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Issue no: 1129

• MARCH 1 - 4, 2019 • PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY

PRICE: GEL 2.50

In this week’s issue... President Zurabishvili Meets Mehriban Aliyeva NEWS PAGE 2

Russia’s Putin & Putin’s Russia POLITICS PAGE 4

Russian Envoy Warns Georgia to Expect “Unpleasant Surprises”

FOCUS

ON SHERATON The Tbilisi Sheraton is back, rebranded and with a new level of excellence. Find out more from its GM inside

PAGE 8

Tbilisi Pride: “We’re Going to Stay Strong & United”

POLITICS PAGE 6

Mayors for Economic Growth Engages Georgia’s Local Governments POLITICS PAGE 7

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY AMY JONES

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he first ever pride will take place in Georgia this June. The multi-day event is an important step towards equality for the LGBTQI community in traditionally conservative Georgia. Social acceptance and support of minority groups are vital in a healthy democracy. Nonetheless, Tbilisi Pride is a politicized event that will face many challenges. Organized by a group of activists, Tbilisi Pride should promote change in Georgia. GEORGIA TODAY sat down with the event’s organizer, Giorgi Tabagari, to discuss his plans, hopes, and the challenges ahead for Tbilisi Pride. Continued on page 10

Another HUAWEI Innovation – A Foldable Smartphone with 5G Support BUSINESS PAGE 9

From Dreams to Shooting De Niro: How Kardava Did It CULTURE PAGE 15


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NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 1 - 4, 2019

NGOs Quit Working Group for Selection Criteria of Judges BY THEA MORRISON

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on-governmental organizations united under the Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary left the working group initiated by the Parliament Speaker of Georgia Irakli Kobakhidze. The group was created with the aim of designing selection procedures and criteria for Supreme Court judges. The NGOs explain that the format did not serve as a means for discussing genuine legislative changes to ensure a merit-based approach to the selection process and its transparent and impartial conduct. “The unequivocal position of the Speaker during the working meeting made it clear that he does not intend to come up with a draft that would preclude the unilateral nomination of Supreme Court judge candidates by the dominant clan of the judiciary. The Speaker’s position is a clear testament to his and the influential judges’ concerted action, hence making continued work in the offered format meaningless,’ the joint statement of the NGOs reads. The issue became controversial after the High Council of Justice nominated 10 candidate judges for the Supreme Court of Georgia for life tenure. The list was rejected by the non-judge members of the HCOJ, NGOs and some members of the majority, who claimed that the presented judges had been working during the previous government and had the reputation of being “biased and corrupt.”

Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze said the discussions on the issue had been postponed until spring, adding a working group would be set up from the representatives of various sectors, which would define some additional criteria regarding the selection process of the judges. Moreover, a group of MPs from the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) submitted a draft to Parliament, which envisaged suspension of the appointment of judges for lifetime tenure in the first and second instance courts. The initiative could not get enough votes and was not supported by the legislative body, after which four MPs quit the majority. The NGOs believe that given the importance of the Supreme Court and its role in the judicial system, it is crucially important that the candidates be selected based on objective criteria and lengthy and transparent procedures. The Coalition considers that prior to detailed discussion of the individual provisions of the draft bill, it is essential to reach an agreement on five key issues. They are: 1. Not only judges, but also other legal professionals including advocates, prosecutors and those who have passed the judicial qualification examination, should be allowed to participate in an open competition. 2. Those members of the HCOJ who participate in the competition should have their membership of the HCOJ suspended in order to eliminate the possibility of their involvement in the processes of candidate reviews and decisionmaking regarding themselves or other competitors. 3. The proposed draft contains a vague

Image source: parliament.ge

preliminary vote which may endanger the objective conduct of the competition and selection of the best candidates. 4. The draft requires decision-making by a 2/3 majority of the HCOJ, which does not ensure a chance for the nonjudge members of the HCOJ to be involved in the process. 5. It is important that Parliament fully assess the accordance of the nominated candidates to the legislation and the Constitution, and for this purpose a working group should be created under the Legal Affairs Committee. The NGOs claim that Kobakhidze

rejects the notes presented by the nongovernmental sector. “The Parliamentary Speaker has a principled position regarding voting, and the formula he offers gives the dominant clan in the judiciary a full possibility to determine the nomination of specific candidates in the name of the HCOJ all by itself. This position again illustrates the Parliamentary Speaker’s and the ruling party’s unconditional support for the clan,” the statement reads. Nazi Janezashvili, a non-judge member of the High Council of Justice, also noted that the project submitted by Kobakh-

idze does not guarantee that qualified staff from outside the Supreme Court can enter the system. “Parliament should change the approach to the issue, so that highly qualified lawyers can claim the candidacy of Judge in the Supreme Court,” Janezashvili stressed. After the last meeting of the working group, Kobakhidze made a brief comment that the ruling team is ready to discuss all the opinions expressed, except those which contradict the Constitution of Georgia and the Council of Europe standards.

President Zurabishvili Meets Mehriban Aliyeva BY THEA MORRISON

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ithin the framework of an official visit to Azerbaijan, the President of Georgia, Salome Zurabishvili had a meeting with Vice President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Mehriban

Aliyeva in Baku. The meeting focused on the importance of strengthening cultural relations between the people of Azerbaijan and Georgia and the need to further promote cultural heritage. The sides also talked about Zurabishvili’s initiative to include Georgian tolerance in the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage. She believes that Georgian tolerance is a common Caucasian characteristic. “This will be an important message voiced from our region to the world, as tolerance is a value that the modern world lacks,” she said. Zurabishvili said she is personally interested in developing cultural ties between the countries and believes that Georgians and Azerbaijanis should know more about the culture and history of one another. It was noted that in June, a direct flight route will be opened between Baku and Batumi that will further deepen GeorgiaAzerbaijan ties. Also in June, Azerbaijan Culture Days are planned to be held in

Batumi. A similar event was proposed to be held in Tbilisi. Mehriban Aliyeva said that she is happy to see the Georgian President in Azer-

baijan, and expressed confidence that this visit will contribute to the further expansion of relations between the two friendly countries.

Before meeting Aliyeva, the Georgian President met her Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, and discussed mutual cooperation issues with him.

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NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 1 - 4, 2019

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WJP Ranks Georgia 41 Out of 126 Countries on Rule of Law GEORGIA RANKINGS WJP Rule of Law Index 2019 performance (1 is best) GEORGIA OVERALL GLOBAL RANK: 41/126 GEORGIA OVERALL REGIONAL RANK*: 1/13

BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE

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he World Justice Project (WJP) today released the WJP Rule of Law Index® 2019, an evaluation of rule of law adherence worldwide based on more than 120,000 household and 3,800 expert surveys in 126 countries. Featuring current, original data, the WJP Rule of Law Index measures countries’ rule of law performance across eight factors: Constraints on Government Powers, Absence of Corruption, Open Government, Fundamental Rights, Order and Security, Regulatory Enforcement, Civil Justice, and Criminal Justice. Georgia’s score places it at 1 out of 13 countries in the Eastern Europe and Central Asian region*, 1 out of 30 among lower middle income** countries, and 41 out of 126 countries and jurisdictions worldwide. The top three overall performers in the WJP Rule of Law Index 2019 were Denmark (1), Norway (2), and Finland (3); the bottom three were the Democratic Republic of the Congo (124),

Cambodia (125), and Venezuela (126). Globally, the new WJP Rule of Law Index scores show that more countries declined than improved in overall rule of law performance for a second year in a row, continuing a negative slide toward weaker rule of law around the world. In a sign suggesting rising authoritarianism, the factor score for “Constraints on Government Powers” declined in more countries than any other factor worldwide over the last year (61 countries declined, 23 stayed the same, 29 improved). “This slide in rule of law in general and checks on government powers in particular is deeply concerning,” commented Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of the World Justice Project. Regionally, Eastern Europe and Central Asia’s top performer in the Index is Georgia (41st out of 126 countries globally), followed by Macedonia, FYR and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The three countries with the lowest scores in the region were Russia, Uzbekistan, and Turkey (109th out of 126 countries globally). The WJP Rule of Law Index® is the world’s leading source for original data on the rule of law. The Index relies on

more than 120,000 household and 3,800 expert surveys to measure how the rule of law is experienced and perceived in practical, everyday situations by the general public worldwide. Performance is measured using 44 indicators across eight primary rule of law factors, each of which is scored and ranked globally and against regional and income peers: Constraints on Government Powers, Absence of Corruption, Open Government, Fundamental Rights, Order and Security, Regulatory Enforcement, Civil Justice, and Criminal Justice. “Effective rule of law is the foundation for communities of justice, opportunity, and peace,” said William H. Neukom, WJP founder and CEO. “No country has achieved a perfect realization of the rule of law. The WJP Rule of Law Index is intended to be a first step in setting benchmarks, informing reforms, stimulating programs, and deepening appreciation and understanding for the foundational importance of the rule of law.” The complete 2019 report—including country profiles, data visualizations, methodology, and download options— is available on February 28 at: www. worldjusticeproject.org/rule-of-lawindex

mar; Nicaragua; Nigeria; Pakistan; Philippines; Sri Lanka; Tunisia; Ukraine; Uzbekistan; Vietnam; Zambia

ABOUT THE WORLD JUSTICE PROJECT: The World Justice Project (WJP) is an

FACTOR

GLOBAL RANK

REGIONAL RANK*

INCOME RANK**

Constraints on Government Powers

53/126

1/13

5/30

Absence of Corruption

24/126

1/13

1/30

Open Government

39/126

1/13

2/30

Fundamental Rights

48/126

1/13

2/30

Order and Security

36/126

6/13

3/30

Regulatory Enforcement

42/126

1/13

1/30

Civil Justice

62/126

5/13

4/30

Criminal Justice

46/126

1/13

1/30

*Countries measured in the Eastern Europe and Central Asian region: Albania; Belarus; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Georgia; Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Macedonia, FYR; Moldova; Russia; Serbia; Turkey; Ukraine; Uzbekistan **Lower middle income countries: Angola; Bangladesh; Bolivia; Cambodia; Cameroon; Cote d'Ivoire; Egypt; El Salvador; Georgia; Ghana; Honduras; India; Indonesia; Kenya; Kyrgyzstan; Mauritania; Moldova; Mongolia; Morocco; Myan-

independent, multidisciplinary organization working to advance the rule of law worldwide. Effective rule of law reduces corruption, combats poverty and disease, and protects people from injustices large and small. It is the foundation for communities of justice, opportunity, and peace—underpinning development, accountable government, and respect for fundamental rights. Learn more at: www.worldjusticeproject.org

