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Issue no: 1021

• FEBRUARY 9 - 12, 2018



In this week’s issue... Finance Minister to Bloomberg: Gov’t Aims to Make Georgia Regional Hub NEWS PAGE 2

On Moral Rights of Georgia’s Foreign Policy POLITICS PAGE 4

Presidential Candidates POLITICS PAGE 4

Chinese to Invest $140 mln in Dirsi Founder AS Group Investment's Agro Project



MEP Ana Gomes on the Mustafa Cabuk Case EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY TIM OGDEN


he jury’s still out on Georgia – that’s the feeling you get when asking certain members of the European Parliament as to what they think of the two of the more dubious cases of late: that of journalist Afghan Muktharli’s abduction (allegedly on behalf of the Azerbaijani government) and the Turkish teacher, Mustafa Cabuk, enduring months-long detention time in Georgia at the behest of the Turkish government who thinks him a terrorist. To the West, the charges in both cases are trumped up (no pun intended). And while Muktharli has been sentenced to six years in prison, Cabuk is awaiting the Georgian court’s potentially fatal decision on whether to extradite him to Turkey (as of going to press, postponed to February 19), where he is thought to be certain to face unfair trial and jail time.

Continued on page 5

'Welcome to Georgia The Musical' premieres next week. (Re)-discover what Georgia truly is.



Executive Chef David Tavernier Set on Taking the Georgian Restaurant Industry to the Next Level SOCIETY PAGE 12

Medhi Walerski on Staging Petite Cérémonie in Georgia CULTURE PAGE 15




FEBRUARY 9 - 12, 2018

Georgian Opposition Summons Foreign Minister to Parliament to Explain Gov’t Not Joining Sanctions against Russia BY THEA MORRISON

Finance Minister to Bloomberg: Gov’t Aims to Make Georgia Regional Hub BY THEA MORRISON


n his interview with Bloomberg, Georgia’s Finance Minister, Mamuka Bakhtadze underlined that the Georgian government’s main strategy is to make the country a regional hub in terms of finance, logistics, tourism and trade. The minister spoke about the progress Georgia has achieved in recent years following a number of important reforms. Bakhtadze noted that Georgia was named among Top 5 countries in terms of budget openness, and it was ranked 9th by World Bank in Ease of Doing Business, also taking 9th position in terms of low taxes. He also spoke about the cooperation with the United States, saying that Georgia is becoming a distinguished country in the region. “All these achievements help us to integrate Georgia with the world economy. The free trade regimes with the EU, CIS

countries, China and Turkey, help us a lot in this regard,” he added. Bakhtadze highlighted that in 2017, Georgia’s economy growth reached nearly 5%, claiming that this year “it will definitely be over 5%.” “According to International Monetary Fund, during the next three years Georgia will be the leader in terms of economic growth in the region,” he added. The Minister said the fluctuation of the national currency (Lari) is one of the biggest challenges for the Georgian economy, partially related to the high rate of dollarization. “We have a comprehensive and longterm plan to respond to this challenge. If you look at the currencies of our region, you will see that the Lari is one of the most stable currencies among them. Considering the policy, which implies a reduction in the level of dollarization in the economy, we have an expectation that the fluctuations will be significantly lower,” Bakhtadze told Francine Lacqua and Tom Keene on "Bloomberg Surveillance."


arliamentary minority European Georgia has summoned Georgian Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze to the legislative body, to give explanations regarding foreign issues and threats. European Georgia is demanding to know why the Government of Georgia has not responded to the offer of Ukraine to join sanctions against Russia, which has occupied 20% of Georgian territories. The President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, suggested Georgia join existing sanctions against the Russian Federation, saying the Georgian component of the Russian-occupied South Ossetia and Abkhazia could be added to the process. Poroshenko made the statement while meeting Georgian Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze in Kyiv, late January. The Ukrainian President’s Administration reports that Poroshenko emphasized the mechanism of sanctions against Russia had been improved and the Georgian party was welcome to join the process. “This will help us to draw greater attention [to the issue] and to stimulate Europe to continue sanctions against Russia,” Poroshenko told Kobakhidze. European Georgia member Sergi Kapanadze slammed the Georgian government for not giving a positive response to friendly state Ukraine. Kapanadze demands explanations from Janelidze as to why Georgia has not joined the sanctions against the

