Georgian folk craftsmen are transforming traditional crafts into a source of economic income with the support of an EU-financed project.
Heritage crafts as a source of income
Culture is a source of inclusive growth and job creation and the global trade in creative products has continued to expand in recent years, despite economic uncertainty. Cultural heritage is a universal value, an important expression of cultural diversity – that is why preserving it and passing it on to future generations is so important.
According to Nino Samvelidze, Programme Manager for Youth, Culture and Digital Society at the EU Delegation to Georgia, cultural diversity is one of the main values of the EU, and this is why it aims to support the preservation and development of cultural traditions of different countries.
Having realised this, the EU has announced 2018 as the European Year of Cultural Heritage. In this article, we showcase the stories of Georgian craftsmen participating in the EU-supported project “Folk Crafts Perspectives in Georgia”. Thanks to the project’s support, the craftsmen develop and grow their enterprises, pass on their expertise to others, so that heritage crafts can become a source of income in Georgia.
“It is important that work in heritage crafts, which is rather widespread in our country, becomes a source of income and employment, and this is one of the objectives of the project,” explains Nino.
The Georgian Arts and Culture Centre selected 21 art studios to provide with funding. The total budget was €617,128, with €489,168 coming from the EU. The Head of the Centre, Maka Dvalishvili believes that successful beneficiaries had to have an interest in and potential for development. One of the requirements to receive funding was that the beneficiary must teach their skill to at least five students.
“Our main goal is to preserve traditional Georgian crafts and to adapt them to modern market requirements, i.e. by transforming the craft into a business. Overall, this gives economic benefit,” explains Maka.
Maka, an art historian, says the culture of craftsmanship is widespread across Georgia. She says the main characteristic of folk craftsmanship is that the products must be handmade and not manufactured in a factory. Some parts may be factory-supplied, but they have to be finished by hand.
“Folk craftsmanship started when mankind created stone tools, carved patterns on stone and developed aesthetic vision,” explains Maka.
The Georgian Arts and Culture Centrehas been working towards the development of heritage crafts since its establishment in 1995. Maka says that, since that period, craftsmen have received support to develop quality and design, and to study the market.
In 2012, in cooperation with the EU in the framework of the EU-Eastern Partnership Culture and Creativity Programme, the Georgian Arts and Culture Centre implemented another project - Strengthening Creative Industries in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia: Heritage Crafts - Common Platform for Development.
Apart from workshops and seminars, the programme also conducted a study of 500 experts in heritage crafts. The results of the study highlighted the current situation of the heritage crafts market, and a strategy was developed based on the results.
Lali Sadaghashvili: Felt craft
About 20 km northwest of Tbilisi in the historic town of Mtskheta, near the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), a variety of stalls can be found selling a vast array of products. Among them is Lali Sadaghashvili’s stall, where she sells woollen toys and other handcrafted products.
On display at Lali’s stall you can find woollen toys, felt scarf, hand knitted shoes, wool jewellery and various other accessories – all handmade by her and her family. Lali sells her handcrafted products to the constant stream of tourists who walk past the stalls each day.
In the evening, when the flow of tourists declines, Lali returns home. If she is not too tired, she continues working in the studio set up on the ground floor of her house. This is where Lali’s enterprise, Nerbi, is based. If Lali is unable to work, her three children and spouse work to provide her with new items for the stall.
In Lali’s studio, there is one large table with a tap nearby to supply the water required for felt production. There are shelves installed on the wall in the room, with all the necessary materials and fabric, as well as a sewing machine and a wool felting iron.
Lali and her husband, Rasula Kevkhishvili, set up the enterprise in 2014, after they received EU funding from the Folk Crafts Perspective in Georgia project. They received 8000 GEL in funding, which they used to completely renovate the room and to purchase the table, chairs and necessary equipment. Lali, who has been working with wool for 16 years, says the project funding helped her to fulfil her lifelong aspiration.
“It is not an exaggeration, I fulfilled my dream. I always wanted to have a studio I would enter and forget everything, where I would have a table and I could work,” says Lali Sadaghashvili.
Lali used to work in the railway industry as a telecommunications specialist. She started to use her craftsmanship skills when she was made redundant. Today, handicrafts provide her main source of income.
“I remember at first when I earned 14 GEL, then 44 GEL, and it went on gradually. Initially, I was focused on toys, but now I see that hand knitted shoes also sell well,” says Lali.
At first, Lali’s spouse, Rasula, did not consider felt craft as a serious business, but over the course of time, he changed his mind. Now, he also works in the enterprise alongside his job in the railway industry.
“My wife used to talk about what she could make from wool but I was not really interested. I thought it was just a hobby and I was too busy with my work. Finally, she persuaded me to get involved and it turned into a family business,” says Rasula.
Felt is one of the oldest methods of creating and processing fabric. It is a traditional Georgian folk craft which attracts huge interest from tourists to the country. For this reason, Nerbi also provides workshops for tourists. Wet felting was one of the most recent masterclasses held for a group of tourists. The studio that was set up through EU support enables Lali to demonstrate the process of her work to tourists.
Lali also gives classes in Mtskheta gymnasium on how to make various items from wool. Through the EU project, she is responsible for teaching five students. She says that in four years she has already taught 16 students.
The support received through the EU project has empowered Lali, and she now has a monthly income of 1500 GEL. She hopes to open a shop in the historic part of Mtskheta and hire a shop assistant in the future.
Otar Sharabidze: Pottery
Otar Sharabidze is one of the expert folk craftsmen who received funding from the EU. The 67-year-old ceramicist currently lives about 60km southwest of Tbilisi, in Tetritsqaro.
Otar studied ceramics 40 years ago at the Tbilisi Academy of Arts. After graduating, he worked in different factories within the former Soviet Union and created production sketches. He has been working independently since the 1990s. In 1996, Otar went to Istanbul where he taught at one of the universities. In 2014, he returned to Georgia where he settled in Tetritsqaro. He bought a house which was built in the nineteenth century in the historic part of the city, and now he plans to host pottery classes for tourists there.
Otar told us that he bought a house with a yard especially to facilitate his work. He plans to set up a studio and accommodation in the house so that he can rent out two rooms to ceramicists and other interested people and work together with them.
Otar’s yard measures 1 500 m2 and provides the ideal place for his studio, which is 30m2. Water supply, electric and natural gas pottery kilns, a pottery wheel and other necessary equipment will be installed in the studio.
Otar brought an electric kiln by bus from Turkey and purchased the pottery wheel and gas kiln through EU funding. He says that having both gas and electric kilns will help him diversify his work.
The ceramicist says that with a gas oven he can make products using the Raku technique, which involves removing the piece from the hot kiln, putting it into leaves or wood dust, and covering it. This process creates a glaze on the pottery.
Otar says that his pottery is not only decorative; it also has a practical function. He says that each piece he creates is unique and is never repeated.
“I produce only one copy, I always try to create original work. This is typical of folk craft; new items are made all the time. Pottery is one of the oldest forms of art, and it is developing constantly. It is interesting to look at old ceramics but you also want to introduce something new,” Otar insists.
Otar says he will complete the renovation of the house in a month, and then will start work teaching pottery and hosting holidaymakers in Tetritsqaro.
Art Studio Snoveli, Kazbegi
Art Studio Snoveli was established by father and son Bidzina Snoveli (73 years old) and Mindia Ghudushauri (43 years old), in the village of Sno in the mountainous region of Kazbegi. Together they make wooden armchairs, tables, beds, and carve the furniture by hand.
Mindia was born in Tbilisi, but his father was in born Sno. Bidzina, a qualified architect, left Sno after graduating from university, and studied woodwork in Makhachkala. “My father wanted to pass on his expertise to others. He has a very skilled technique; he only works by hand,” says Mindia. Bidzina says that he had talented students, but as his sales are not yet stable he cannot employ them.
