Mako Saparova: A Story from a Photo Album

Mako Saparova was passionate about the stage and dreamed of becoming an actress from childhood. Born into a poor family in Telavi, her grandmother, who was the second wife of Solomon Chavchavadze, influential nobleman of the Kakheti region, decided to bring her up in Tbilisi.

Mako is one of many intellectuals whose photo resides in the splendid new album-masterpiece exhibit at the Art Palace of Georgia. Let’s find out more about her.

Akaki Tsereteli and Rapiel Eristavi were in rapture of Mako’s artistic talent and suggested she become an actress. However, her grandmother was categorically against it, as it was seen as a shame for a maiden in those days, who would become “unmarriable” once having appeared on stage. However, in 1879, Mako Saparova did become an actress- of the Georgian theater renovated by Ilia Chavchavadze and Akaki Tsereteli. On receiving a storm of applause at her successful debut, she became desperately ‘addicted’ to the stage. “She is an actress who will become the main beauty of our theater,” wrote Ilia Chavchavadze in his newspaper, Iveria, also praising her Georgian accent together with her other merits, claiming that “such Georgian is already rare”.

As for that “unmarriable” aspect…enter Vaso Abashidze, the first Georgian actor to be conferred the title of Republic’s Public Artist. By the end of his life, he had around 500 stage characters to his credit. At 25, he became a stage-partner of 19-year-old Mako. At first, he mocked her, calling her a child, however, with time, that irony was substituted by a deeper feeling. In return, Mako was compassionate, but strictly refused to marry him.

One day, during a theatrical tour in Gori, and not for the first time, Vaso proposed and was once again rejected. He directed himself to the Mtkvari River, either with the purpose of frightening the lady, or with the intention to truly drown himself. Mako rejected him no more. After wedding her, Vaso struggled to support his new family, but the Georgian nation soon began to appreciate his great comic talent. He is now buried in the prestigious Mtatsminda Pantheon next to Akaki Tsereteli, and the Music and Drama State Theater bears his name.

Mako Saparova lived a further 14 years after his death. She was always indulged with a lot of suitors, however, if she accepted anyone after her husband, it is unknown. Their daughter, Tasso Abashidze, also became an actress. Mako translated Russian and French plays into Georgian and, in 1925, was conferred the title of Public Artist of Georgia.

Many consider Mako Saparova the best actress of her time, especially in the roles of Shakespeare’s female characters. An interesting fact is that while incarnating one of them, she suddenly lost her hearing, which essentially saw the end of her acting career. She died in 1940.

Aside from Mako Saparova and Vaso Abashidze, Iakob Gogebashvili, Rapiel Eristavi, Lado Alexi-Meskhishvili, Ekaterine Gabashvili, Vano Sarajishvili, Shalva Dadiani, Dimitri Kipiani, Alexander Akhmeteli, Shio Mghvimeli, and others whom our society is less acquainted with, are included in the new album of Art Palace (State Museum of Theater, Music, Film and Choreography). The majority of the photos belongs to the museum, while the remainder were brought together from private collections.

“This is an album of public figures,” Giorgi Kalandia, director of Art Palace tells GEORGIA TODAY. “Despite Georgia enjoying a long and rich history of photography, we did not have such an album which comprised 19th century photos until today. This is a collection of almost all the representatives of the Intelligentsia of those times.”

The photographers, too, are famous, among them Alexander Roinashvili, the first Georgian photographer.

The photo-album itself has a strange story behind it. “We set out with the aim of creating a national collection,” Kalandia tells us. “Although there are many museums in Georgia, they can’t afford to purchase collections on a systematic basis. The function of a museum is not only to conserve antiquities but also to buy new objects and enrich the national collections, something we struggle to do,” he confessed.

That is why, together with the Davit Bejuashvili Education Fund, the Art Palace set up the experimental project named ‘Create a National Cashbox’. “Historically speaking, Georgia had such a tradition,” Kalandia says. “Nobility Bank used to assist the Society for the Spreading of Literacy, both led by Ilia Chavchavadze. We wanted to continue this tradition. Since March, every month, financed by Davit Bejuashvili Education Fund, we purchase one exhibit. After one year, we will exhibit this new collection. This photo-album was purchased in this way,” he notes.

The album itself is a real masterpiece, adorned with ivory in the gothic style and decorated with metal ornaments demonstrating the fighting of knights. Visitors will have the pleasure of seeing the photographs of the 19th century intellectuals, and also the album itself, in March 2018 as part of the exhibits of the new collection, purchased with the financial support of Davit Bejuashvili Education Fund.

WHERE: Art Palace, Kargareteli Str. 6

Maka Lomadze 

17 August 2017 19:17