Photo: European Georgia member, Sergi Kapanadze. Photo source: EPA/UPG

occupant neighbor. “Georgia is avoiding answering Ukraine’s offer regarding the sanctions. We also see that the government has not joined the EU and US sanctions against Russia. The ruling party must explain to the public why not,” Kapanadze said. The MP also calls on the Foreign Minister to speak out about the anti-occupation policy the government is carrying out against Russia, noting that a few days ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin ratified a “military deal” with Georgia’s breakaway South Ossetia, which envisages incorporation of the de facto Ossetian army into the Russian forces. “After the ratification of this “deal,” Russia has taken real steps towards the annexation of Georgian territories. We request the Foreign Minister give explanations regarding this issue,” Kapanadze added. On February 5, the Kremlin website released information that Putin had

signed off a law on the ratification of the so called military deal with Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia. The “deal,” signed in Moscow on March 31, 2017, was passed by Russia's State Duma on January 24, 2018, and approved by the Federation Council on January 31, 2018. The explanatory note to the law says that the accession of the units into the armed forces of the Russian Federation means enrollment of citizens of South Ossetia for service as part of the Russian 4th military base in occupied South Ossetia under contract, on a voluntary basis. Upon concluding such a contract, a citizen must be discharged from military service in the de facto South Ossetian armed forces and his further active duty will be regulated by the Russian legislation. The Russian Federation has a similar “agreement” with Georgia’s other breakaway region – Abkhazia.

NGOs Address Georgian Parliament to Speed Up Intro of Labor Safety Law BY THEA MORRISON


wo major Georgia-based Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), the Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC) and the Georgian Young Lawyer’s Association (GYLA), have addressed the legislative body of Georgia to timely adopt the Labor Safety Law already initiated in Parliament. The draft Law on Labor Safety was submitted to Parliament on June 1, 2017. It was approved by MPs during the first hearing; however, on February 5, 2018, when the Parliamentary Health Committee should have had a second hearing, the government did not present the draft and asked for an additional week for internal discussions. The NGOs believe the government is

delaying the process, noting that the same happened in December 2017. “This process shows that there is no clear political will from the State to actually solve the health and safety issues of employed people and to activate effective legislation which will determine the government's proper mandate and mechanisms for labor supervision,” the statement of EMC and GYLA reads. The NGOs also consider a significant problem of the draft its “limited scope.” The organizations explain that, according to the proposed version of the draft law, it applies only to grave, harmful and hazardous jobs (a list of which the government should approve within three months of enacting the law) and only in terms of health and safety. “This regulation does not apply to employers who are not on the list approved by the government, which makes an unjustified difference between employees, and puts them in unequal

Photo source: Europe for Georgia

conditions,” the statement reads, adding the new law should cover all kinds of jobs and employees. EMC and GYLA stated the Ministry of Economy believes the law should cover only the private and not the state sector. “This is another unjustified opinion and aims to exclude public institutions from the scope of the law,” the NGOs say, repeating the law should cover both

sectors – state and private. The statement also stresses the draft does not envisage the effective work of the Inspection Service, which checks labor conditions at various sites or institutions. According to the draft, the service has to obtain a court permit to check alleged violations. “This draft reduces the chances of immediate and effective response from the Inspection Service,” the NGOs claim. The non-governmental sector also made remarks regarding the amount of fines for violations of safety norms. They say the fines are low and are not in line with the draft aim – to reduce violation of labor rights and increase safety standards. “The Parliament of Georgia should adopt a law on labor safety, in the shortest possible term, that will adequately respond to the existing challenges of labor safety in the country,” the NGOs said.

In parallel with the non-governmental sector, Georgia’s Business ombudsman, Irakli Lekvinadze, also issued his recommendations regarding the draft, in which he speaks about the necessity of reasonable terms for enacting the law, which will give businessmen adequate time to become accustomed to the new regulations. “Equal responsibility between the employer and the employee and necessary qualifications of the labor safety inspectors also need to be included in the draft,” the Business Ombudsman stated. Last week, Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze stated that Parliament plans to set up a wide format for discussing the issues related to labor safety and labor rights and elaborate appropriate mechanisms. He added that such an obligation was being undertaken by the government under the Association Agreement, signed with the European Union.