The father and son set up Art Studio Snoveli in 2015 and bought the initial necessary materials through funding from the Children’s and Youth Support Fund. Then, through support from the project Folk Crafts Perspectives in Georgia, they purchased various woodwork tools and printed booklets in three languages: Georgian, English and Russian.
“The booklet is like a business card for our studio, you can show it to people wherever you go,” says Mindia.
Mindia wants to set up an exhibition space in Sno where they could receive guests and display the items produced in the studio. The furniture made by Snoveli contains carvings representing peacocks, griffins, turtledoves, bulls, the Borjgali symbol, various geometric shapes from different regions of Georgia, and figures from Georgian mythology.
Fourth grade student Saba Sabauri (8 years old) attends Sno School, located next to the Snoveli studio. He tells us that after classes he comes to the studio and learns to draw. After drawing, he will study woodwork.
“I mainly draw mountains and churches. Mountains are beautiful. My sister studied drawing; she would hang her drawings once she had finished them. I wanted to draw beautiful pictures as well, so I started to learn. I would also like to study wood burning,” says Saba.
Keti Akiashvili (also aged 8) is another of Mindia’s students. Keti also attends the drawing classes and looks forward to starting to work on wood instead of a paper. “I learned how to draw villages and animals; how to create lines and shadows,” says Keti.
According to an EU-supported study in 2014, 1500 people were employed in the heritage crafts industry in Georgia. This accounts for 0.07% of the economically active population. 84% of the respondents worked on their own, while 16% hired employees.
Their main challenge now is to adapt heritage crafts to modern market requirements to enable them to benefit financially from the crafts.
Author: Misha Meparishvili
Tbilisi, Georgia, March 30 – Georgian civil society leaders with its international partner, Heavenly Culture World Peace Restoration of Light (HWPL) organized a seminar on the role of civil society in peace-building process, on the occasion of the 2nd Annual Commemoration of the Declaration of Peace and Cessation of War (DPCW) at David Aghmashenebeli University of Georgia.
The commemoration was initiated from Seoul, South Korea on March 14 with 1,000 participants from politics, religion, and civic groups at home and abroad. This international advocacy events were held in 166 cities of 71 countries including Georgia, Ukraine and Germany to raise awareness of local communities on how a peaceful environment can be facilitated by the principles of the DPCW.
During his speech in the Tbilisi seminar, Mr. Avtandil Otinashivili, editor-in-chief of "Newsday Georgia", who had attended the Seoul conference said, “The DPCW is of great importance for every country, including Georgia. We want to avoid wars and together we must do our best to leave our children a planet without war.”
In Tbilisi, religious leaders, youth representatives and media participated, and video materials including keynote speech of the chairman Mr. Man Hee Lee of HWPL and the footsteps of the DPCW and the world wide campaign to legislate peace were presented.
Chairman Lee, a Korean War veteran himself, appealed the need of peaceful means of conflict resolution and the responsibility of every individual in peace-building during his speech. “Law of today cannot compensate for the lives sacrificed from war. What we need is an instrument that protects human life, the very law that prevents war.” “Rather than waiting to take peace for granted, it is we who should put an end to war to protect humanity and our globe, and leave peace as a legacy for future generations.”
The participants also discussed the urgent necessity of carrying out peacekeeping process guided under the DPCW and the role of civil society in order to avoid any tragedy like the 2008 Russo-Georgian War.
Ms. Mariem Iremadze, the chairwoman of Association for Development, Education and Social Involvement said, “We[Georgians] have suffered from the negative effects of war in our country. We all need to promote peace in our society as much as we can.” She also pointed out, “Because the implementation of the DPCW is connected to the theme of collaborative governance, the government and the citizens should support each other for promoting peace and resolving conflicts in our country.”
For civil society’s part, she explained what youth can specifically do by saying, “Youth is our hope and future of the society. I think engaging and inspiring more youth groups to promote peace is the best effort that our organization can make and we will continue to involve in the activities with HWPL to the aim of promoting peace”
Ms. Kayla Jang, a former delegation of HWPL to Georgia also addressed the importance of civil society in building collaborative governance by referring the recent 43rd round of Geneva International Discussions (GID) on March 28, co-chaired by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the EU, and the UN that brings together the representatives Georgia, Russia, and Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia as well as the US.
