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Chicago Assyrian John (Aghajan) Baba, originally of Seir, Persia, was a photographer, publisher, and editor.


In 1937, in an effort to raise money for his publication, Kitavona*, he traveled to Assyrian communities in America  filming Assyrian American picnics, churches, cemeteries, family gatherings, and businesses. 

This film, all 200 feet, stretching from Chicago to the East Coast and back, is the treasure that forms the center of this exhibit, Assyrians in Motion.


In the August, 1937 issue of Kitavona, the following announcement appeared:


From: Kitavona, August, Number 60, 1937, Joseph Hermiz, translation.

* The spelling of Kitavona, as opposed to Ktavona, is John Baba's own spelling and has been preserved here for historical accuracy.


His photography studio and Assyrian Press were housed in the basement of 58 West Huron Street, right next door to the Carter Memorial Church. Upstairs from Baba’s studio was the Church’s Sunday School classroom.  Located in the hub of the community, he was a well-known figure in the neighborhood.

Assyrians in Motion interviewee, Wilbur Elias, remembered John Baba filming in 1937 and also recalled watching showings of the films in Baba's 58 Huron Street basement space, which he described as a "gathering place."

Baba was also a baseball enthusiast--his Assyrian Press sponsored an Assyrian baseball team, which accounts for the extensive footage of his team's playing in the Chicago Reel.

38. R1C-CMAC - 58-Huron Street building-Sunday School upstairs John Babas photography and


Baba was the founding editor and publisher of a monthly Assyrian magazine, Kitavona ("little booklet") which ran from June, 1932 to at least August, 1937, selling at $1.00 for 12 consecutive issues. The English title the "Assyrian Monthly" was added, later changed to the Assyrian Chronicle.

The following excerpt of a poem by Julia DeKelaita, published in the April, 1934 issue, expresses the appreciation for Kitavona and its editor:

"It’s a little hard for a girl like myself.

To write the few words that should ever be said:

But I want to thank you, little brother.

For proving we Assyrians are not quite dead.


I am sure you will flourish, “Ktavona”

And I hope your success will be great.

Having such a “swell” editor as John Baba

We will forgive you for coming as late."


Kitavona: The Assyrian Monthly: April 1934, issue 22, volume 3

Assyrians in Motion Copyright, ASA 2023

Supported by the Assyrian Studies Association’s Preserving Assyria program, Assyrians in Motion is a living document that can be developed, altered, and expanded through multiple voices and contributions.

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