Paragraph Resort & Spa Shekvetili Takes First Place among “Autograph Collection” Hotels in Europe

BY MARIAM MERABISHVILI

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arriott International named Georgia’s Paragraph Resort & Spa Shekvetili first among “Autograph Collection” hotels in Europe. Its status is defined by the customer satisfaction index. Paragraph is ahead of hotels in Milan, Copenhagen, Warsaw, Barcelona and other European cities. John Licence, Vice President of Marriott, congratulated the hotel. “The customer satisfaction index is the main indicator of a hotel’s success. Paragraph is a perfect holiday complex that leaves

unforgettable impressions on guests, which is a merit to the Marriott network service and Georgian hospitality. We are proud to have Paragraph part of the ‘Autograph Collection.’ Since its 2017 opening, this hotel has achieved incredible success, which confirms that it is not only satisfying customers' requirements, but exceeding all expectations,” he said. Paragraph Resort & Spa Shekvetili is unique with its 220 rooms, 1600m² aquarium, 115m swimming pool, children's entertainment zones, winter garden, conference halls and restaurants. 450 people are employed at the hotel, 95% of which are local. They are regularly trained through master classes. The total investment in the hotel exceeds $100 million.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 1 - 4, 2019

Russia’s Putin & Putin’s Russia OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE

Image source: REUTERS/Matt Dunham/Pool

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he American media recently baptized him the Russian Godfather. Well, if Americans want to render this much favor to Putin, then his own subjects would probably have the right and readiness to do the same with even greater pleasure. Russians may love their “godfather” as much as it occurs to their weird heads and as long as their perennially broken hearts are willing to do so, but the wheel of life has made such a turn that Georgians have come to hate Putin with all their power of abhorrence, and Putin has learned to despise Georgia as no other Russian leader ever has before. His revulsion for Georgia is boosted by the irritating detail of the GeorgianAmerican friendship and cooperation, conducive to the scheme of Georgia’s integration into Euro-Atlantic circles, especially NATO and the European Union. Putin simply shudders at the prospect of Georgia proudly sitting among the world’s greatest! Surprisingly enough, the soviet-era Russian grudge against pan-Americanism is still alive and kicking. The images of those bygone times recur to memory sharply enough to need to be brought to the attention of today’s generation of political thinkers. For instance, the soviet Russian civil servants, diplomats and analysts who regularly appeared on TV screens to minister to the public about the pernicious western ways and means, trashed everything American but wore American designer clothes, drove American cars, smoked quality American cigarettes and sent their kids to American educational institutions. They were communistically tailored creatures wrapped in and intoxicated by the ideological strength of the

famous American commercials like ‘Come to where the flavor is, come to Marlboro country’. The soviet Russian hypocrisy had no limits then, and the spirit and the scenery thereof still lingers on, unchanged. The Russian-American rapprochement did not happen even after the clamorous soviet collapse. Americans do not want to spend money in Russia (if only on certain licentious adventures), and Russians do not have enough financial capability to invest in the States. Forget about economic cooperation – Russians and Americans are not drawn to each other even culturally; their mutual annoyance and frustration is so indelibly embossed on their hearts and minds that even the future generations have little chance of ridding

themselves of the ugly spiritual stigma. Putin’s Russia is America’s number one enemy, whereas Georgia is America’s friend and ally – you see the peril of the picture for us? Putin thinks and says that the United States is loath to respect international law, using force and coercion in global politics; Russia’s “godfather” misinterprets the American combative power and blames the States for the proliferation of arms of mass destruction. Meanwhile, the world does not forget the Russian deeds in Georgia, the North Caucasus, Crimea and Ukraine, the acts of violence against civil society and media, maltreatment of the regime’s opponents, all number of repressive acts and the nonstop anti-western frenzy.

The recent International Security Conference expressly demonstrated Putin’s un-camouflaged desire to refresh its presence on the global arena with old force and new authority. His restaged appearance strained the world and perked America’s ears in expectation of Russia’s claim to counter her sworn enemy, cunningly trying to convince the exasperated listeners in the civilized world that it is not Russia who wants to internationally reestablish herself but her European friends who are asking Russia to do so. Sounds a little funny, right? Well, they’re all soviet attitudes, meaning that Putin is making an attempt to bring back the old infamous USSR with a new style and image!

Unforgettable too are the ominoussounding historical words uttered by Putin describing the collapse of the USSR as “the greatest political catastrophe of the 20th century.” When talking about Russia’s Putin & Putin’s Russia, these multi-meaningful words are often quoted by journalists worldwide. Putin’s most irksome problem is that today’s Russia is nothing compared to the erstwhile Soviet Empire and is no match for America as a superpower. Putin’s Russia will have to burn a lot of sweat to make the Soviet dream a reality. Countering America is not the dilemma: the dilemma is to overpower the greatest country in the world, and I am not sure Putin and Russia want to enter the battle for real.


POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 1 - 4, 2019

The US Withdrawal from Afghanistan: Implications

Image source: 2014. US Marine Corps Photo

BY EMIL AVDALIANI

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n December 2018, the Trump Administration announced its military will start withdrawing roughly 7,000 troops from Afghanistan in the coming months. The US decision will mark a major and perhaps abrupt shift in the 17-year-old war the country has waged in Afghanistan. The US move is interesting and seemingly goes against recent developments inside Afghanistan: there was a spike in violence (terrorist attacks, etc.) across the country, largely a result of the local elections. On a foreign policy level, Russia, Iran and Pakistan, which all now share difficult relations with the US, will likely try to use the US withdrawal to their advantage. These local and global developments bring about the following questions: how will the withdrawal from Afghanistan affect the Eurasian continent? How will the US policies evolve and how will the vacuum of power be filled by other powers? The US decision is viewed by many with consternation, as pulling out troops could be regarded as a continuation of a major trend under the Trump Administration – withdrawal from major treaties and global responsibilities the US has had since the end of the Cold War. The decision follows a similar one on Syria, where the US plans to reduce its military presence to a minimum, hence the belief that this is a US global retraction. There are, however, counter arguments to the scenario of a US global weakening. First, the number of troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan is about half the number the US has in the country now. Moreover, the US pull-out does not mean that the Afghan troops and security contingents will be left in the air. In fact, the Afghan military has been mostly in charge of the country’s security since 2014, when more than 100,000 NATO troops withdrew. Also, beyond the US forces, there are some 7,500 troops from 38 other NATO members and partners in Afghanistan (Georgian forces included) as well as 25,239 private security con-

tractors deployed. Still, the US withdrawal could be seriously problematic for Afghanistan. Considering how the decision to withdraw its troops was taken, and, generally, Trump’s skepticism about the Afghan mission, the decision could be seen as a prologue to further major financial and military cuts. The security in the country will deteriorate if fewer finances are put in. To give one example of how important international aid is to Afghanistan: in recent years, about 50% of the Afghan state budget and 90% of its military and police costs have been covered by international donors. Reductions in such funding will weaken the security situation, perhaps leading to the local warlords becoming emboldened and the regions less and less controlled by the central government. In fact, signs of this process have already been seen. For example, Taliban control over Afghanistan has increased in recent months, and the government currently controls or influences only 55.5% of the country's districts. This is the lowest it has been in years. The withdrawal will have global repercussions as the situation in Afghanistan is important for its big neighbors. For instance, Pakistan has long tolerated the use of its territory by the Taliban. After the US withdrawal, Pakistan will likely become more open in its aid to the group and may even try to fill the power vacuum. Since 2001, Russia and Iran have generally supported the Kabul government. Recently, Moscow used the Taliban as a hedge and, along with Iran and Uzbekistan, provided support for Tajik, Uzbek, and Hazara warlords. This will likely be strengthened as the central government’s grip on power in Kabul weakens. The countries to watch closely after the US withdrawal are Pakistan, Iran and Russia. Each has its security and military stake in Afghanistan. Since it is unlikely that any of them will be able to fully control Afghanistan’s difficult terrain, these states will probably try to enhance the groups close to borders who prove amenable to cooperation. This diversity of foreign interests can push Afghanistan down the road into political and security disarray.

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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 1 - 4, 2019

Russian Envoy Warns Georgia to Expect “Unpleasant Surprises”

Image source: on.ge

BY THEA MORRISON

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ussian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin spoke of “unpleasant surprises” from Russia for Georgia if the two countries do not

develop mutual relations. Karasin made the comment to RFE/ RL, after meeting Zurab Abashidze, the Georgian Prime Minister's Special Representative for Relations with Russia, in Prague on February 27. "My message is the same. We should continue to develop relations and I would like to warn my Georgian col-

leagues about possible unpleasant surprises, unpleasant for both countries," RFE/RL quoted Karasin. He also told Russian media outlet TASS that Moscow is interested in improving relations with Tbilisi to an extent that is comfortable for Georgia. Karasin described the meeting as comprehensive and constructive.

