Tbilisi Migrant Stories

Data Chigolashvili from GeoAir reports from Georgia on fieldwork within their bridge-building project.

Visual Storytelling: Tbilisi Migrant Stories project implies collaborating with schoolchildren, who are working to create visual stories about “new” migrants living in Tbilisi, Georgia. During our preparatory phase we were fortunate to get in contact with history teacher Nino Abuladze from school #43 in Tbilisi, who has been working with her students on making various projects including fieldwork practice and visual documentation.

Following some preliminary meetings, we met interested students for the first time as the school started and discussed project objectives and their potential participation in it. “We cannot wait to get started!” – was the response from one of the students, when asked if they wanted to know something else at the end of our introductory meeting. This excitement still surrounds our workshops and fieldwork part of the project.


For the first two meetings we met with the teacher and 6 participants in the school, discussing two major things – ethnographic fieldwork and photography tools used for visual storytelling.

First meeting was rather theoretical where we discussed basics of doing ethnographic work – what kind of questions can be asked, what can be observed, how the diaries should be kept, etc. followed by some meaning of documentary photography, main tools to be used and examples of power of the visual storytelling by Tamara Bokuchava (Social Photography Caucasus Foundation). Thinking that too much theoretical discussions could have worked against the excitement mentioned, some role-playing activities regarding fieldwork situations were also conducted – to answer ethnographer-students questions, Data took different roles starting from a migrant from Brazil living in Tbilisi, to an old man disturbed by youth club in his neighborhood.

During the breaks, we also visited the Iranian café 78, just across the street from the school, were we met with its owners, also participants of our project and had some delicious food, which many of us had never tasted before.


On the same day, children were given the cameras they are using within the project, some introduction on documentary photography was made and a practical home work was given for the next meeting – from several topics they encounter on everyday basis, students were asked to choose one, think of what questions they could ask to find out more on what they are interested to know and bring few photos as examples of documenting the topic.


During the next meeting some more information on photo techniques were introduced, as well as some examples of visual storytelling were shown and discussed. Later on, students presented results of the exercise, discussing various experiences from practical exercises – starting from the challenges of taking pictures in some chosen places, ending with photographs of Tbilisi youth fashion in the streets.


Material was discussed and excitement was getting bigger, as the next step implied starting fieldwork. Divided into groups lead by mentors from our team, students went to obtain material for visual stories–to work with already selected migrant groups, or those they were about to discover. The country of origins, as well as reasons for coming to Georgia and occupations of participating migrants is very diverse. Students are currently photographing their everyday lives, as well as recording interviews – material which is being discussed and transforms into stories screened for wider public and postcards distributed during the event.


Pidzamche Neighborhood Festival

After four months of preparation, the First Pidzamche Neighborhood Festival finally happened. It started in the evening of September 5th with the pre-festival film screening prepared by our invited partners from Minsk – Cinema Perpetuum Mobile (CMP). Lina Medvedeva and Andrey Kalenik, the representatives of the CPM, arrived to Lviv to open the screening and take part in the festival activities. The CPM brought to Lviv feature, documentary and animated short films specially selected for the Pidzamche Neighbourhood Festival. As one can probably guess, the main topic of the screening was neighbourship and collaboration. It was a good place to start conversation on the topic…

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Andrey and Lina presenting the Cinema Perpetuum Mobile at the pre-festival screening

And here we are, September 6th, the first day of the First Pidzamche Neighborhood Festival began early for local residents. Together with volunteers they appeared at the school yard in the morning to arrange the location for the festival.

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Volunteers setting D.I.Y. banner on the stage.

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Olha and local girls looking for the right place for paper fish (which were made during Pidzamche Children Art Camp in June).

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Maria, local activist, fixing photo exhibition. Exhibited photos cover all stages of four months preparation for the Festival.

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Volunteers on the way to the festival entrance with sign board saying “Neighbourhood” and “Festival”.

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Weronika and Agnieszka preparing an interactive installation as invited artists.

All together we decided how to make clear navigation at the spot, where to install photo exhibition, where to put D.I.Y. banner of the festival and many other small important things. The festival was opened at 3pm and went on until the evening, with a music concert.

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At 3 pm the Festival was officially open with short speeches by Iota Initiative, the school principal and greeting song by local children music club. Then it was time for different workshops.

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Imaginary maps of Pidzamche which were drawn during the first meeting with local residents in June.

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Creative reading for children.

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Origami workshop: everyone could make a paper bird for the one big garland.

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Screen-printing workshop: around one hundred of Pidzamche residents got their t-shirts decorated with the district logo. So, we hope local identity and community ties were strengthened by visual signs as well.

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Aikido workshop for all ages.

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Garage sale or Neighbours exchange and its coordinators.

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Pidzamche Board Game: urban development training in a form of a game.

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In the evening the music part started. Lemko Bluegrass Band performing for neighbours.

The following day, September 7th, was even more intense for neighbours. Apart from the continuation of yesterday’s workshop on screen-printing, family zines, guided tour, sport and other interesting things, there was even more music, and the program was enriched by Pidzamche Cooking Contest.

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The guided tour on Pidzamche.

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Cooking contest participant.

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 Interactive presentation of the publishing house located at Pidzamche.

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Sentiment Orchestra and Maria Kopytchak performing retro-romances for Pidzamche audience.

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Voices of the City – an interactive audio-platform, provided for the Festival by the Center for Urban History (Lviv).

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Workshop on Pidzamche Revitalization Program led by the City Institute team (Lviv).Photo 21
An audience for the concert.

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Active listeners.

You’ll find more here at the project Facebook page.

Sixth Lecture from Dzestra

The sixth lecture of ‘Dzestra Talks’ took place on the 30th of August at the courtyard of the dwelling house at Ivana Franka street. It was the first time we managed to place our event in a full courtyard,  which was something we hoped to do from the very beginning. We met a very agressive reaction of one of the landowners of this dwelling house, who told us to get out of his territory and threatened to tear off our posters from the walls. But the people and media started to arrive 15 minutes before the lecture and there were so many of them that then he didn’t dare to interrupt our event.


The lecturer Michael Schur is an artistic alter-ego of Kyiv-based journalist Roman Vintoniv. Schur is claimed to be a member of Ukrainian diaspora in Canada. He is a correspondent of a TV-channel “UT-Toronto” who moved to Ukraine in 2012. Recently he’s been working on the Hromadske.tb, mocking on politicians in his talk-show.

Michael’s lecture was about ways and means of co-operation with neighbours. He told that it is something he’s been interested in for some time and actually he didn’t come to give us answers but rather to hear from us about how can we co-operate. The meeting was very interactive, so for about an hour and a half we spoke about this topic. From people’s feedback we learned that some of them were disappointed that Michael didn’t turn his lecture into a stand-up show, as some had expected.


There were approximately 60 people present at the lecture. This was a very diverse audience and a lot of them were present at Dzestra Talks for the first and only time. Obviously they were attracted by Michael’s popularity.

Here’s an example of his public character…

And here’s his presentation for ‘Dzestra Talks’ in full (in Ukrainian).

This talk attracted a good deal of media interest. Here’s some example: