Prof. Lili Oraham Taymourazi - 1900-1992
Rabi Lilli was born in Urmia, Iran in 1900 to Mr. Yonan Oraham of Siri, and her mother, Maryam Gewargis of Anhar, a Fiske Seminary graduate(The Fiske Seminary was an American Girls School in Urmia). Lilli became an orphan at the age of 15, when her farther died in 1915; a year later her brother left for the United States to continue his education and Lilli and the remainder of her family moved to Tabriz where she continued her education and she graduated from the Fiske Seminary in 1917.
Upon her graduation from school she married Dr. Benyamin Teymourazof, an Army physician who worked in Sharifkhana. Because of the Russian retreat in 1917, the Teymourazof couple, like thousands of other Assyrians, fled to Georgia. There, Raabi Lilli continued her studies at the Institute and graduated from the same school. During this same time, Lilli also taught the Assyrian language to little boys and girls. Later, when the Teymourazof family returned to Iran, Raabi Lilli became very active in the Assyrian educational and culturlal activities while at the same time she helped her husband taking care of his patients; As if this was not enough to keep her bussy, she attended the Asian Free University. Here she studied the human, historical and geographical aspects of the ancient Iranian relics and monuments and in her dissertation she analyzed the homogeneity of cultures and concluded that uniform ecological and social conditions lead to homogeneity of cultures and civilizations of different peoples. She obtained her B.A. in Geography in 1939 from this University.
After her husband's death in 1954, Raabi Lilli her children moved to Tehran and settled there. Soon thereafter, she founded the Assyrian Ladies Association to help the Assyrian Motva (Association). In a very short period of time she raised twelve thousand Tomans (nearly two thousand dollars, a considerable sum for that time), to help the "Shooshan" Assyrian school.
In 1957, the Asian Free University conferred on her an honorary Ph.D. degree for her studies of the geographical, historical and human aspects of the ancient Iranian relics. In the same year she was elected as honorary professor to teach at that university.
Lilili's major major contribution to the Assyrian culture was with the founding of the Shamiram Folkloric Group in 1957. This group was comprised of dancers, singers, and musicians and Raabi Lilli was their personal trainer who taught them many Assyrian folk dancing steps. The group performed regularly until 1980 when, by the order of the Islamic Government, dancing and singing in public were forbidden; and the Shamiram Group was consequently dissolved.
During the 23 years of its active life, the Shamiram Group performed at major events, such as the Coronation of the Shah and the 2500-year celebrations, and received awards and medals from the government for its spectacular performances. The Assyrian Folk dances performed by this group were seen on television screens throughout the country. And the group was made a permanent member of the Iranian Ministry of Fine Arts.
Lilli's efforts were finally rewarded and her long cherished dream of making Assyrian culture known to non-Assyrians came true when Mr. Rickey Holden, an American Folk Dance consultant, visited Iran to study various folk dances from different parts of the country. He watched the performance of various Iranian folk groups; and when he saw the Assyrian dances, in particular the Sheikhani, he was so impressed that he asked for permission to work with Raabi Lilli and the Shamiram Group more closely. The Iranian authorities consented, and the result of his work and collaboration with the Shamiram Group was the production of a phongraphic record of the Assyrian Folk songs used for performing the dances and the publication of two books in which Mr. Rickey Holden carefully noted the steps of several Assyrian folk dances as performed by this group.
This record is entitled "Assyrian Folk Dances", it was produced in Tehran, Iran in 1961 and published by the International Recreation Association, Folkcraft Press, N.J.
In the preface of his second book, Rickey Holden writes:
"The fourteen folk dances described here are among the most popular in Assyrian communities of Iran and Iraq. To non-Assyrian people, also, these dances have special appeal. We find these very useful in general recreation and education situations for reasons like the following:
The dances are almost all in line formation requiring no partner, so may be danced by groups of all boys or all girls as well as by groups mixed in any proportion. This is particularly important in countries, areas or societies wherein co-educational participation is frowned upon.
The steps are easy to learn, so almost everyone may enjoy articipating. Further, these dances "translate" easily; they can be greatly enjoyed by non-Assyrians, people who would otherwise have no contact with any part of modern Assyrian culture. Most important, these are happy dances; they are fun to do. . . "
Mr. Holden also wrote an article for the magazine Hope Viltis (No. 4, Dec. 1962, Colorado, U.S.A.), in which he translated as well as transliterated two Assyrian folk songs, and described the Sheikhani dance steps.
In 1960 Raabi Lilli obtained a diploma from the International Federation of Scientific Research Societies. She also served as the vice president of "Congres Mondial Des Savants", which convened every year in one of the major cities in Europe, Asia and Africa. Raabi Lilli was also a member of the "Conseil Academique International Jubilaire" and of the "Academia Asiatica" During these years of academic activities she obtained several diplomas, awards of merit and medals.
Raabi Lilli has written a short autobiography in which she described the hardships she and her fmaily experienced during the world wars. She has also published several books in Assyrian, notably some books of stories and poems for children.
On the 16th of August, 1992 Raabi Lilli passed away from a heart attack at the age of 92 leaving behind her daughter Ophelia and two sons Tamraz and Sardanapal and many grand children. In addition, Raabi Lilli has left an unforgetable memory of her dedication, effort and excellent work she spend her life for the advancement of Assyrian culture and she will always be known as the Mother of Assyrian Folk Dancing.