"We discussed many problems of bilateral relations and noted improvements in several practical spheres, including trade, tourism, air service and humanitarian contact," he said. However, the Russian envoy believes that Georgia-NATO joint military drills scheduled for March this year do not contribute to ensuring stability and strengthening trust in the South Caucasus. "We are concerned by statements made by Georgian politicians about expedited accession to the North Atlantic Alliance. This creates nervousness both in our relations and in the region of the South Caucasus as a whole," the diplomat said. Karasin also stressed that NATO's large-scale drills “do not add any optimism because they do not contribute to ensuring stability and strengthening mutual trust in the region, especially since Georgia is trying to involve its neighbors — Armenia and Azerbaijan — in the maneuvers." He added that the Georgian government should assess “more realistically the prospects of the situation in the bilateral relations and in the region as a whole.” While commenting on the outcomes of the meeting in Prague, Zurab Abashidze said he does not know what Karasin meant when he warned Georgia about “unpleasant surprises.” He said some issues were not included in the agenda of the meeting, but the

Georgian side still raised them at the negotiating table. "The format discusses issues such as trade-economic, transportation and humanitarian problems, but at the beginning of the meeting we also focused on the difficult situation in Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions and on the grave human rights conditions there,” he said. Abashidze said that the Georgian side also raised examples of gross violations of international norms and ignoring the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity on the occupied territories. “In this context it was noted that the Geneva International Consultations is the main format for the discussion of such topics,” he said. Abashidze also highlighted the number of Russian tourists in Georgia and noted the importance of the Prague format. "It is important that there is such a communication format. We are in constant contact with our Western partners. They support this form of communication and channel,” he added. The first Abashidze-Karasin meeting took place in Geneva on December 14, 2012. Since 2013, the meetings have been held in Prague. The meetings constitute a direct dialogue between the two countries’ officials following the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, after which Georgia cut diplomatic ties with Russia.


POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 1 - 4, 2019

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Mayors for Economic Growth Engages Georgia’s Local Governments BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE

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ayors for Economic Growth (M4EG) is a European Union initiative that began in January 2017. It is implemented in the six countries of the Eastern Partnership, including Georgia. The initiative’s overall goal is to support mayors and municipalities to become active facilitators for economic growth and job creation at the local level. M4EG is founded on several key concepts, including a focus on the private sector as the key driver of economic growth and development, harnessing the unique comparative advantages of municipalities, and a community-centered, bottom-up approach. The initiative considers as “building blocks” the factors that stimulate growth and employment: regulatory and institutional frameworks, access to finance, land and infrastructure, skills and human capital, inclusivity, and external positioning and marketing. There is also an emphasis on improving the internal motivation, preparedness, and capacity of municipal authorities to manage local economic growth. GEORGIA TODAY spoke with Peter Korsby, team leader of M4EG. Korsby has 16 years’ experience leading international technical assistance projects in Eastern Europe, and profound experience in the public administration bodies of Denmark at the national, regional, and local levels, as well as in private sector business consulting. Currently, 294 municipalities are signatories of the M4EG Initiative, including 42 Georgian municipalities, of which 103 municipalities across the region and 14 in Georgia are Acting Members, having submitted Local Economic Development Plans, which have been evaluated and approved by the World Bank. Korsby admits that sometimes it can be a challenge to convince municipal governments to participate in the M4EG initiative. As an incentive, M4EG offers capacity building trainings, international exchange visits, and access to a network of the region’s most active and engaged mayors. The idea is to phase the initiative into “an extensive professional community across the region, which will require certain

Peter Korsby, team leader of M4EG. Source: Mayors for Economic Growth

commitments from its members, but which offers solid expert and peer-to-peer support, assistance in broadly sharing successes, as well as other significant economic, political and reputational gains.” Another benefit of the initiative is networking. Mayors need to be reminded that “you cannot do this on your own,” said Korsby, that even the most enthusiastic leaders need a strong, capable team behind them, and that cooperation with local interests, the business community, civil society, technology, and education institutions, is essential to success. Networking is a key activity, and municipalities are encouraged to learn from their neighbors. There are five thematic groups in which representatives from all six countries participate: business support services, agriculture, tourism, IT, and wine making. Korsby outlined some of the challenges of working in Georgia, specifically the weak economy, high unemployment and poverty, unreliable statistical data, and

of course, the Russian occupation of Georgian territory. The capacity of local government authorities in Georgia is also quite low, but, Korsby explains, there are “a lot of people, very intelligent, very enthusiastic, committed, who really want to do something...it’s a question of finding the right people” to lead the charge and to partner with: “I’ve been in many municipalities here [in Georgia], and I see a lot of potential.” He noted that it is also essential to create the right conditions for people to grow and develop their strengths and talents, especially young people. Of course, the biggest challenge in working in the Eastern Partnership countries, all of whom were formerly part of the Soviet Union, is dismantling the legacy of a centrally planned economy. The word “plan,” says Korsby, can send shivers down the spines of some government officials, recalling memories of Soviet five-year plans, endless pages of detailed recommendations and suggestions that were

Georgia Celebrates Rare Disease Day on February 28 BY MARIAM MERABISHVILI

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he 10th event dedicated to World Rare Disease Day was held in Holiday Inn hotel in Tbilisi. The meeting was organized with the support of the Georgian Foundation for Genetic and Rare Diseases. This year, the Fund declared cystic fibrosis (mucoviscidosis) as a priority in 2019. Invited doctors, members of the Association of Patients, Health Care System Respondents and other civil society representatives once again talked about the severity of the disease and the treatment problems existing today: "Join us to make the voices of vulnerable diseases understandable and important." The main purpose of the event was to increase public awareness of rare diseases, to ensure timely diagnosis of disease and its proper management. The meeting aimed to improve diagnostics and provision of access to treatment.

During the meeting, discussions were held on rare disease management- past and future, rare inherited metabolic diseases, rare neuromuscular diseases, rare pulmonary diseases, rare diseases in hematology, rare rheumatological diseases, rare forms of congenital abnormalities of sexual development, rare bone diseases and skeletal dysplasia, rare genodermatoses, rare forms of behavioral and mental disorders, and more. The Georgian specialists and international experts who were invited as moderators discussed criteria for inclusion on the national definition of rare diseases. "A disease is rare when it appears in less than 1 in every 2000 persons. Today, more than 6,000 different types of rare illnesses exist in more than 60 million people in Europe and the US,” said the Executive Director of the Georgian Foundation for Genetic and Rare Diseases, Doctor of Medicine, Professor Oleg Kvlividze. “Due to the small prevalence of these diseases, medical knowledge and experience are also limited and these patients remain vulnerable in terms of

diagnosis, treatment and research benefits in the health care system.” "Cystic fibrosis is one of the most frequently inherited diseases and evidently reduces the duration and lifespan of patients without adequate treatment,” noted Paediatrician-Gastroenterologist, Doctor of Medicine Tsitsi Parulava. “Cystic fibrosis mainly damages the respiratory and digestive systems where the thin mucosa causes respiratory and digestive problems. Early diagnosis and proper treatment of cystic fibrosis is vital for patients to survive.” There is a State Program for Cystic Fibrosis in Georgia, which is a step forward, but the program needs further improvement. That is why the Georgian Foundation for Genetic and Rare Diseases has declared cystic fibrosis a priority for 2019. Rare Disease Day has been observed since 2008 and its main goal is to raise public awareness of the diseases and to show the severity and difficulties facing patients and their caregivers as a result of this disease.

largely just for show. What M4EG requests, however, is a much simpler plan. Meeting local governments where they are, the local economic development plans are recommended to be around 15 pages, broadly outlining the steps the municipality plans to take to improve economic conditions and increase growth. The heavy centralization of the Georgian government is another challenge, as most major economic development projects are undertaken on orders from the central government and the vast majority of municipal budgets are allocated directly from Tbilisi. Aligning the incentive structure for municipal governments to invest in local growth is not easy. Korsby also tied this issue to good governance, saying, “if you want to create a strong, democratic local government system, you have to have, of course, the financial basis,” but even with a limited budget, meaningful action can be taken. M4EG, however, does not work directly

on legal and policy issues, instead focusing on how local governments can serve as models for each other and facilitating networking between mayors in participating municipalities. They have also directed European Union funding to 16 “Pioneer Projects” in five countries, with a combined planned budget of 8,355,750 EUR. Three of those projects are being implemented by Georgian municipalities: “Spark” Business Accelerator in Tbilisi, “Empowering Local Economic Opportunities for Sustainable Growth” in Gori, and “Establishing a Platform for Efficient Flow of Business Activities” in Bolnisi. The three projects total 2,089,265 EUR (6.3 mln GEL). Georgia also has many things in its favor. Compared to other post-Soviet countries, Korsby emphasized, Georgia has managed to strip away a lot of its Soviet baggage in anti-corruption initiatives and in decreasing bureaucratic hurdles to doing business. The National Association of Local Action Groups (NALAG) in Georgia is very strong, representing the interests of local populations, particularly in the regions. In terms of developing Georgia’s regions, Korsby stressed that rural development is a global challenge without a clear solution. “Our task is not specifically to look at the rural areas,” he hedges, “all over the world, rural areas constitute a problem, people are drawn from rural to urban areas...rural areas are dying, more or less.” Aspects of the M4EG initiative do address the challenges of rural economic growth, however, by developing a municipality’s comparative advantage and identifying the unique “DNA” of a community. “To support development in rural areas, you must modernize agriculture, winemaking, etc. to meet growing demand – “feeding the world,” so to speak – and you must develop tourism and other promising businesses. M4EG helps the communities to do that,” explained Korsby. Economic development should focus on helping ordinary people, developing a big middle class, not only reducing poverty for the poorest of the poor or helping rich business owners operate more smoothly. Despite Georgia’s challenges of decentralization and economic growth, particularly in rural areas, the program and its leader are optimistic. Korsby added, cautiously, “it is better to do something, than nothing.”


