“My heart breaks” – intangible heritage in Georgia

Following the conflict between Russia and Georgia in 2008, thousands of Georgians were displaced. The Georgian National Committee of the Blue Shield has been working on  critical project – “Protection of Cultural Heritage of Occupied Regions (Tskhinvali Region-PCHOR)” to record the heritage of the Tskhinvali region. The project aims to preserve the cultural heritage of the occupied Didi Liakhvi Valley, raise awareness about it, and introduce the displaced population to society with their painful past, interesting traditions, and daily lives.

Continuing work earlier in the year, focus group meetings were held in Shaumiani and in Koda with the displaced population from Didi Liakhvi Valley. For the first time, the meeting was also attended by young adults, who expressed great interest in the traditional games and rituals recalled by the elders and a desire to revive them and bring them back into their daily lives. They recalled how Village Day, Easter, Shiooba, Angels Day, Korkotoba, New Year, and Chitpapoba were celebrated. They shared their knowledge of medicinal plants and also told the Georgian National Committee about fishing and hunting traditions, sacred places and toponyms. Photos of the meeting are available on Blue Shield Georgia’s Facebook Page (link below).

"For the Angels’ Day, I used to bake sugar bread and figures, I kept boiler butter and baked kadas with it, and then I served them to the angels in the closet, where the dishes were kept. We believe that every family has a guardian angel, and therefore we have always respected house angels. We asked for blessings, health and peace. My grandchildren also know the importance of Angels’ Day. Many times, the offering has been left in the closet and the children have said that the angels kept it safe for us."

As well as the focus group meetings, they met the IDPs from the village of Kekhvi living in the Tserovani settlement and took their portrait photos. The portraits will soon be uploaded to a special portal together with the video sketches prepared within the framework of the project.

You can watch videos of their document of intangible heritage from people affected by the conflict on YouTube. Videos are made as part of the long-term project “Virtual Occupied Territories” by the Historical and Cultural Heritage Preservation Center. Interviews with the participants, who talk about these traditions, are available on Blue Shield Georgia’s website.

"At home, there was a different joy to all this… Here, when May 20 comes, my heart breaks rather than being happy…”

The project is organized by the National Committee of Blue Shield of Georgia and supported by a grant from the U.S. Embassy.

Poster of an old man sitting at a table with craft tools behind him on the wall. Event details are given on it

As part of the work to promote Georgia’s intangible heritage, Blue Shield Georgia is speaking at a key event in the Hague on 28 September, Making the Case: Observing Heritage as a Humanitarian Issue. “How can culture help people in crisis? And can we see the protection of culture as a humanitarian issue? Join Cultural Emergency Response (CER) at the Humanity Hub on September 28th for a film screening and panel talk on the impact of heritage loss and the protection of people. We will ask how culture can help people in crisis situations. Together, we will launch CER’s Making the Case – a new programme dedicated to advocating and campaigning for the urgency of heritage protection in times of crisis. Central to the event is a film screening of CER’s pilot project on the safeguarding of intangible heritage from displaced communities in Georgia. Our project partner Tamar Sopromadze, of Blue Shield Georgia, will talk about the people-centered nature of cultural heritage and how it impacts the well-being of individuals and communities. Based on her experience together with panelists from the cultural and humanitarian field, we’ll discuss ways in which the sectors can work better together”. Register here.

LINKS & FURTHER READING

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