FEBRUARY 9 - 12, 2018

On Moral Rights of Georgia’s Foreign Policy OP-ED BY EMIL AVDALIANI


n geopolitics, there are no right or wrong sides. Each party pursues its own interests. Take the EU or the US. Both expand their influence in various parts of Eurasia and especially in the former Soviet space. Take Russia, which confronts European/American stratagems and does what it can to project its own influence in the region. However, in Georgia, many believe that Russia does not have the moral right to influence the country any longer (because of the difficult past), while in Russia, numerous politicians think that it is Georgia that does not have the moral right to follow a western path (because we have close historical ties). This “moralization” of international relations rooted in and influenced by a history of relations, for instance, between Georgians and Russians, is a strange and, I would argue, superfluous notion. This is particularly so as we live in an era where moral rights do not really help

in international relations. We live in an era where a strong economy, education and the military balance of power decide much of things. In other words, we live in an epoch of geopolitics, and whoever is stronger, Russia or US/EU, has its influence spread, for example, to the former Soviet space. Surely, much depends on what this or that people on the ground actually want in terms of the country’s foreign policy. But it also often happens that big actors can foster support for their cause even if it seems that there is no solid foundation for it. In Georgia, despite a decadeslong unequivocal pro-western foreign policy, some people are still pro-Russian, and no one knows how big support will be for pro-Russian policies if the EU/US decreases support of Tbilisi. We also live in the epoch when the US, major player and initiator of global projects such as the League of Nations (after WWI) and the United Nations (after WWII), introduced a new security strategy purely based on political realism. The realism where major players on the Eurasian continent are regarded with suspicion. Indeed, the new National Strategy

document of the US quite openly states that “after being dismissed as a phenomenon of an earlier century, the great power (i.e. geopolitics – E. A.) competition has returned.” It is a striking admission on behalf of the White House, and although in Europe and elsewhere, the dominant nature of the new “strategy document” might raise questions, in the South Caucasus many would think that it is more attuned to the geopolitical situation on the ground. Thus, when we talk about where Georgia’s place is in international relations, and how successful Tbilisi can be in NATO/EU integration, the main point is that the country is in the midst of a geopolitical battle based on pure military and economic calculations: a battle where moral rules serve little and where history is important, but not decisive. In the geopolitics of the modern period, as it was in earlier centuries, economic assets such as railways and pipelines could relate you closer to a country/bloc than a shared history or moral rights. We live in an interesting period when the Europe is in full march towards the former Soviet space. The process is still

Photo source: stratfor.com

slow, but it is steady. Just compare what the map this region was in 1991. A full 26 years has passed, and we already have Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia partially related to the EU. Indeed, the argument laid out here, that in geopolitics moral rights do not play a decisive role, is also reflected in the fact that Ukraine, a culturally and historically close nation to Russia, chose the EU. This very decision by Tbilisi, Kiev and Chisinau is a result of who is stronger and who can be a gravitation point for neighboring states. Being stronger in the modern world means having stronger diversified economies, and a great education system and military defense capabilities. Russia has almost all the above, but the EU has much bigger and better. This

goes to the article I wrote for the last issue of GT that only the powerful development of the Russian economy will make the country a pull for neighboring countries in the region. Until then, no morality rooted in shared history and culture of, let’s say Russians and Georgians, will save Moscow. As in earlier history, in the modern world, only those will win who are stronger militarily and economically. Emil Avdaliani teaches history and international relations at Tbilisi State University and Ilia State University. He has worked for various international consulting companies and currently publishes articles focused on military and political developments across the former Soviet space.

Presidential Candidates



lthough the future Head of State won’t have the right to interfere with political processes and their function will be limited to a “handshake,” the presidency still seems quite popular among Georgian politicians. Perhaps that’s why more names of those aiming for the

presidency are being discussed in the media, with a few new names added to the list of potential candidates. The list of candidates from Georgian Dream has been enriched with the active and former Foreign Affairs Ministers Mikheil Janelidze and Salome Zurabishvili, respectively. And former Defense Minister Irakli Alasania has been added to the independent candidates’ cohort. Neither party’s frontline has been left intact, as we saw updates there, too. For instance, it has been rumored that former