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BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 1 - 4, 2019

Sheraton Tbilisi is Back, and There’s Been No Compromise on Quality! EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES

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he Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metechi Palace is a five-star hotel in Avlabari overlooking the old town andoperated by Marriot International. The hotel was built in 1989 and opened in 1991, one of just a handful of joint ventures with Western companies seen during the Communist period, and remembered with nostalgia by many Tbilisians for its being a “beacon of light” in the darkest days following the collapse of the Soviet Union (it was quite literally one of few buildings with a constant supply of electricity!). In August 2007, the UAE-based Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority bought the hotel through its subsidiary RAKIA Georgia LLC for $68 million. Rebranding began in 2013, and in 2014 it was decided to close the hotel in order to allow for a full upgrade, which included a brand recognition of excellence in the addition of ‘Grand’ to its title. Sheraton Grand hotels are recognized for their iconic locations, distinguished designs, excellence in service and guest experiences, exemplary dining concepts and exquisite spa experience. They are found in some of the world’s most treasured destinations. The Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metechi Palace is now among them, having had a $50 mln major refurbishment to bring it to 21st century contemporary standards of technology, style and comfort. GEORGIA TODAY sat down with Andreas Heidingsfelder, General Manager of the Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metechi Palace, to find out what people can expect from an old-friend-made-new: the Tbilisi Sheraton. We met in the infamously large lobby, which stretches up 10 floors and is now decked out in elegant accents of wood, with soft furnishings in tones of gold, grey and red. Behind us is the Wine Library, with a floor-to-ceiling wall of temperature-controlled bottles, and the decadent yet homey Craft House cocktail and beer bar. Uniformed staff, the concierges in grey modernized chokha, stand ready to serve, and outside the landscapers scurry to complete the beautifully designed garden prior to the March 1 official re-opening. The atmosphere is one of excitement, positivity and impeccable style. We ask Andreas, “what has changed?” “First let me say what has not changed,” he suggests. “We’ve always been wellknown for our service and high quality, and this is something which has not changed. We believe in our customers, as always, and that service is key.” Aside from the latest technological advancements, which we’ll come back to in a moment, Sheraton Grand Tbilisi has welcomed the return of some of its base staff of 2014, a testament to the legend of the brand in Tbilisi. “No-one lost their jobs when the hotel closed; they were all looked after and given the possibility to work abroad in other Sheratons. We had more than 20 abroad. Some came back to us for the re-opening. We will employ 288 team members in total, while at present the number stands at 234,” Andreas tells us. There are 220 rooms in the hotel now, boasting contemporary designs and just as contemporary technology. “The design is where the biggest change can be seen, and yet even with the modernization, we have been careful to bring the Tbilisi Sheraton back to the local

area, in this case the Caucasus region, in its design elements.” Indeed, we have already seen the massive conference rooms named after Georgian mountains, the accents on wood paneling in the lobby reflecting mountain peaks, geometric designs on the carpets representing mountain shapes, and the glass chandeliers in the 1000 sq. m. Ballroom hinting at icy glaciers and gushing Georgian rivers. “Our Ballroom is the largest conference facility in the city,” Andreas tells us. On a later tour of the conference facilities,

we are told that the Ballroom at full capacity can accommodate up to 1000 guests, while altogether the conference facilities can serve nearly up to 2000 people, with a separate entrance provided and top-range tech for every client’s need. “We have been training our staff for many weeks now [prior to the opening] on service standards, on waste management, on healthy living, and how to use the new room management system which automates the heat and lighting related to occupancy, powering down automat-

ically when the guest is not in the room in order to reduce energy consumption,” Andreas notes, adding that, “We at Sheraton take social responsibility very seriously. This sets us apart from the competition. In-house, we have running classes for our employees, and at our morning stand-up meetings, I always recommend they climb at least one flight of stairs a day while moving between floors, rather than use the elevator. It’s more efficient and healthier!” Sheraton has always played a big role in the local community. We ask Andreas what plans he has in this regard. “We will continue the good things we started in the past. We’ll be sponsoring the annual Heidelberg Cement Marathon in September. Planting trees, celebrating Earth Hour [Sheraton was the first business in the city to do so]. We are also happy to support needy elderly people, NGOs and other people in need- though such plans will come into effect towards end of year. We have plans related to supporting our employees’ children. We also have an ongoing relationship with the Temi Community- not only buying their wine and selling it to our customers but supporting them in building up and renovating their center for the vulnerable,” Andreas tells us. “In short, there are numerous things in the pipeline to benefit the local community and much still to do. We can’t stop world hunger, but we can dream. We’ve decided to focus for the time being on the environment, our own people and their families, and elderly people in need. As new initiatives come up, we will of course let you know!” From the very first moment their doors open, Andreas promises that the Sheraton Grand Tbilisi will be adding value to tourism sector development in its renowned quality of service, which is set to attract a new audience looking to explore something different in a new Sheraton Grand, as well as past guests looking to return and enjoy familiar energizing experiences (and perhaps a soak in the new Wine Spa!) “We believe in our quality. We believe in our brand. We’re adding to tourism in Georgia via what we deliver, and, of course, paying into the economy via taxes. Our brand is recognized globally, and Georgia in particular at the moment is on everybody’s map, following on from the 2018 Frankfurt Book Fair [where Georgia was Guest of Honor] and the rise in the popularity of night culture in Tbilisi which sees youngsters coming to Tbilisi to party on the weekend, spending money not only in hotels but in restaurants, taxis, at ski resorts, on wine to take home, and more.” We ask Andreas where he sees the Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metechi Palace five years from now. “Still here,” he says with a laugh. “And still in this beautiful historic building, which is a known gathering point , not only thanks to its large lobby, but because Sheraton is known to the worldwide community as a place to go, a place to gather. In fact, Sheraton’s new slogan is ‘The World’s Gathering Place.’ This Sheraton in particular was always known as a place of light, of events, of high service. I always tell my friends, ‘where history was written in Georgia, Sheraton was a part of it.’ Presidential inaugurations were held here, it housed the first German Embassy for a time, and numerous state visits were supported by Sheraton. In five years, we’ll be continuing that tradition,” he says. Andreas has been in Georgia for seven years, having seen tourism rise from 2.4

mln border-crossing tourists the year he arrived to around 8.4 mln at the last count. “I’m looking forward to the 10 millionth visitor to Georgia!” he tells us. We wonder what changes the country has been through in his time here. Like many Western-born foreign residents, he points first to the state of the environment. “Both the city and countryside have become cleaner,” he says. “Awareness of correct waste management is growing, and recycling is on the rise. Pollution, however, has not changed for the better, and traffic has in fact worsened.” In terms of investment, though, Andreas says “the outlook is more than positive,” naming not only tourism but also production (in the clothing industry) and services (such as call centers) and hydro power among the biggest contributors seen of late. “More investments are coming to Georgia. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was here [last year] and signed off on some very good investments. I see many other countries also coming in and encouraging their companies to invest in Georgia,” he says. Back to the new Sheraton, we ask Andreas how much “Made in Georgia” is present in the hotel. “Our owner would naturally not compromise on quality. The standards of Georgian manufacturing could not meet the high demands of the brand, and so most of what you see in the hotel has been brought from abroad. Yet there is much of Georgia and the Caucasus to be seen. We convinced the interior designer to work with Georgian artist Ira Kurmaeva, commissioning her to create 793 different photographs. These were images shot between 2016-18: original art work selected for our rooms by the interior designers, made abstract, printed on canvas and framed in Georgia. It makes me extremely proud to have this Georgian connection present in our hotel.” We also discover that 80% of the Sheraton Grand Tbilisi wine selection comes from Georgian producers, large companies as well as small and medium craft winemakers. “We want this space to become a gathering place for all wine enthusiasts in Georgia,” Andreas enthuses. We next ask him what, of all the changes, excites him most. “What excites me most? I can’t pick one thing,” he says with a smile. “All the bits and pieces make one whole, and I know each part so well. I know where each socket is; I know why the tiles are light gray, not dark; why the Sheratonbranded bed linen is white, not beige; why the design of this rug has red triangles, not blue. Every element excites me. It’s been enormously exciting in the past 6-8 weeks particularly to see it all coming together and the final touches made. I’m confident everyone who comes will enjoy it,” he says. Indeed, Andreas has spent the past five years maintaining the Sheraton’s connection to the local and international, expat, community. “It was very important for me to keep contact with our old guests. You can see the success of this in the bookings we’ve received, already covering the next eight months,” he says. “Our past customers are loyal to the brand and to us here in this building, to our people, and they are coming back.” Andreas and his tight-knit and welltrained staff look forward to welcoming guests old and new to the Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metechi Palace once again: great news, as Tbilisi just wasn’t the same without it!


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 1 - 4, 2019

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Area Group to Organize Large-Scale Real Estate Sales-Exhibition BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA

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rea Group is a relatively new property management company, launched in 2018, which provides all types of services related to the real estate sector, including consulting in the field of marketing, exploration of the market and strategies for development, and meeting clientele requirements. Area Group also supports companies in sales outsourcing. On May 4-5, Area Group is organizing a large-scale real estate sales-exhibition ‘Area Expo’ for the second time. GEORGIA TODAY contacted the Senior Founder of Area Group, Tamar Mashava, to find out about the upcoming event. “By launching this sales-exhibition, we aim to create a particular platform which will bring together all types of developer companies, giving them an opportunity to present and promote their products- residential complexes,

as well commercial areas, and help them boost sales,” she said, adding that, “last year, the event was primarily focused on the capital city and the companies based in Tbilisi, while this time round companies from different regions countrywide will be able to participate and offer their products to customers.” Along with developer companies, architects working on the establishment of new trends and technologies on the Georgian market will also be present at the event. Mashava also shared details regarding the target audience of the two-day event. “All of those who are interested in purchasing real estate within the borders of Georgia are very welcome to visit ‘Area Expo 2019’, as they will have a chance to discover all the present and upcoming real estate projects in the same space and choose what is most suitable for them. The event will be especially interesting for potential investors aspiring to develop their business in Georgia,” she told us. A significant element of the ‘Area Expo 2019’ will be the presence of representatives of financial institutions at the

event, who will provide the most accurate and up-to-date information to clientele regarding the procedures and conditions of making a payment, and Georgian legislation in the given sphere. They will also help customers to purchase products on-site, allowing them to avoid long and exhausting processes at the bank. Mashava strongly accentuated the benefits provided by ‘Area Expo 2019’ for companies and potential clients. “Companies need only pay a participation fee and can then easily promote their products to a wider audience, while visitors to the event will be given a wonderful chance to benefit from special conditions and prices only available within the scope of the sales-exhibition. Arranging discounts or installment payments will also be possible.” ‘Area Expo 2019’ will take place at the Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metekhi Palace and is officially supported by the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia and Arcon Invest Company. Media support is provided by Georgia Today, Marketer.ge and Commersant.