“Since the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, the GID has been the one and only remained platform for the peace-talk. But what we heard, with a sense of disappointment, from the March 28 talk was only that, it still couldn’t finalize the draft joint statement on non-use of force among the relevant parties. In order to push it forward, we need a bottom-up approach for global peace. The civil also has to raise voice on their aspiration to the state of being without war and participate in the peace-building process with the authorities.” she said.
During the interview, Mr. A. Otinashivili also said, “Unfortunately, the round of the Geneva consultations ended in vain, but this does not mean that we should stop discussing topical issues. On the contrary, we must continue the peace process.” And he emphasized, “Civil society and the media are of great importance. Civil society must consolidate the people around one goal, to achieve peaceful resolution of conflicts. And the media should do everything so that people can hear this slogan.”
The DPCW with its 10 articles and 38 clauses is advocating a peaceful means to resolve wars and conflicts. It includes provisions such as avoiding war-related actions, respecting international law and ethnic/religious harmony, and promoting a culture of peace.
- The host organization, HWPL is affiliated with UN DPI and UN ECOSOC and announced the DPCW on March 14, 2016, to strengthen a solidarity of peace through a comprehensive cooperation of all sectors of society and to establish legally binding international law necessary for peacebuilding.
- Full Text of the DPCW, http://hwpl.kr/en/initiative/lawForPeace
- The latest Geneva International Discussions(GID), https://www.osce.org/chairmanship/376450
HWPL and civil society groups in 117 cities advocate comprehensive cooperation for peace and denounce anti-peace activities
While the global society has been sending an interest and encouragement to the historic decision of the North Korea-US dialogue following the ‘Peace Olympics’ held in South Korea, a Korea-based international peace NGO held an event commemorating “The 2nd Annual Commemoration of the Declaration of Peace and Cessation of War (DPCW)” on March 14. In Seoul, South Korea, on the theme of "A Call for Building a World of Peace and Realizing Justice" was attended by 1,000 participants including representatives of politics, religion, and civic groups at home and abroad.
The host organization, Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL) affiliated with UN DPI and UN ECOSOC, announced the DPCW on March 14, 2016, to strengthen a solidarity of peace through a comprehensive cooperation of all sectors of society and to establish legally binding international law necessary for peacebuilding. The DPCW with 10 articles and 38 clauses, drafted by international law experts, includes provisions to avoid war-related actions and achieve peace, including respect on international law, ethnic/religious harmony, and a culture of peace.
Mr. Man Hee Lee, Chairman of HWPL, highlighted that every individual in the global society is responsible for constructing global peace. He appealed to the participants by saying, “Rather than waiting to take peace for granted, it is we who should put an end to war to protect humanity and our globe, and leave peace as a legacy for future generations.” “Law of today cannot compensate for the lives sacrificed from war. What we need is an instrument that protects human life, the very law that prevents war,” he added.
“No human being and no animal on planet Earth can survive from weapons (of mass destruction). Even an error or an accident can cause widespread damage to human life and property which cannot be replenished. We all have to work 365 days and 24 hours together for peace as a messenger of peace,” said, Mr. Pravin H. Parekh, President of Confederation of Indian Bar who participated in drafting the DPCW.
“If we want to put an end to war and build peace, let us work together for peace and overcome the boundary of state, ethnicity and religion. We have to think about how to resolve international conflicts through the adoption of the DPCW as a UN resolution. And the international society should provide assistance to facilitate peace education proposed by HWPL,” emphasized Mr. Deok Gyu Lim, former president of the International Law Association Korean Branch.
In the event, HWPL issued the official statement against anti-peace actions that hinder peace and justice with unsubstantiated information and distortion from socio-economic motives and human rights abuses by religious intolerance. In the statement it addressed that HWPL “will no longer tolerate attempts to obstruct the work for peace, putting personal gain over the common good of humanity. We urge all those yearning for peace and justice to take the right path, not the path marked with lies, and join the effort to build peace together.”