Parliamentary Speaker David Usupashvili will also take part in the autumn’s marathon. There are changes in the European subdivision of the United National Movement, where MP David Bakradze is being prepared for the vacant post instead of MP Giga Bokeria. Only the United National Movement is keeping their candidate’s name a secret. Apparently, they haven’t agreed on whether to sacrifice the former Foreign Affairs Minister Grigol Vashadze for presidency or not. The situation hasn’t changed in the pro-Russian camp though, where the ex-Speaker of the Parliament Nino Burjanadze is getting ready for the elections. The most prominent of these headliners would have been the issue as to whether current President Giorgi Margvelashvili would participate in the elections or not, but as usual, the latter has disappointed the media; at this point, experts can only speculate. Clearly, though, Mr. Margvelashvili is getting prepared for some battles. The draft law initiated by the government is obviously related to suppressing his presidential ambitions, as it forbids

officials from criticizing future court decisions. To put it simply, if Margvelashvili criticizes decisions issued by court, as for instance he did when the court ruling was issued against Saakashvili, he will be violating the law. It is also becoming apparent that President Margvelashvili is trying to maintain his “above-party” image, suggesting that if he still decides to participate in the elections, most likely he will do so as an independent candidate. However, the chances the current President has to gain victory in these elections is another theme, since former Tbilisi Majoral candidate Aleko Elisashvili is already considered a recognized leader in the very same segment of voters. The candidate of the “ordinary people” scored second in the local elections and surpassed the candidate from the UNM. It is difficult to foresee whether Margvelashvili will be able to become the candidate for the “ordinary people,” because he, as well as the people, are very well aware of the fact that the future president won’t be able to protect the “ordinary people” anymore. That is

most likely why political analysts advise him “not to carry the burden of the politician for a second time and not to plunge into the same river again.” True, it will be quite difficult for Margvelashvili to win the elections for a second time, especially that we now know, unlike five years ago, that billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili won’t be on his side anymore. Despite such a “depressing” loss, polls show that Margvelashvili was still able to maintain high levels of trust and support among people. The question is whether this trust will be sufficient for him to gain victory in the upcoming elections. But even before that, Margvelashvili will have to neutralize the main hazard that the governing party is threatening him with by making “edits in the Girgvliani case.” These things might make it uncomfortable for the current President to take part in the coming elections, but the political processes could bring about such circumstances that despite what the experts forecast, winning the Presidential elections could be his one and only foreseeable chance for survival.

Ukraine Locked in “Transit Mousetrap” as Kyiv Realizes Consequences of a Quarrel with Poland BY DIMITRI DOLABERIDZE


ormer Minister of Transport of Ukraine, Evgeny Chervonenko, assessed today's economic situation of the country as a “transit mousetrap,” and urged Kyiv to realize the consequences of its quarrel with Poland. Chervonenko said this on news channel NewsOne that after Poland stopped allowing the transit of Ukrainian trucks, Ukraine became trapped, having previously lost contact with China because of its policy towards Russia, through which eastbound transit was carried out. “Hungarians: a long-paid departure, Romanians: tough. The Poles, who missed the most transit, locked us in a mousetrap. And do you want to quarrel further?” the Former Minister asked. Last November, Poland blocked the transit of Ukrainian trucks through the country and recently, the resulting ten-

sion between Warsaw and Kyiv has only increased. In particular, Poland has repeatedly noted that it does not agree with the policy of the Ukrainian authorities and their interpretation of historic events. So, this week, the Polish Senate passed a law criminalizing the spreading of Ukrainian nationalist ideas. In addition, since 2014, Kyiv has been pursuing a policy aimed at Russia; destroying economic, political and historical ties between countries. In particular, in the framework of the so-called “decommunization” in Ukraine, there has been a massive renaming of cities and streets; monuments are being demolished; and, last autumn, Kyiv banned the use of the term “Great Patriotic War.”




MEP Ana Gomes on the Mustafa Cabuk Case Continued from page 1

One of the few remaining hopes of him escaping Erdogan’s “justice” is if President Margvelashvili were to grant him asylum – something one of the MEP’s GEORGIA TODAY spoke to in Brussels, Ana Gomes, Member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, thinks would be “a great service to the country of Georgia.” Note: this is first of the series of interviews GEORGIA TODAY conducted in the European Parliament regarding the cases of Afghan Mukhtarli and Mustafa Emre Cabuk, the remainder of which will follow in future issues.