Chair of the Budget & Finance Committee in Discussions with IMF Mission Chief

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he Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, Irakli Kovzanadze, met with the IMF Mission Chief, Mercedes Vera-Martin, and the IMF Resident Representative to Georgia, Francois Painchaud, to discuss the ongoing macro-economic parameters of Georgia, state budget implementation, pension reform, bank oversight, etc. “The meeting was very productive. We

discussed the ongoing and scheduled reforms in the country, the challenges we encounter in this process, including the issues relevant in the bank sector and sustainability of the financial sector,” Kovzanadze noted. Vera-Martin noted that the economy of Georgia is on the right path of development and the progress Georgia achieves within the IMF program will be further discussed.

Another HUAWEI Innovation – A Foldable Smartphone with 5G Support

ADVERTORIAL, TRANSLATED BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA

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n February 24, HUAWEI presented future technologies to customers at the World Mobile Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain. Along with the renewed Mate books, the company presented the very first in world foldable smartphones with 5G modem. The HUAWEI MateX has 5G support and integrates two gadgets: a smartphone and a media pad. Richard Yu, the CEO of the company, presented the device to the audience and spoke about its capabilities. “In the modern and developed world, customers are always looking for novelties. Through this offer, HUAWEI takes care

to secure the interests of the customers and offers them an innovative, developed and leading experience along with 5G.” The HUAWEI MateX integrates a 5G modem foldable display, artificial intelligence and a brand-new interface. The company offers customers unprecedented technologies and launches a new era in the smartphone industry. The H UAW E I MateX is more than an ordinary smartphone or media pad, as it comprises both. In addition, it is equipped with a more flexible, foldable OLED display and the fastest Balong 500 5G chipset.

The HUAWEI MateX is an ideal multifunctional mobile device, as it perfectly suits customer requirements in various directions, consuming minimum time and offering maximum comfort for a moderate price. Thanks to the multifunctioning capabilities, customers have an opportunity to work on a dual screen to accomplish multiple tasks at the same time. HUAWEI smartphones are always equipped with strong cameras and the new product is no exception. Thanks to the foldable design, the camera system works as a front and rear camera, which is certainly a revolutionary novelty in smartphone photography. The 4,500mAH hefty battery of the HUAWEI MateX, with the modern technology of fast charging, enables customers to use the smartphone for longer. HUAWEI has a leading role in the chipset, technology and communication

industries; however, the company has a new challenge – to grab the same position in the 5G universe. Taking into account the fact that the HUAWEI MateX is equipped with Balong 500 5G, and a 7 nanometers chipset, the innovative device launched by the company has the p o te n t i a l to b e co m e t h e main measure of the future production of 5G smartphones for other companies. The price of the HUAWEI MateX starts at $2,600 and it will be on sale from mid2019. At the first stage, the company plans

to produce a limited amount of said smartphones. HUAWEI products and services are available in more than 170 countries and are used by a third of the world's population. There are 16 research and development centers operating worldwide in the USA, Germany, Sweden, Russia, India and China. HUAWEI Consumer BG is one of HUAWEI's three business units, mainly focusing on Smartphones, personal computers, tablets and cloud services. HUAWEI Global Network is based on 20 years’ experience in the telecommunications business and serves to provide innovative technologies to customers around the world.


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SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 1 - 4, 2019

New ENPARD Development Project Launched in Akhmeta Municipality BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE

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n Friday of last week, EU Ambassador to Georgia Carl Hartzell visited, along with a retinue of NGO representatives and press, the Akhmeta Municipality. In particular, he spent time in Pankisi Gorge. The group was also accompanied by Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality. The Pankisi Gorge is an area of Georgia north of Telavi, in the Akhmeta Municipality of the Kakheti region, nested between steep mountain ranges. It is populated mainly by the Kist people, ethnic Chechens who have lived in that part of Georgia since the mid-19th century. The Kists practice Islam and largely speak Chechen in the home, but the language of instruction in schools is Georgian. The area is famed for its beauty, but in recent years it has also become connected with terrorism, accused and confirmed. During the hottest years of the war in Syria, several fighters joined the so-called Islamic State from Pankisi, and there have been several anti-terrorism sting operations conducted by the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Pankisi villages. Many residents of Pankisi say their people are persecuted and unfairly accused of radicalism, over-generalizations of the actions of a few extremists. In the first week of February, 20 public school teachers and principals from Pankisi visited Brussels. The main themes of the meeting were European values, Georgia's aspiration to EuroAtlantic structures, and EU-Georgia cooperation. The Georgian representatives were introduced to the characteristics of the Belgian education system

Image source: ENPARD

and teaching methods. The study visit was funded by the EU Delegation to Georgia and implemented by the Office of the State Minister of Georgia on Reconciliation and Civic Equality and the NATO & EU Info Center, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. While in Pankisi, Hartzell and Tsikhelashvili met with the group of educators who had recently returned from Brussels while at a public school in the village of Birkiani. They “engaged in a lively conversation with both teachers and local

schoolchildren,” reports EU Neighbors. “Earlier this month, teachers from Pankisi travelled to the European Union. Today the European Union visited Pankisi,” Ambassador Hartzell told the gathered crowd. “I am truly grateful for the warm hospitality that I encountered here, and I am convinced that the teachers will spread their newly gained knowledge about the EU among their students and communities.” After speaking with the public, Hartzell and Tsikhelashvili met with representatives of local authorities, the Council of Elders and the Women's Council to dis-

cuss current social, economic and political issues in the area. The visit was part of the launch of a new project for rural development in the area: ‘Promoting Inclusive and Participatory Local Development in Akhmeta Municipality.’ As EU Neighbors explains, the project “introduces a bottom-up, inclusive rural development approach that fully engages all communities in the municipality,” the so-called LEADER approach, and aims to improve the socioeconomic integration of disadvantaged rural communities in the municipality and contribute to poverty reduction. The

project will be implemented by Action Against Hunger, along with local partner organization Kakheti Regional Development Foundation (KRDF). It is under the umbrella of the 179.5 million EUR European Neighborhood Program for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD), which has already funded the establishment of Local Action Groups, and other activities, implemented by local NGOs, in Borjomi, Lagodekhi, Kazbegi, Dedoplistskaro, Tetritskaro, Akhalkalaki, Keda and Khulo. This year, ENPARD projects will also expand to Tsalka, Tskaltubo and Mestia.

Tbilisi Pride: “We’re Going to Stay Strong & United” Continued from page 1

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO ORGANIZE PRIDE THIS YEAR? Well there are a few reasons. First of all, we had experience organizing May 17 in previous years. The Church took away this date from us by organizing a family purity day. Every year, we had to fight for our space. It was a constant battle for who would stand in front of the parliament building. We wanted to move away from the vicious circle related to May 17 and do something new and bigger. The queer community has grown and become more empowered over the past six years. We believe that now is the time that we can come out from the underground and become more visible and vocal compared to what we’ve been doing in previous years. Pride will be bigger than May 17.

THE EVENT WILL RUN FROM JUNE 18 - 23. WHAT ARE YOU PLANNING TO DO? We plan a social theater with the participation of LGBTQI people of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. There will also be an international conference that will happen before Pride. Participants will stay for the March. We want to attract Eastern and Central European activists and

people from Central Asia and neighboring countries. And then, there will be the March of Dignity that will conclude in Pride Park. We’ll have platforms to give speeches and perform music. It will be more of a celebratory moment.

This time, we hope the Church will realize how it negatively affected them. Their ratings dropped and people saw that they were aggressive. This is not what Christian values are and we hope that they will realize this. We will try and talk to them.

WHAT HAS THE REACTION BEEN SINCE YOU ANNOUNCED TBILISI PRIDE?

IN MAY 2013, A GAY RIGHTS PROTEST WAS MET VIOLENTLY BY ANTI-DEMONSTRATORS. DO YOU EXPECT MORE GOVERNMENT AND POLICE SUPPORT THIS TIME ROUND?

The past three days were crazy with the media. It’s a major political event, in a way. It will occupy a lot of air time prior to June. Because of previous years, it’s a high profile event. We expected that to happen. We also expected threats from radical groups- that’s just the way they work. Pro-Russian groups generally work to spread aggression and hatred in society, dividing society over issues that are irrelevant and diverting attention from real social problems. Usually immigrants, women, LGBTQI groups and minority groups are the ones they target. We expected that to happen.

THE CHURCH IS A VOCAL VOICE AGAINST THE LGBTQI COMMUNITY IN GEORGIA. HAVE THEY REACTED YET? They haven’t released a statement so far. 17 May 2013 was dominated by the Church.

May 2013 was the first experience of a major failure for the government. They failed to provide safety for participants. We hope it won’t happen again. They know how far it could go. We hope they draw some lessons from 2013 and will be more efficient this time. We don’t expect Pride to happen without a heavy police presence. We’re not living in Spain or the UK: we need police protection because this is happening in a hostile environment. But Pride can grow. This is how it works: you have police protection at the beginning and then it grows. Year after year, it gets better and fewer police are needed.

WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED SO FAR IN

ORGANIZING THE EVENT? Pride is a challenging event in and of itself. It requires a lot of nerves and courage to organize. There are a lot of difficulties we will have to face along the way. Radical groups have already made it clear that it will not be easy for us. But I think we’re going to stay strong and united. We’re a big bunch of people and the group is really competent. Bravery is there. We hope that our motivation and determination will be enough to organize it peacefully and convey a message to people that living in a hateful and aggressive society is not beneficial to anyone. We want to use the next few months to hold media campaigns and explain to our citizens, government, and the international public that something needs to change. This is what pride is about. It’s not only about marching.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE BY ORGANIZING TBILISI PRIDE? We want to change people’s minds and hearts. We want to speak about our problems in the first person. Coming out is still a problem in Georgia and not a lot of people are doing it. We want to tell society that we are everywhere. We are around you. We are your brothers and

your sisters. We are everywhere. There is a gay person near you, it’s just that we’re living in this society so this person might not have stepped forward and told you. We are facing a lot of issues and problems. The community is migrating because of aggression and hatred. This needs to stop. We need to build a society that is more inclusive and diverse and more accepting of differences. We will use the next few months to speak about these issues and talk to the public and government directly. After these four months, we want to successfully organize pride and have at least 5-10% of society who will be more understanding and empathetic towards the problems that other people are having. It’s a sensitive issue for the public. We want to use this opportunity to pass the message to the right audience and say we need bigger support from the public and friends. Staying silent when someone is being killed because of their orientation or identity, or when somebody is pressured and oppressed is not ok. We need to talk about these issues. This how society grows. If we want Georgia to become a fully fledged democracy where human rights are respected, then we need to do something more.


SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 1 - 4, 2019

Young American-Georgian Raising Funds for Kakheti Disabled Home BY GIORGI VANCKO

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iorgi Vancko has an American father and Georgian mother. He is 14 years old and has two younger brothers. He was born in Singapore and lived in Chicago (USA) and Switzerland before moving to The Netherlands, where he and his family have been living since 2013. He attends the International School of Amsterdam and his main hobbies are football (soccer), guitar and piano. He likes to travel and learn foreign languages and says he has a strong connection with Georgia from his mother’s side. Aside from visits to Georgia several times each year since he was very young, his mother always spoke Georgian to the children and they attend the Georgian church and Georgian school once a month in The Netherlands. They always spend their summers in Kakheti and usually visit in October for the harvest (rtveli). During all his visits, Giorgi had the opportunity to see many parts of his country and grew to notice that Georgia is still at a developmental stage. “I thought I might be able to help in some small way,” he tells GEORGIA TODAY. “A friend of our family in The Netherlands was supporting a charity for children affected by war, and I wanted to do something to help the less fortunate as well.” We will now let Giorgi tell you what happened next. “My charity project was started in July 2017 with a visit to the House of Virtues, a home for the disabled in Mashnari, Kakheti, housing 25 mentally and physically handicapped residents. I interviewed the staff and asked them what they needed. They explained that they faced three major problems: a. One of their two washing machines was broken b. They didn't have running water from the taps and had to buy water, delivered by truck c. Their roof was damaged, leading to other problems like staining of the walls, furniture and flooring. “After assessing their needs, I returned to The Netherlands to make a plan to help the home. I gave presentations at school assemblies and immediately started raising money for the washing machine. Since the washing machine was not very expensive and fairly easy to quickly implement, I was able to convince people to support the project. The International School of Amsterdam was very supportive and even has a designated teacher to help students with community or charity initiatives. By the time I had raised enough money for the washing machine, we were already planning our next visit to Georgia in October. As soon as we arrived in Kakheti, I took the funds we had raised, purchased the washing machine, and had it delivered to the home. They were so happy to see me and glad that I had followed through on my promise to help them. It was also during that visit that I met with a drilling company to discuss the next project, which was to install running water at the home. “I continued to develop the charity in The Netherlands from that point on. Having seen the big positive impact and appreciation for the washing machine, I wanted to help the people at the handicapped home even more. Back in The Netherlands, it became clear that in order to raise a larger amount of money, I would need to officially register my char-

ity with the Chamber of Commerce and also get tax-exempt status so corporations could donate with a tax benefit. It took a while to learn all the requirements to become an official registered charity in The Netherlands. I prepared the documents and took everything to the solicitor, finally getting registered and opened a non-profit bank account. “Once those formalities were completed, I made brochures, created a website, and opened a Facebook page to spread the word about my charity, called Help the Republic of Georgia. I organized fundraisers inside and outside school, including a charity concert in Amsterdam featuring Georgian musicians Datuna Mgeladze and Nino Chkheidze. I went door-to-door to ask neighbors and spent evenings at school events talking to parents to solicit for donations. A lot of friends and family members donated to the charity as well. My friends here in the Netherlands liked my idea and were willing to help me in my fundraising and supported me while I was helping the home. “After several months of intensive fundraising, I raised enough money to start working on solving the home’s water problem. The handicapped home was using a large portion of their modest budget to purchase water delivered by truck. This is obviously very expensive. At the same time, they did not have enough money to invest in drilling a well, installing a pump and the associated piping, plus all the electrical connections. I contacted a company to start the drilling. The manager met me at the house and explained with magnetism how they find the exact spot where to drill the well. They estimated it would be more than 100 meters deep. Unfortunately, the rock there was quite hard and the drilling was not very effective. Eventually, I had to find a different company with more modern equipment to continue the drilling. When they heard about my project, they agreed to do all the work at actual cost, with no profit. With the newer drilling machine, the well was finished in about a week. They installed a pump, piping, storage tank, electrical connections, and filters. By the time I returned in February 2018, the water supply was in place. It was amazing to see the impact on the residents and staff of having a lifetime supply of clean, free water. We had a wonderful inauguration ceremony attended by the Mayor of Signagi, the Head of the City Council of Signagi, and several other important people.

“The last major project required at this handicapped home is to replace the leaking roof. The existing roof is old and worn and has been repaired many times. But two experts assessed the roof and both concluded that it is beyond repair and must be replaced. When the wet season comes, it is not a comfortable environment for the people living inside and this also leads to the damaging of walls, floors and furniture within the house. I am currently working hard to raise money but honestly speaking, even in a wealthy country like The Netherlands, it is not easy as the roof is quite expensive and I already reached out to most people I know, live close to, or who attend my school. So now I am looking for other sources of funds. So far, I have convinced one company to make a generous donation and I am applying for grants from other charities that donate to good causes. “During my last visit to the handicapped home in October 2018, I was so impressed to see how well the residents and staff were doing. My project inspired others to help and some of the downstairs interior walls were renovated and painted, creating a much more pleasant living environment. Someone planted a beautiful flower garden along the whole front of the house. That area used to be plain and bare because there was obviously no water for any flowers or plants. Now the front of the house looks colorful, alive, and inspiring. A large grove of donated olive trees was planted behind the house, serving as further beautification and landscaping, again made possible by the water supply. “Replacing the roof is the last of the three major projects that were needed at this home. I can already see that they are able to manage much better with the small help I was able to offer them. I do not have another specific project after the roof replacement is completed but, generally, I’m planning to continue to help other people in need. “In the future, I’m planning on going into the business and economics direction. I would like to connect my business with Georgia and continue to help my home country. I would also like to help my home country become an even better place. “ Website: https://helptherepublicofgeorgia. org/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ helprepublicofgeorgia/ YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdlzemynhY56pwNQO5PIaHw

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SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 1 - 4, 2019

Clay on Display: Etseri, Svaneti BLOG BY TONY HANMER

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very step of our local children’s education in using clay has been a reminder to me of the same processes in my own life, more than 30 years ago. Recently, their works went on display at our school, laid out on tables and admired by fellow pupils, teachers and some parents too. Even getting the pieces from home to school took me back. How do you pack clay work, some of it perhaps quite fragile, for transport by vehicle or on foot to its exhibition space? You line a box with crumpled and opened out paper, on which you lay the pieces, and if they are strong enough even layer them with more paper between and around. This creates a soft but protective space around them, and off you go. We needed such knowledge, even though the school is only about three minutes’ walk from the house. It’s still quite an icy road downhill, you see, and easy to slip on. So, we packed and walked the boxes down most carefully, and then unpacked them at the other end for show. The looks of pride on the young artists’ faces, and similarly on those of their parents, spoke volumes. They’d

had no compunctions about getting their hands into the earthy raw material, about actually being allowed, encouraged even, to roll up their sleeves and go for it. Clay does wash off in water, after all; there’s no smell, this is “clean dirt” if it ever was. After careful drying and the bisque, or first, firing, the pieces were ready to be painted with waterbased pigments. We did not have the possibility to use glazes this time; these require another, higher-temperature firing which is beyond the range of my big Svan stove. But paint was fine for this introductory experience. Hand-built and wheel-thrown vessels, flat pieces with rolled or pressed textures, coil-built sculptures, animals, even a Svan tower: all came to life as the children experimented and realized that whatever their mind could conceive was worth at least trying in clay. As long as you didn’t vary the wall thickness of your piece too much, or leave air pockets to explode during firing, you stood a good chance of seeing your handiwork emerge from the kiln changed into something which would no longer dissolve in water back to its primeval form. I never got a chance this time to use the wheel myself; but I’ll visit its owner in Mtskheta soon and have a go at this medium which I love. My head is still

full of other ideas which I’ll leave with her as well. Throwing a lump around on a canvas-covered table until is slowly dries and gets a naturally cracked surface. Using a stretched spring, instead of the usual ordinary string, to cut through raw clay, resulting in a fantastically wavytextured cut. Repeatedly dipping a clay core into alternating liquid slips of white and blue clay, say, building it up from them; then cutting through this with string to reveal all those contrasting striped layers. There’s even clay in them there hills, here in Svaneti! It has been known about and used for centuries, if not millennia. Perhaps this should be no surprise, for such an ancient country as Georgia. The surprise will come, however, with the new forms still waiting to slip from dream into reality. Then we’ll really see something. Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/ He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti

Party for a Cause: Raising Funds for Children’s Wheelchairs at Betsy’s

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usiness and Finance Consulting (BFC) is to host a party on March 9 at Betsy's Hotel in order to raise money for children's wheelchairs. Business and Finance Consulting wants you to impact lives for good, while having fun. On Saturday, March 9, it will host a party at Betsy's Hotel at 32/34 Kote Makashvili Street. All proceeds will go to help MAC Georgia buy specialized wheelchairs for children with disabilities. Donations will be matched through EBRD's Community Initiatives Program.

