Data Chigolashvili from GeoAir reports from Georgia…
Tbilisoba is a festival held annually in Tbilisi, usually on the last weekends of October. Started towards the end of 1970’s, every year its program mainly includes concerts and food related activities in various locations of Tbilisi, predominantly in the historical city centre where people from various districts of Tbilisi come to celebrate the city. Even though Tbilisi has always been characterised as multi-cultural, the programme is usually homogeneous – for instance, food that is usually made can be considered as mainly “Georgian.” Since within our projects we are talking about “Tbilisi Migrants,” we decided that being part of the program this year would make it richer and give voices to people who are not originally from Georgia, but have come few years ago and currently live in Tbilisi. Therefore, “Cooking Imaginations” October public cooking event with participants from India, as well as first time screening of six stories within “Visual Storytelling,” created by schoolchildren was held on October 25th, within the Tbilisoba 2014.
Located in the Rike Park, from the afternoon we started publicly cooking food together with Indian students. The festival was attended by a lot of people, curiosity to try Indian food and get special publications was very high, resulting in our location being constantly crowded by visitors. Towards the evening it was also mentioned to us by some guests that on the other side of the river they could also smell curry among the smoke that usually covers the city during Tbilisoba, due to a lot of outdoor cooking.
As the sun started to set down, parallel to cooking we started setting up the projection of “Visual Storytelling.” The involvement of schoolchildren, authors of the visual stories, with the entire event was crucial. The concert in the park was going towards the end as well, so the voices over the visual stories, screened repeatedly for few hours were also heard. As visitors were tasting Indian food, they also viewed the stories being projected on the opposite side of our tent.
Special postcards were designed for each story – visitors could choose the image they wanted, answer the questions on the back side, tear off the small part to return to us and take back the postcard with the image as the memory from the project and the stories. Schoolchildren were particularly involved in distributing postcards and getting responses from the audience, which made the screening more alive and engaged more people from different parts of the festivals.
The questions behind the postcards asked two things. One concerned peoples’ attitudes towards “Tbilisi migrants” and the other one asked for their ideas on what needs to be done so that we better familiarize ourselves with foreigners living in Tbilisi. Over 130 responses were returned, with majority of them having positive attitudes, however, some rejection was also present in the answers. A lot of time visitors of the event mentioned that language is a big barrier and there should be more cultural activities that will bring together people from different backgrounds living in Tbilisi. Some of the quotes below connect to the character of positive responses that were returned: “They should create their own TV and let us know more about them” or “with joint project, with learning together, or with the will to acquaint ourselves with each other”; however, there were some responses typical to – “I do not know how we should familiarise ourselves with each other, I live my life, they live theirs, why should we find out about each other?” But as said, majority of responses were positive and we hope learning about our participants’ interesting lives in Tbilisi, through the visual stories, contributed to it at some degree. Like one of the response “we should just smile to each other and have more trust,” we believe that getting to know each other could start from here, as easily and then we are able to understand that diversity is the wealth. Our projects carry this idea throughout them and creation of visual stories was possible by starting with this understanding.
Visual stories created by schoolchildren can be seen here.
– “Cooking Imaginations: Tbilisi Migrant Stories” project was also implemented with the financial support of the Prince Claus Fund.