Sculpting for the Zoo: Georgian Ex-pat Recreates Begi and Schuma

US resident and Georgian sculptor Niko Abazadze has created two sculptures inspired by the tragic June 13 Tbilisi flood.

Affected by the huge loss of animal life, many citizens put forward the idea of installing memorial statues in honor of the animals- one of hippo Beglar 'Begi', who survived the flood to become the unwitting symbol of the flood cause for much of the international community, and another of the white lion Shuma who was found shot the day following the flood. Though appreciative of the thought, Tbilisi Zoo administration’s first priority, of course, is to plan how to provide the remaining animals with shelter in preparation for the upcoming winter. Decorating the zoo with sculptures is currently the least of their concerns.

Yet inspiration came nonetheless to Georgian artist Niko Abazadze who has already made a model hippo sitting on a concave bench. Niko hopes the Tbilisi authorities will allow the sculpture to be placed.

“Tbilisi needs a friend, not just a symbolic hippo. I designed one of the arms of the hippo – who is envisioned sitting on a bench, clad in shorts and slippers - in such a way that whoever wants to can make him hold flowers or a glass for cheering, or sit next to him and take a picture using a selfie stick,” Abazadze said.

According to artist, he’s not going to take any money for these sculptures. He realizes that the zoo needs to be reconstructed, while the Hippo’s current dwelling is inadequate, and so he wishes the money to be spent for the good of the Hippo. He also thinks that the right place for Hippo sculpture needs to be decided with the consultation of architects. The artist commented that it can be challenging for expats to get involved in such activities to help in the homeland.

“Here, just like everywhere else, it is very difficult to sell works of art, especially sculptures. But I have plenty of commissions. I belong to small number of those lucky artists who can make their living from their profession,” said Niko Abazadze.

He wonders if other artists are working on a similar concept to his and asks that a tender be announced so that the best Hippo sculpture can be selected.

Nina Ioseliani

25 July 2015 14:24