The second part of the programme in Georgia consisted of visits to local organisations and projects which were either linked to the summer academy, or whom have an interest in future co-operation. Other members of the Borderland team (Bożena Szroeder, Michal Moniuszko, Malgosia Sporek-Czyżewska) joined us for this part of the journey, which was supported by Instytut Adama Mickiewicza.
We began with a site trip to the archeological excavation site at Vani, in the hills outside the modern town – a repository of the ancient Colchian culture. Here they are building a new museum to house collections from between the 8th and 1st century BC, at which time the city was destroyed by fire. The city was associated with the cult of Dionysus. We were shown round by Omar Gabunia, the Director.
There’s an interesting essay – ‘Vani Rich In Gold’ by Michael Vickers – which tells a fascinating story about the discoveries here. Download the pdf here…
We then went to Tsalenjikha, a town in the Mkhare region of western Georgia.
Located on the river Chanistsqali, the town has with the population of 4000 in the town itself. Around 40000 people live in the wider municipality. Here, one of our summer school participants, Ani Gergedava, organises the European Academy – which works with young people, providing informal learning opportunities, language skills and mentoring.
The town is the birthplace of the famous Georgian poet, Terenti Graneli (1901-1934) – we were given a tour of the museum dedicated to him.
Introductory presentations and films about the Borderland School and project work were made to an audience at Tsalenjikha Municipality’s Art-Educational Centre. This was followed by dance, music and choral performances by the Ensembles “Lakada” and “Bedinera” – the head of these is Murtaz Tsimintia. Thanks to the organisers at the centre for such a splendid evening – in particular Tamar Kvaratsxelia, Head of the Centre, and Tamar Jangava and Miran Shanava.
The next day we visited the Inguri dam, the world’s highest arch dam – 272 metres tall with a length of 680 metres. Ordered built by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, construction began in 1961 and was completed in 1987. The Inguri river sits on the disputed borderline between Georgia and Abkhazia. Since breaking away from Georgia in 1992, Abkhazia has not been recognised by any government except for Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuea, Nauru and Tavalu and subject to a number of armed conflicts. The components of the Inguri river hydro electric complex – the dam and 5 power plants – are divided across both territories. This is an interesting example of a trans-boundary resource (planned in Soviet times to serve a wide region of one country) which is now both part of the border struggle and part of a necessary co-operation between two opposing states. In 2007, the dam was producing 46% of the total electricity supply in Georgia.
In the afternoon Levan Khetaguri and Iuri Mgebrishvili from Ilia State University, Tbilisi, facilitated meetings with local representatives with the cultural management on urban and regional level, as well cooperation between Tsaledjikha and city Dusheti from Mtskheta-Mtianeti region.
Brendan Jackson led an issue-based workshop for young people at the European Academy. He made a presentation the development of his work as an artist and then shared the story of one project dear to his heart ‘Bedtime Stories’ – a project with young homeless which became a comic book used for peer education in schools and youth clubs in the UK. In the final part of the workshop the young people were presented with a challenge, to work in four small groups and create a storyline for a comic in just 15 minutes. He presented them with the opening line of the comic, which he took from Granelli. The line was ‘And I am afraid’ – from the poem ‘Drops of blood from my heart’. The groups presented their ideas back to each other – which were in turns funny, serious, sad and mythic. The session was translated by Sopio Elizbarashvili.
Special thanks to Ani Gergedava, who organised our programme in the Tsalenjikha region. Here she is in front of the European Academy where our workshops took place (photo by Michal Moniuszko).