The event will be held from 19:00 until 24:00 and will include a presentation by MAC CEO, Jeremy Gaskill, as well as musical performances by Paul Rimple and the Natural Born Lovers, The Double G's featuring Sandy Higgs, and classical guitarist Tako Asanidze. A raffle with over 50 amazing prizes as well as a silent auction will also be provided. Tickets are GEL 100 and include access to an appetizer buffet, free wine, and Ronny's Pizza. They can be picked up Monday-Friday from 10:00 until 18:00 at MAC Georgia's office at 3 Lado Kavsadze

Street, or reserved in advance by contacting +995.555.63.95.50. Space is limited so please buy your tickets today. Founded in 2008, MAC Georgia works to transform the lives of the most vulnerable by providing them the services and resources they need to reach their full potential. The right wheelchair, if fitted correctly, can change a child’s life. In many cases it means the difference between health and chronic illness, inclusion and isolation, independence and dependence - in some cases, even life and death. With more than two years of

field testing behind them, MAC has identified a number of reasonably priced chairs that are well suited to the realities of Georgia. These wheelchairs range in complexity and will significantly help to improve posture, mitigate secondary complications, and promote a better overall quality of life. MAC has a team of clinicians who are trained to assess and fit children in the right wheelchair. With your help, they will work to ensure that each child in Georgia has access to the support they need. 100% of funds raised will go towards the purchase of wheelchairs for disabled children in Georgia. MAC will cover all transportation and administration fees. The campaign is also supported by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which will match 100% of donations raised by the end of March 2019. Business and Finance Consulting (BFC) is a Sw i ss - ba s e d consulting firm with a presence in Georgia since 2003. BFC contributes to financial sector development via management consulting, analytics, and, research, and has successfully implemented 147

projects in 68 countries in the Caucasus, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Asia, MENA and Sub-Saharan Africa. Date: March 9 Time: 19:00 – 24:00 Location: Betsy’s Hotel: 32/34 Kote Makashvili St Entrance: GEL 100 - Includes Appetizer buffet, Ronny's pizza, and wine Raffle: GEL 5/ticket - GEL 20/5 tickets - GEL 100/40 tickets - GEL 200/100 tickets


CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 1 - 4, 2019

13

‘Be Museumer’ Project Launched in Tbilisi BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA

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new project, ‘Be Museumer’, carried out to contribute to the development of museums, strengthening their management system and providing high-quality education for the museum personnel, has been launched in Tbilisi. ‘Be Museumer’ is a regional longterm project of Creative Europe - a culture sub-program of the European Union, targeted to the countries of the South Caucasus: Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Within the scope of the initiative, a group of professionals will come from Europe to deliver seminars and trainings for museum staff of the three countries on various themes, including the current challenges faced by the modern museums, their social and economic roles, hospitality, audience development and digital technology. The personnel of the museums will also be able to participate

in multiple research activities. The first stage of studies, comprising of 20 selected participants from Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, will be led by Margherita Sani, Project Manager for the Network of European Museum Organizations (NEMO), who is also representing the Institute for Cultural Heritage of the Emilia Romagna Region in Italy. At the second stage of the project, the museum employees will travel to The Netherlands and Germany, as well as the countries of the selected region to visit and explore various museums. Organization of expert forums and the publication of resulting research and educational materials is also scheduled as the part of the initiative. Within the framework of ‘Be Museumer,’ a Center for Museum Studies is to be launched at the Tbilisi State Academy of Arts. Led by the Georgian Museums Association and the Georgian Committee of the International Council of Museums, the new project is partnered by the

Image source: museum.ge

NEMO and the Academy of Cultural Management of The Netherlands. Georgia joined the Creative Europe

program in 2015, and since then has received financial aid for multiple projects, including the Tbilisi Kote Marjan-

ishvili State Drama Theater and the CineDOC-Tbilisi Documentary Film Festival in 2016.

Georgian Wines Evening Held in Italy BY MARIAM MERABISHVILI

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asting of Georgian Qvevri wines at an event titled "The Beginning of Everything" was offered in Italy in cooperation with the Embassy of Georgia in Italy, the Rome Sommelier Association ‘Divinamente Roma’ and Georgian National Wine Agency (NWA), the Ministry of Foreign

Affairs of Georgia reports. Konstantine Surguladze, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Georgia to Italy, addressed the audience with a welcome speech, emphasizing the special cultural significance of Georgian winemaking and speaking about Georgian history, traditions and culture. At the event, representative of the NWA Giorgi Tevzadze introduced the ancient history of Georgian wine and winemaking technology in Qvevri. Four

different kinds of Qvevri wine were presented for tasting. Together with Georgian wines, visitors tasted Qvevri wines made by Italian and Greek winemakers, including ‘Ribola’ by Yosko Gravner, a prominent Italian winemaker and pioneer of Georgian Qvevri and Georgian technology in Europe, which was introduced by his daughter Matteia Gravner. The event was attended by sommeliers, Italian wine-producing companies and media representatives.


14

CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY

MARCH 1 - 4, 2019

WHAT’S ON IN TBILISI THEATER

TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER 25 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 04 56

March 7 INTRO Sandro Nikoladze's Musical Allegry Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL

Language: English Start time: 20:00 Language: Russian Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 16-19 GEL

SHALIKASHVILI THEATER 37 Rustaveli Ave.

ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL Directed by Robert Rodriguez Cast: Mahershala Ali, Rosa Salazar, Eiza González Genre: Action, Adventure, Romance Language: English Start time: 22:30 Language: Russian Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 14-19 GEL

March 2 LAURENCIA Alexander Krein The performance is dedicated to Vakhtang Chabukiani's 109th anniversary Ballet in Two Acts Based on Lope de Vega's novel Fuente Ovejuna Choreography- Vakhtang Chabukiani Libretto, new choreographic version and Staging by Nina Ananiashvili Conductor: David Mukeria Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-100 GEL

AMIRANI CINEMA 36 Kostava St. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge

GABRIADZE THEATER 14 Shavteli Str.

Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL March 1-7

March 1 THE AUTUMN OF MY SPRINGTIME Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL

THE FAVORITE Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos Cast: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama Language: English Start time: 16:45 Ticket: 14 GEL

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY Directed by Bryan Singer Cast: Rami Malek, Joseph Mazzello, Mike Myers Genre: Biography, Drama, Music Language: English Start time: 12:00, 17:15 Ticket: 10-19 GEL

March 2 RAMONA Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL

GREEN BOOK Directed by Peter Farrelly Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama Language: English Start time: 22:15 Language: Russian Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 13-15 GEL

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD Directed by Dean DeBlois Cast: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, F. Murray Abraham Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure Language: English Start time: 12:00, 14:30 Ticket: 10-15 GEL

March 3 STALINGRAD Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL March 7 Animated documentary film REZO Directed by Leo Gabriadze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER 182 Aghmashenebeli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 598 19 29 36 ASTIGMATISTS Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL

March 1, 2 KRIMANCHUILI A comedy performance based on novels of Georgian national motives. Pantomime Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL CINEMA

MULE Directed by Clint Eastwood Cast: Bradley Cooper, Clint Eastwood, Michael Peña Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller Language: English Start time: 14:00, 19:45 Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket: 12-15 GEL CAVEA GALLERY 2/4 Rustaveli Ave. Every Wednesday ticket: 8 GEL March 1-7 GREEN BOOK (Info Above)

VICE Directed by Adam McKay Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama Language: English Start time: 22:30 Ticket: 16-19 GEL

MUSEUM

GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM 3 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 299 80 22, 293 48 21 www.museum.ge Exhibitions: GEORGIAN COSTUME AND WEAPONRY OF THE 18TH-20TH CENTURIES NUMISMATIC TREASURY EXHIBITION STONE AGE GEORGIA ARCHEOLOGICAL TREASURE NEW LIFE TO THE ORIENTAL COLLECTIONS

In the framework of the celebrations of the European Year of Cultural Heritage in Georgia the Georgian National Museum presents the exhibition WISDOM TRANSFORMED INTO GOLD Until March 29 The Georgian National Museum joins the cycle of events dedicated to 500 years since the death of Leonardo Da Vinci and invites visitors to the educationalmultimedia project LEONARDO - OPERA OMNIA where digital reproductions of Leonardo's artworks will be exposed. Visitors have an opportunity to get acquainted with high-definition and full-scale digital reproductions of Leonardo da Vinci's 17 artworks. MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION 3 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge Exhibition RED TERROR AND GEORGIAN ARTISTS A showcase of artworks by Dimitri Shevardnadze, Petre Otskheli, Henryk Hryniewski, Richard Sommer, Kiril Zdanevich, Vasily Shukhaev, Elene Akhvlediani, Lado Gudiashvili, David Kakabadze, Ucha Japharidze, Aleksandre BajbeukMelikov, Korneli Sanadze and more. The exposition also showcases documentary footage depicting the 1920-30s repressions. IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA 8 Sioni St. TEL (+995 32) 2 98 22 81 Until March 3 EXHIBITION EVOLUTION & DECADENCE BY SANDRO DALAKISHVILI AND NINA PERY Multimedia exhibition Evolution & Decadence unites a sculptural installation, drawings, and graphical works. A shared worldview led the artists to focus on one of the most urgent topics of our time and discusses the problems of civilization and existential values of modern Man.

GALLERY

THE NATIONAL GALLERY 11 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 215 73 00 Untill October 5 EXHIBITION MASTERS OF GEORGIAN ART Paintings of Kirill Zdanevich, Shalva Kikodze, Ketevan Magalashvili and Elene Akhvlediani together with Lado Gudiashvili's and David Kakabadze, giving a comprehensive picture of the diversity and aesthetics of Georgian Art. FELIX VARLAMISHVILI (VARLA) SOLO EXHIBITION For the first time, enjoy more than 60 artworks by the author from the Georgian National Museum and private collections. ERTI GALLERY 19 Ingorokva Str. Until May 5 THE VELVET SUN Tato Akhalkatsishvili’s solo show Curator: Domenico De Chirico MUSIC

TBILISI CONCERT HALL 1 Melikishvili St. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 00 99 March 2 TBILISI JAZZ FESTIVAL PAT METHENY AND TBILISI SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA The project– Missouri Skies and More Conductor: Vakhtang Kakhidze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 50-100 GEL CAFÉ MZIURI Mziuri park March 3 SAKVIARO FOR CHILDREN Start time: From 12:00 Ticket: 13 GEL TBILISI EVENT HALL 1 Melikishvili Ave. March 1 TBILISI JAZZ FESTIVAL PAT METHENY’S TRIO: PAT METHENY, DEREK OLESZKIEWICZ AND JONATHAN BARBER Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 60 GEL ROOMS HOTEL TBILISI 14 Kostava Str., Tbilisi Rooms Hotel Garden Hall March 3 ConceptArt invite you to celebrate Mother’s Day VALERIAN SHIUKASHVILI’S PIANO RECITAL and presentation of CD PREGNANCY MUSIC with the masterpieces of Bach, Handel, Mozart, Schubert, Tchaikovsky and Chopin. The concert is dedicated to pregnant women. Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 35-100 GEL SPACEHAL 1 Tsereteli Ave. March 1 TREEBAL: ASTRIX Line up: ASTRIX, WEGHA, ACIDWAVE, OOGWAY ANCIENT OM, MARCUSS Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 30-60 GEL March 7 DECODER: AMELIE LENS, NUR JABER, NICOLE Start time: 23:30 Ticket: 40 GEL


CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 1 - 4, 2019

15

Levan Songulashvili’s Giant Japanese Inkworks on Display in Singapore EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY LIKA CHIGLADZE

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n February 20, a solo exhibition of renowned contemporary Georgian artist Levan Songulashvili was opened at Chapel Gallery, Objectifs, in Singapore, a multimedia project resulting from an art residency program. Over two months, the Georgian artist lived in Singapore, explored the local culture and worked on his project using Japanese ink, creating fascinating giant artworks. The exhibition is presented in collaboration with INSTINC and ERTI Gallery. The opening of the exhibition was attended by the Ambassador of Georgia to the Republic of Singapore, Irakli Asashvili, by the representatives of the culture and art society of Singapore and by members of the Georgian diaspora. “Asian culture and the pulse of the future served as an inspiration for my multimedia project that evolves around vital elements of life,” says the artist of his latest works. The young artist counts a number of achievements and exhibitions over the course of his career. At the age of 25, his work was sold at Sotheby’s. The painting called ‘The Nun’ was purchased by a collector from New York. Famous for his work ‘Jellyfish,’ which he painted aged 22 and which was also sold at Sotheby’s, he has award-winning works and multimedia installations in art galleries, private collections, and museums worldwide, including the permanent collection of The Brooklyn Museum and

The Rustaveli National Theater. Songulashvili is a New York-based visual artist, born and raised in Tbilisi, Georgia. He successfully graduated from Tbilisi State Academy of Arts and at the age of 21, won several merit scholarships and art prizes and became the first Georgian artist to earn a Master’s (M.F.A.) degree with honors from The New York Academy of Art (founded by Andy Warhol) in Painting. After graduation, he became a teacher's assistant at The New York Academy of Art, ART & CULTURE 2018 MFA program. “The title of the exhibition, Stoicheîon 㔠ᫍare made using brushes of the four elements, which in European culture denote the four basic substances: earth, water, air and fire,” Songulashvili told GEORGIA TODAY. “The philosophical concept of stoicheion denotes the basic components or the foundations of Being. Apart from these four elements, I put a focus on Earth’s sister terrestrial planet, Venus, which rotates in the opposite direction to most other planets and where the Sun rises in the west and sets in the east. As such, this exhibition is an attempt to understand the bewilderingly great multiplicity of the natural world as combinations of a limited number of elements. The population of Singapore is made up of Chinese, Malaysians and Indian people, whose ancestors belonged to a centuries-old culture. Yet today it represents a hypermodern city-state forming a new history. Subsequently, my multimedia project is not presented in a historical context, but rather represents the synthesis of a traditional Asian medium and modern technologies. The exposition is housed in a building of a former church, that at present serves as a hub of modern

Image: STOICHEÎON㔠ᫍ- The End of the Beginning. Ink on paper. 2019

art, a photography and cinema center and a gallery, the environment of which became an organic part of the entire concept of the exhibition. The artworks for this project are done with ink and paper. Ink is my inseparable friend and I have used it for years in my many artworks, while the technique of working on paper is a common and widely used practice in the Eastern culture. So I decided to symbolically use this technique to mark my first visit to Asia. The paintings made within the frames of Stoicheîon 㔠ᫍare done using brushes made of fur of wolf, horse and goat,” the artist elaborated. Songulashvili has collaborated with Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller, American rock star Iggy Pop, Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake, photographer Yuriko Takagi, and composer Giya Kancheli. His work has been exhibited alongside pieces by Egon

Schiele, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Marina Abramovic, Spencer Tunick, Yoko Ono, and Odd Nerdrum, among others “In order to get better acquainted with a new environment and place, during my first week I usually stroll on the streets without direction and get lost within the noise of the city. Then I talk to the locals, observe and study their body language. Human beings as well as other objects in this world carry lots of information and energy. Then I go to the studio where both time and space disappear and I become part of the infinity. The information in my mind and new feelings merge and transform into a working process. The time spent in Asia was really important for me as, apart from this project, it helped me discover a previously unknown part of myself which has a direct influence on my art,” he told us. As an artist, he holds a mastery of affect

and transience, having created painted works consisting of large-scale canvases that feature huge expanses of grey-black washes infused with an otherworldly light; vast tonal shifts; a primordial glow that hovers between the mythic and the bioluminescent, which also evokes feelings of the underworld, phantom-like blurred apparitions, images of the socalled ‘Shades’ (Umbra), faces or presences that exist in an interstitial reality, and an in-between world of spectral dreams. In 2018, the artist’s works were presented in a group exhibition at London’s Royal Academy of Arts ahead of the venue’s 250th anniversary, ‘Art Geneve’, Switzerland, followed by an art residency show in Berlin, Germany. Songulashvili has received a number of national and international awards, including The New York State Assembly Award for Achievements and Contribution to the Arts.

From Dreams to Shooting De Niro: How Kardava Did It EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA

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eorge Kardava is a Moscowbased Georgian photographer. He moved to Russia at a very young age, and, now in his 30s, has managed to prove himself in the busy celebrity world of the country. Currently, Kardava is successfully collaborating with some of the world’s most famous magazines, including GQ , Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, Grazia, OK and other Russian publications. He has worked with such world-renowned figures as Robert de Niro, Vincent Cassel and Gérard Depardieu. GEORGIA TODAY contacted him to explore the path he took to come out on top in the world of photography.

WHEN AND WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO BECOME A PHOTOGRAPHER? Photography is not my direct profession. My involvement in the sphere happened somehow by accident and in quite an interesting way. In 2009, in the third year of my studies, I was kicked out of university. For nearly a year, I had no job and was totally free. I dreamed of travelling to Mexico to buy a set of drums, but

I needed money to make it happen and so I borrowed my sister’s photo camera and start working as an amateur photographer. I was then able to contact people through social networks and offer photoshoots.

CAN YOU RECALL YOUR FIRST PHOTOSHOOT? My first photoshoot took place in March 2009. I can clearly remember the freezing weather and snow in the streets of Moscow. The result was horrible. However, it was the very first and thus one of the most interesting experiences in my career. In addition, it was my first paycheck, which adds a sprinkle of joy to the memories.

DID YOU TAKE ANY PHOTOGRAPHY COURSES OR ARE YOU SELF-TAUGHT? I’m a self-taught photographer. The knowledge I have was obtained through hard-work and daily shootings. I don’t think taking a course or studying in a particular education establishment is the best way to learn: practice and experience are the two elements which best give you the chance to explore a field in depth and which contribute to the formation of a real professional. I took courses only once and I still regret it.

HOW MUCH DO YOU RESEARCH YOUR SUBJECTS BEFORE

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George Sharashidze COMMERCIAL DEPARTMENT

Commercial Director: Iva Merabishvili Marketing Manager: Anuka Poladishvili

GEORGIA TODAY

EDITORIAL DEPARTMENT:

Editor-In-Chief: Katie Ruth Davies

PHOTOGRAPHING THEM?

of the photoshoots. Working with them is nothing but a pleasure.

I don’t. Experience has taught me that creativity and spontaneity are always the top priorities in any photoshoot. However, I always work along the stylist and producer prior to shooting, and create mood boards to be sure I’m working in the right direction.

PORTRAITS DOMINATE AMONG YOUR WORKS. WHY? The strong accent on portraits is catalyzed by my curious character and interminable love of people. It is interesting for me to listen to the stories of individuals and share their feelings, keeping an eye on their successes or failures. Each person is unique and outstanding, and for me, as a photographer, it is a marvelous chance to represent this uniqueness. I love my models and do not hesitate to reflect this love via my camera.

YOU’VE PARTICIPATED IN A NUMBER OF PROJECTS. WHICH WAS THE MOST MEMORABLE FOR YOU? Every single photoshoot is important and memorable for me. But I would certainly highlight the ‘Question & Answer’ project where I had to work with 45 people simultaneously. The bodies of the models were painted in red and white and then I took a high-angle shot showing the models laying in the shape of question and exclamation marks. It was an extraordinary, impressive and largescale photoshoot for me.

YOU’VE WORKED WITH RENOWNED WORLD CELEBRITIES. TELL US YOUR BEST AND WORST EXPERIENCE. I feel incredibly happy and lucky, having had the chance to work with such terrific professionals as Robert de Niro, Vincent Cassel, Gerard Depardieu and others. It’s a real honor for me to be entrusted with the responsibility to work with such figures. Each photoshoot brings

Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Zaza Jgarkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Dimitri Dolaberidze, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Samantha Guthrie, Amy Jones, Thea Morrison, Ana Dumbadze, Ketevan Kvaratskheliya Photographer: Irakli Dolidze

WHERE DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE OF PHOTOGRAPHY? only positive emotions and represents an absolutely fascinating experience for me. I genuinely can’t think of any negatives.

IS IT DIFFICULT TO WORK WITH CELEBRITIES? Certainly not. Before working with them, you have to go through exhausting hours of real drudgery in preparation, but the actual moment of working with them is easy, as they have experience and are clearly aware of their own strengths and weaknesses. They can freely express different emotions during the process

Website Manager/Editor: Katie Ruth Davies Layout: Misha Mchedlishvili Webmaster: Sergey Gevenov Circulation Managers: David Kerdikashvili, David Djandjgava

Along with the development of technologies and the facilitated access to them, the industry of photography is improving respectively. The role of digital media and mobile photography is massive today and I think this field will develop in these directions. As for the future, I believe robots serving as professional photographers will also be launched.

DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR YOUNG PHOTOGRAPHERS? Hard work, daily practice and self-development is the best way to achieve success in photography, as well as in other spheres.

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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1129  

March 1 - 4, 2019

Issue #1129  

March 1 - 4, 2019

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