President Margvelashvili would do a great service to the country by preventing extradition


It will affect the reputation of Georgia if the extradition actually happens. It will affect positively the Georgian reputation if Georgia refuses to extradite, because it will show that Georgia is able to withstand the pressure of its bullying neighbors, Turkey and Azerbaijan. I’m pretty sure that if somebody was running away from Russia asking for asylum or trying to find safe haven in Georgia, they would not hand that person over to Russia. I know it’s a tough neighborhood; I know it’s tough for the authorities to resist all this pressure, but I also know this is in line with what the majority of Georgia’s citizens think, and it is certainly in line with the commitments of Georgia under the Council of Europe and the commitments towards the EU. It is in the context of the partnership to resist any pressure to hand people over that we know are not terrorists, but activists, human rights defenders and so on.



We are making the distinction that the Azerbaijani authorities engineered all the kidnapping, but the Georgian authorities need to explain their role in the situation. We need to know whether there was a glaring violation of its sovereignty by the Azerbaijani authorities or if there was complicity from anyone within the Georgian system with the Azerbaijani authorities in organizing the kidnapping. That’s an international crime under international law. Mukhtarli was tried in a totally unfair trial. The last time I was in Georgia, I also raised questions regarding Mustafa, because we could see pressure coming from Turkey. Turkish citizens were running schools in Georgia very peacefully and they were being bullied and discriminated against. That is not acceptable.

WHAT WAS THE RESPONSE FROM THE GEORGIAN AUTHORITIES? There was acknowledgment that this is a very difficult, sensitive case for Georgia because they are dealing with neighbors. I hope that, ultimately, the matter will be given to the courts and the courts will refer to international law in the framework of the Council of

Europe Convention that Georgia is a signatory party of.

WHAT DO YOU THINK CAN BE DONE BY THE WEST TO HELP GEORGIA NOT TO SWAY FROM THE PATH OF EUROPEAN VALUES, RULE OF LAW AND SO ON? I hope that all European authorities, not just us parliamentarians, will be vocal in supporting the authorities to deny any pressure coming from bulling neighbors.

HOW PRINCIPLED IS THE STANCE OF EUROPEAN INSTITUTIONS? WHAT LEVERAGE DO THEY HAVE? There are contradictions within the EU. Don’t forget the deal that several EU countries have with Turkey regarding refugees. I was one of those who denounced the deal being at the expense of our obligations in terms of refugees and asylum seekers, as it being illegal, immoral and inefficient. If I see that they aren’t living up to their obligations, I say so. I think the EU, Germany and all countries supporting Germany in pretending that this deal is legal, are wrong, very wrong. That’s explains the many contradictions among EU interlocutors, including other parliamentarians, who see refugees and migrants as a big threat.

Turkish citizens were running schools in Georgia very peacefully and were being discriminated against. That is not acceptable A GROUP OF GEORGIAN NGOS HAVE ASKED THE PRESIDENT OF GEORGIA TO GRANT CABUK ASYLUM SO HE IS NOT EXTRADITED. AS A SEASONED POLITICIAN, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS REQUEST? I think that President Margvelashvili would do a great service to Georgia if he uses the powers he has to prevent the extradition, should it be come to pass.

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FEBRUARY 9 - 12, 2018

Chinese to Invest $140 mln in Dirsi Founder AS Group Investment's Agro Project


n February 6, AS Group Investment and the Chinese company China CAMC Engineering Co., Ltd, the largest developer company in the South Caucasus, signed a Memorandum of Cooperation, according to which the Chinese company will invest $140 million in the project ‘Absheron Agro Park,’ a project of AS Group Investment. Mr. Shaheen Movsumov, Founder of AS Group Investment, and President of China CAMCE Co., President Luo Jané, jointly signed the Memorandum. Within the framework of the Silk Road Forum in Beijing, China, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, the founder of AS Group Investment held an important meeting with China's largest national company China National Machinery Industry Corpo-

ration Ltd (SINOMACH) represented by Liu Jin Zang, during which future cooperation between the companies was planned. The "Absheron Agro Park" is a large project which will be implemented in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Georgia. The Agro Park in Azerbaijan is to be spread across 150 hectares of land. At this stage, strawberries and tomatoes are being grown in greenhouses, equipped with modern technologies, on 10 hectares of land. 3500 people will be employed as a result of the fully operational Agro Park. Products produced in the Agro Park are intended for both domestic consumers and export. In 2018, the agriculture direction was prioritized by the Azerbaijani state and this project is expected to contribute to the development of the Azerbaijani agro sector.