The multi-national events for the 2nd Annual Commemoration of the DPCW calling for building a world of peace and realizing justice were organized in 166 cities in 71 countries, including South Korea, the United States, Germany, Ukraine, Britain, and China. 150,000 citizens and leaders of all sectors in the world took part in this global event urging the establishment of international law for the realization of a peaceful, just society and the denunciation of anti-peace activity.
On 13-14 February, the Georgian capital Tbilisi hosted the first training seminar for the country’s civil society organisations and local authorities on drafting grant applications.
The event was organised by the EU-funded Eastern Partnership Civil Society Facility at the request of the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia and aimed to prepare Georgians to make high-quality applications to Calls for Proposals for projects aimed at strengthening civil society organisations and local authorities.
During the two-day seminar, over 20 participants learned how to prepare concept notes and proposals to apply for grants under the abovementioned thematic EU programmes. They obtained practical skills and knowledge on project preparation, based on the Logical Framework Approach.
Similar training seminars will be organised in the next 10 days when more than 100 representatives of Georgian civil society organisations and local authorities will participate in four workshops in Tbilisi and Kutaisi.
The President of Georgia, H.E. Giorgi Margvelashvili has evaluated the car explosion of the MP, Mr. Givi Targamadze as a terrorist act and addressed the politicians, the law enforcement agencies, and the public sphere.
The President demands the localization of the criminals in the Georgian political parties and refers to their activity as the battle of the criminals against the society. He hopes that the injured citizens will recover in the nearest future and this terrorist act will not have any victims.
"This is the battle of the criminals against the society. This is the battle not only against the politicians, but also the normal, democratic processes. I would like to address the political forces, though I do not know how seriously they realize the depth of the problem that they and the political system face.
Unfortunately, the political forces include some lawless individuals, the criminals, who understand the political processes as the physical confrontation of one other. They think that using such methods they participate in the political processes.
I would like to address the political forces; these individuals are dangerous not only for democracy, but also for the normal development of our society and citizens. Any political force that collaborates with such criminals is doomed. I ask the politicians to localize such individuals.
Once again, they are dangerous, not only for the public, but only for the political system. Get rid of them for your own benefit.
I would also like to address the law enforcement agencies. It is your primary duty to discover, localize, and neutralize the criminals. Fulfilling your duty is the precondition of the peaceful co-existence and the development of our country. You must be independent from any political context. If you face any hardship, I remind you that I stand by you and support your engagement in defending the normal social and political processes and the peaceful conduct of the elections.
I would also like to address our society; you see how peacefully and quietly the social and political processes are developed. We do not aim to confront one another. We are conducting the normal elections based on the European style; however, a certain group is trying to diverge us from this path. This is beneficial for those individuals for whom the success of Georgia represents a threat.
I would like to ask all of you to be united under the shared values of stability, peace, and democratic development of our country and to localize such criminal acts. Unfortunately, we have already seen a number of such distressing incidents; however, I am confident that the attitude of our society, which refers to the elections not as a battle, but as a step toward the country’s reinforcement will celebrate the triumph. There are many people sharing this attitude who do not see the physical beating, shooting, and exploding of each other as the method of participation in the political processes.
Therefore, I would like to remind you our main goal and mission – to conduct the Parliamentary elections as the most important democratic process”, - stated the President of Georgia. The President has made the above mentioned statement during the meeting with the youth in Vaziani.
The Association Agreement is the recipe of development of Georgia – this statement was made by the
State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration Davit Bakradze. As he said, Georgia has ambitious plans which are linked to the new standards of the country's economy and the daily life.
“This is a good recipe for European way of Georgia, for its development, security, stabile economy and society. This is the Association Agreement. We have received this document and we have too ambitious plans. For decades, European society was formed in the most developed, security and sustainable development-oriented society,” Davit Bakradze said.