Art-Gene: Kaleidoscope of Georgian Culture

The artistic folk festival Art-Gene 2015 Tbilisi was opened by Sukhishvilebi National Ballet on July 19, at the Ethnographic Museum, a fittingly entertaining start to the week-long festivities. This year, one novel feature of the festival has been the book trunk, organized by the partner organization Georgian National Library as the main topic of the festival this year has been declared ‘books and literacy’. The trunk enabled everybody to enjoy their favorite books, sitting in the fresh air under the open sky whenever they had a spare minute from choosing original pieces of jewelry, crafts and carpets, having fun with friends or family, sampling a concert and of course eating mtsvadi. A small window into the whole of Georgia was presented at the festival with every region able to showcase its cultural traditions and peculiarities.

On the first day of the festival, visitors were entertained by folklore ensembles from Kvemo Kartli and Racha-Lechkhumi, and the spectators’ appetites were satisfied by various dishes including khachapuri baked in the famous tone ovens. With many tourists and expats sampling the festivities, Georgia Today spoke with Canadian Ryan MacDonald, who had been travelling the world and now found himself in Georgia. “I arrived a month ago. The whole Caucasus is very interesting with a deep, fascinating history. We do not learn too much in school about this region. I have a good impression of life here. Georgian culture has maintained so much of its heritage. I heard that Sukhishvilebi National Ballet is playing tonight. A friend of mine attended their benefit concert and he said it was outstanding Overall, this [Art-Gene fest] is a wonderful display. There is a great selection of traditional crafts and actually I did not expect such a big selection. My friend and I came across a male and female Choir. It was very nice. I wanted to hear Georgian polyphonic singing for the first time and it was terrific.”

Art-Gene has now acquired an international reputation with foreign entertainers and performers now playing their part in this Georgian event. The first day was marked by the performance of the Latvian choreographic ensemble Saime who travel all over the world to perform, and had just visited Chile before coming to Georgia.

On July 20, the festival showcased Imereti and Samachablo regions, ending with Robi Kukhianidze’s performance together with the group “Outsider”. The following day was dedicated to Guria, a region of western Georgia, as well as the southern region of Samtskhe-Javakheti capped with the concert of the group “Reggaeon”.

On July 22nd, the troupes from Samegrelo region stepped forward to the audience, which also coincided with the day of Abkhazia. Bakur Burdili and the band “Friendly Mosquito” were the finalists of the day. The night shows here were particularly impressive.

On July 23, the regions of Svaneti, Kakheti and Pankisi were celebrated with the day culi=minating in a performance from the group Frani (kite).

With festival concluding on July 26, there is still time to sample Art-Gene.

On July 24, the sea port of Poti and the Shida Kartli region are on show, finishing with a concert of the ensemble “Mgzavrebi” (Passengers). On Saturday, the creativity of the people of Mtskheta-Mtianeti and Racha regions will be represented as well as the Latvian Choreographic Ensemble “Saime” for the second time. At the end of the day, Nino Katamadze, a widely admired Georgian female singer, extremely popular in Ukraine, will play together with her own “Insight” music band. On the final day, Sunday, the festival will give the floor to Adjara region and Latvian choreography again. The festival will be closed by the group 33A and Niaz Diasamidze, another very popular and talented singer, performer and composer.

Traditionally, the festival travels all around Georgia to seek new materials, songs and other folklore treasures. This year, Art-Gene was opened by the regional tour in Simoneti village, Terjola, Imereti region, which concluded in Surami. As usual, the final and main part of the festival has been taking place in Tbilisi.

Art-Gene serves the purpose of promoting the national identity and values. It has managed to return a stimulus and sense of nostalgia for many young people who had decided to leave their villages. Now there is this small group of enthusiastic, fanatically in love with Georgia people – the Art-Gene organizers – who are mainly painters and musicians – ensuring that invaluable national cultural traditions are celebrated and preserved through the generations. Quite simply, Art-Gene is a huge treasure trove of Georgian past, present day and future.

Maka Lomadze

23 July 2015 22:47