‘Saba’ 2018: 2nd B2B Luxury & MICE Georgian Literature on European Platform Workshop in Tbilisi



he ‘Saba’ Awards will this year be held in Germany at the Frankfurt International Book Fair which features Georgia as Guest Country of Honor. TBC Bank this week launched the annual literary competition ‘Saba,’ and authors and publishers are welcome to submit their books. Throughout the year, in different cities of Germany, hundreds of events are planned to promote Georgian literature and culture. The main part of the program on October 9-14, at the International Book Fair, will see numerous literary and cultural events dedicated to Georgia, among the biggest and most outstanding of which will be the ‘Saba’ award ceremony, which will take place in Kaisersaal in the historic Frankfurt City Hall. “This year is an important novelty, since in 2018 Georgia is being presented on the world's largest literary platform,” said Maia Dzirkvelishvili, Organizer of the Saba Awards. “‘Saba,’ as part of the ongoing Georgian literary process, is involved in the submission of Georgian literature in Germany. We now have eight months of jury work ahead, after which the winning books and authors will be revealed.” It is an important event for Georgian literature, as the main purpose of the event is to attract the attention of European publishing houses to Georgian works. European visitors will have the chance

to find out about 40-50 winning works. At the ceremony, along with Georgian authors and publishers, honored foreign guests –famous writers, foreign publishers, German officials, and international media representatives will be presented. And the Georgians back home in Georgia will be able to watch the award ceremony live on screen. The best authors and books of 2017 will be revealed in Frankfurt. To register for the competition, contestants must fill in an online application on the website saba.com.ge. Applications will continue until February 20, after which the ‘Saba’ jury will begin reviewing books and to evaluate last year's literary harvest. In connection with the transfer of the awards ceremony to Frankfurt, ‘Saba’ has made small changes to the competition conditions this year. Awards will be given for: Best Novel, Best Prose Collection, Best Poetry Collection, Best Essay & Documentary Prose, Best Literary Debut, Best Georgian Translation, Best Foreign Language Translation of Georgian Work, Best Foreign Language Criticism of Georgian Literature, Best Foreign Language Publishing of Georgian Literature, and a prize will also be awarded for Contribution to GeorgianGerman Literary Relations. Annual Literary Competition ‘Saba’ was founded in 2003 by TBC Bank. The ‘Saba’ contest will be held for the 16th time this year.

bilisi is to again host the prestigious professional luxury travel event B2B Luxury & MICE Workshop, which will be held in Tbilisi at Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel for the 2nd time, on February 17. As an established specialist travel industry event, the B2B Luxury & MICE Workshop brings together a variety of luxury and destination Travel products, and introduces them to new markets, where travel and specifically Luxury travel is emerging. The B2B is a closed ‘invitation only event’ which focuses on luxury and upmarket travel products, including luxury hotels, destination management companies and travel destinations via national tourism boards. A selected number of leading outbound Georgian Travel companies have been invited to attend, to have one to one meetings with prestigious international exhibitors. The B2B Luxury & MICE Workshop is organized by the British company TMI, a travel marketing and communication company which is part of the Travel

Consul alliance (www.travelconsul.com), working in partnership with Brandor Consulting, Georgia. This year the B2B Luxury & MICE Workshop brings some prestigious new destinations to the Georgian market for the first time, including the Tourism boards of Slovenia, Monaco, Dubai and Greece and welcome the return of Singapore and the Dominican Republic. The Director of B2B Luxury & MICE Workshop, Maria Gorbacheva, said: “We are delighted that our event is returning to Georgia after its successful entry in 2017. International participants were impressed with the potential of the market from last year, and this year we have 30% more international participants than in 2017. We extend an especially warm welcome to Slovenia, who is taking part for the first time and is this year’s workshop official destination partner, providing all attendees with an innovative introduction to Slovenia, the only destination with ‘love’ in its name. Other new destinations include Dubai, Monaco and Greece who are all participating for the first time. The world of luxury is

represented by some well-known and niche 5* star hotel brands including: Belmond, Bahia Principe from Spain, Duetorrihotels from Italy; Chateau de la Messardiere, France; Losinj Hotels & Villas, Croatia, one of the leading hotel brands in Greece, Grecotels, as well as Italian Hospitality Collection, a collection of upscale Italian properties that are coming to the Georgian market for the first time.” Helene Lloyd, the Director of TMI, organizer of the B2B Luxury & MICE Workshop, said: “It’s fantastic to have the opportunity to return to Tbilisi and to bring our technology partner CHUTE, who will be visiting Georgia for the first time. Chute helps destinations, hotels and other travel products to increase their presence on social media. TMI not only sees Georgia as a dynamic outbound travel market, but also as a rapidly emerging inbound destination, suitable for both leisure and meetings and events.” A complete list of foreign participants and the event details can be found on the event website www.B2Btravelworkshop.com.



