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City native donates statue of ancient Assyrian ruler
A model of a proposed bronze statue of Assyrian Queen Shamiram shows the ancient ruler as a symbol of female empowerment, diversity, history, and art. - photo by Photo Courtesy of Erik Schulze

Queen Shamiram, the first woman to rule an empire without a man, may soon find a home in Turlock after the Turlock City Arts Commission voted to recommend the city accept a donated bronze statue of the ancient Assyrian ruler.

Turlock native Narsai David presented a Model on Thursday of the proposed 9-foot bronze statue he wishes to donate to the city during one of the most well-attended Arts Commission meetings in the history of the group.

David, now residing in the San Francisco Bay Area, has hosted a national PBS television series, wrote columns for the San Francisco Food Chronicle, and co-hosted a series of cooking demonstrations and radio broadcasts.

His success has further pushed his desire to give back to the community, and he continues to be actively involved in various projects, including serving as president of the Board of the Assyrian Aid Society of America; chairman of the Board of the Berkeley Fund; and host of the annual Narsai’s Taste of the Mediterranean benefiting the Assyrian Aid Society of America.

David believes Turlock to be a part of his identity, and the identity of many Assyrians that emigrate from Chicago.

“All Assyrians came to Chicago, where the first jobs were. Once they had enough money, they wanted to find land that reminds them of home. The first Assyrian went to Turlock and bought requisite of land and began an Assyrian migration in Turlock,” David said. “There are a lot of Assyrians here.  I graduated from Turlock Joint Union High School and have a warm spot in my heart for Turlock.”

David choose Queen Shamiram as a model due to her strong connotation to women’s power. He wanted to bring the community together to recognize great art, history, and modifications to social norms associated with women and their shifting roles in traditional communities.

The 9-foot bronze statue will feature Queen Shamiram as a powerful woman, clad in a Roman-looking gown featuring bangles, golden arm bands, and a lioness at her feet. The base will be made of granite, and will depict her importance on a plaque in Assyrian and English. A Model sculpture was on display in the Arts Commission meeting room during the presentation.

David believed that because the statue is an Assyrian representation, the donation might be considered imposing on others views and wanted to relay his concern that though the statue is a symbol of Assyrian culture, it also incorporates a stunning piece of art that symbolizes women’s power, diversity, and history.

Concerned Turlock residents filled the board room at City Hall on Thursday, eager to voice their opinions on the statue’s placement, and their overall feelings associated with the statue. The meeting was among the largest in the history of the Arts Commission.

 “This statue is a symbol of art and symbol of women in power. She was the first female that ruled the empire without being ruled by a king. Regardless of race, it is something that everyone can appreciate,” said Turlock Resident Amil Adishol.

President of the Assyrian American Civic Club of Turlock, Raymond George, thanked the commission for looking into the matter, and was pleased that David has continued to regard Turlock as his home.

“Aside from being Assyrian, we have a civilization of 5,000 years. The Queen is known for her beauty and pride. It is fitting to see that beauty and pride in Turlock,” George said.

A variety of citizens suggested placing the statue at California State University, Stanislaus, where a mature populace can learn and appreciate Queen Shamiram’s presence. Years ago, David suggested placing the statue on campus, but found the university administration to be reluctant. He said he hopes that the new president will not be so fickle, and will take the donation seriously.

Though the Arts Commission cannot require the university to accept the statue, the commissioners agreed that the public should have a say in its location.

 “These are not empty comments. I notice that there is a change of attitude and receptivity to public doings such as this. It wouldn’t hurt to pursue the university again,” said Arts Commissioner Llewellyn Boyle.

The Arts Commission was in unanimous agreement to recommend that the City Council accept the statue.