medium she loved, has stayed with her ever since.

At 16, she appeared in; Pygmalion, Cinderella, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, King Lear, Romeo and Juliet and plays by Shaw and other English writers. She became a presenter for Armenian Radio for children programmes, and for television where she presented Inchooik which means WHY. Nouneh explains; “It was a programme about a little person, a puppet, who asks ‘why’ all the time. It was really intriguing and very informative for young ones. A little Google if you like, songs, musicals, puzzles and much more”. It was a very creative medium in spite of the times when censorship was part of everyday life and strict punishment was meted out for wrong doings.

In 1971 Nouneh entered the Faculty of Philology to study foreign language and literature for 5 years. Following this, she worked at the Research Institute of Ancient Manuscripts. Armenia places high value on translations. Many of early Greek works, that were destroyed have survived in Armenian translations. These works, with their beautiful illustrations, created by illuminators, have recently been shown in the Bodleian Library. Nouneh Sarkissian married her university sweetheart, Armen, in 1978 and moved to England in 1991. Their first son Vartan was born in 1980 and the second, Hayk, in 1984. Savannah, Nouneh’s granddaughter, is a constant creative source and inspiration to her childrens’ books.

Nouneh returned to her love of music and formed a partnership with Steinway putting on concerts for aspiring and talented musicians, including a piano recital by Kit Armstrong, 23, who she has supported since the age of 15. Steinway created a limited edition of 150 pianos for its 150th anniversary.

Nouneh, an amateur pianist plays regularly on one of these rosewood instruments for pleasure and for friends and family. She went on to study for a Masters in 20th Century Modern Art, her thesis being Arshile Gorky (founder of abstract expressionism in America), and, with her husband, Armen Sarkissian, the current Armenian Ambassador, (former Armenian Prime minister 1996-1997), they supported an exhibition of Gorky’s work at the Tate Modern. Nouneh was the Cultural Counsellor for the Armenian Embassy and then Chargé d’Affaires. Her role with the Embassy has seen her provide a platform for many artists as well as contributing to some extraordinary and diverse exhibitions such as; Fabergé which she transferred from the Kremlin to Las Vegas, through to Symbols and Mysteries; Art in  Transition in Kensington. In between the worlds of Art, Culture and writing Nouneh draws and paints. Her work varies from highly vibrant, colourful paintings to stark and complex images in black ink on parchment paper. 

‘The Mystery of the Blue Sun’

Nouneh’s interview with Liberty Radio in Armenian.