Tuesday, May 14, 2013

SPACES: “Travelling Foodways. Betlemi Quarter Stories” (geoair.blogspot.de)


(geoair.blogspot.de) May 17th 2013, Betlemi Quarter, Tbilisi

Betlemi Quarter is a very old historical part of Tbilisi, where people of different ethnic groups lived throughout years. It was revitalized by ICOMOS Georgia and local community. Project addresses the issue of displacement and “migrants’” lives through transforming their household and foodways in the engaged artistic works, transforming their stories and private space into public. During the project we worked with people of three different ethnic groups, which have been living in Betlemi Quarter for generations - Greeks, Armenians and Jewish. 

It is a popular understanding that Tbilisi has been multi-cultural ever since its existence and people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds have lived here in peace. This might be referring to 'the traditional groups' living in here, but again recent changes in the history, political developments and gentrification processes show active displacement of these ethnic groups to outskirts of the city, for example Kurds are almost invisible in their original place. 

Foodways have always been an important aspect of one's identity, as well as crucial for the communication between people. Hence, with the project of cooking food linked to their ethnic identity, as well as telling stories and serving it publicly, distributing artistic leaflets about the 'cooking events', providing the information through media and by creating art projects regarding the matter, the project aims to provide communication between and raise awareness of different groups in contemporary Tbilisi.

The project also involves young professionals and on this case introduces them anthropological approach and interdisciplinary collaboration in contemporary art. By involving young professionals from socio-cultural anthropology and arts, we aimed to demonstrate and teach-in-practice how the knowledge can be transformed in the applied site-specific project and benefit its participants. Therefore, it also demonstrates how the linkage of prior research and intended artistic practice can be an important source for further creative exploration and application in practice.  

Three “migrant” groups living in Betlemi Quarter were selected for the project and extensive fieldwork was carried out with them, including placing emphasis on their foodways and households. Based on the information obtained from the fieldwork, selected artists (visual artist, photographers, graphic designers from Tbilisi State Academy of Arts and CCA Tbilisi) collaborated with anthropologists (students from Tbilisi State University) for transforming the findings of their household (visual appearance, stories, artifacts) into publication and outdoor public cooking events. For each public cooking event we produced small fanzines. Foodways and food-related practices are the big part of the project, showing how migrants’ identity is seen and expressed in food and while making food of their own culture in a different country, what remains of their own and what transforms to the specifics of the host country, what external contacts are made to their home communities for keeping the foodways of their own.

Therefore, placing emphasis on this aspect we link to and elucidate how the environment they live in, both interior and exterior is affected and the other way around. Moreover, the living environment represented in outdoor space will serve as a place for eating where the audience is invited to try the food of “migrants”, as well as exchange stories of migration, history of their home country, recipes and extend it from there.

During the festival day, chosen three families will publicly cook their ethnic food and audience will have a possibility to taste it in or close by their houses, hear their (hi)stories etc. Guests will also have a chance to get involved in the cooking process and share their culinary stories. Moreover, on festival day specially prepared brochures, containing recipes and different textual and/or visual material of these families, will be distributed. Guests are asked for small monetary contribution, which will lay a foundation for next year Betlemi Quarter Festival.

Within this project we also plan workshop for children/youngsters regarding recycling material, which we will collect on spot after public joint cleaning project (with the active involvement of students). Workshop will concentrate mainly on raising awareness on environment, and reusing plastic bottles and bags, for gardening and creating small art works. Workshop will be led by CCA Tbilisi students.

Festival programe

1.Garden  on Wheels 
“Garden On The Wheels” is two trailers with plants. After finding a place, trailers are transformed into the garden, which has its own infrastructure: benches, small library, projection screen.
Project is financed by The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) / The Swiss Development Cooperation for the South Caucasus. The project has been awarded The Culture and Management Lab (CML) Grant.

2. SPACES: Travelling Foodways. Betlemi Quarter Stories

The project aims showing the diversity of Old Tbilisi through food culture and supports raising awareness about various ethnic groups living in Tbilisi, by presenting and spreading their (hi)stories to broader audience.
18:00 - Nazi Beridze (2.1.)
19:00 - Larisa Mezhdoiani (2.2.)
20:00 - Lala Karaiani (2.3.)

3. Concert

4. Screening of short film directed by local kids about the Betlemi Quarter.

Exhibition of Samson Lejava and Asmat Oqropiridze’s works / Family collection of musical  instruments.

5. Backgammon contest in Ateshgah yard.
6. Visit to Ateshgah and entertainment;
Get to know the history of Ateshgah.

7. Recycling material workshop by CCA Tbilisi students.

8. Exhibition of works by Betlemi Quarter kids.

9. Exhibition of works by Tbilisi State Academy of Arts student.
10. Works by “Artist Studio - Workshop 49.”

11. Presentation of original pot flowers, creation of handmade flower crowns and flower compositions.

12.Exhibition of handmade objects - cultural fair.

13. Tree of wishes

Collecting ideas, wishes for the next festival, imagining the postcard of Tbilisi.

14. Plein air and exhibition of Murtaz Shvelidze.


Clown for kids

Performance by Pantomime Theater

The project is initiated by GeoAIR (Nini Palavandishvili and Data Chigholashvili) in collaboration with ICOMOS Georgia and anthropology and graphic faculty students (Ana Benidze, Anna Gzirishvili, Maja Malinovska, Ana Ramazashvili, Nini Khuroshvili, Tatia Khutsishvili, Irakli Sharvadze).

This project is funded by the European Union through the Eastern Partnership Culture Programme.

Printing of the accompanying publications is supported by Tbilisi Center of Cultural Events.  

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