Going to the Dogs: Svaneti BLOG BY TONY HANMER


t’s happened again. Someone got badly bitten. Not me this time, but still. Last week it was a schoolteacher in her late twenties, walking her young daughter home after school. She was able to shield the child and paid the price of a forearm onto which the dog, which had slipped its chain somehow, latched and would not let go. The girl sat silent in shock for two days after this. The dog’s owners took the mother to Mestia, some 30 km away, for stitches. No further action will be taken. One wonders what it will take to change the “canine situation” in this province. After all, the bad old years of bandits terrorizing the place, headquartered in my village of Etseri, are long gone! Saakashvili took them out in a ten-helicopter raid, and that was that. Why do we still need such fierce animals guarding our properties?! I occasionally visit some neighbors who are relatives of those same bandits, an unmarried invalid brother and sister in their sixties. Their dog, upon seeing the stick I unfailingly have with me, attacks it and gives it a good shake. “Hi, Tony, this is your throat I’m imagining in my jaws! Waiting for the day when you don’t have such protection, salivating with anticipation!” I’ve already told them that, friends though we are, if the animal bites me I will kill it myself. It’s never chained up; apparently this can’t be done. I do also have a small can of pepper spray, unused

yet, but also waiting its turn. I would probably use this outside the dog’s territory, so that there is no confusion about it being out of line. I did also buy a combination flashlight and infrasonic dog “blaster” in Tbilisi; it needs a 9-volt battery, and doesn’t work at all on the creatures anyway. No effect; they ignore it. I’m sure this is just bad luck, and I might try the best rated one I can find online. I was looking into solar-powered ones, which you can mount around your property as well, to keep dogs away (but not, say, poultry or cows). Really checking out all the possibilities. Does a child have to be mauled, or someone killed? We did have one case, before I moved here, of a dog bite resulting in its death, plus the murder of its victim and someone else in the family of the dog’s owner in revenge killings. Does that sound a bit like… going too far? I’ll just warn all potential tourists to Svaneti: never go walking without a strong stick, consider the pepper spray, and get vocal and even legal if you are bitten, or badly threatened. Some of these dogs are huge, particularly Caucasus Shepherds, and some are raised for illegal dogfights. The reputation for warm hospitality of Georgia can be all undone in an instant, trauma and injury result, and you will never be back. 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 over 1800 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

The Indoor Generation huffpost.com



saw someone say trivially in his or her memoir that history is a continuous chain of events and each of those nonstop events is inscribed in a particular generational segment. Those historical layers of different generations have been given their names: War Generation, Baby Boomers, Generations X, Y and Z… it is said that there is also Generation I – the Information Generation, the children of the Information Age. Being first in something particular is a characteristic thought of every generation. The generational self-particularization is based on the belief that all of us, in our own generational time, have done something that was first in human history. Oftentimes, the sentiment of being first is true and justified, but, just as often, it has nothing to do with reality. My generation has been part of many first-made historical events that determined progress as such. The subsequent generations also demonstrated their being first in a particular field. What does the I-Generation look like? What feature makes them first in doing something noticeably outstanding? My personal attitude is that the I-Generation could qualify as an Indoor Generation too, thus making the letter ‘I’ doubly relevant: Information Indoor Generation, hereinafter referred to as IIG. This abbreviation is my own invention, not yet patented. I only wonder if it is good or bad to be an IIG member. Neither good nor bad – it is strange! And this is purely my personal opinion. IIG members want to be enclosed in four walls, endlessly gazing either at the screen of their computers or cell-phones, messaging round-the-clock something that might matter or not. I’m not saying they are out of touch. Just the contrary: they are very much in touch with the rest of the world, but the touch is not real: it is only a virtual reality that

simulates a realistic experience. Screen-gazing happens anywhere; at home or when guesting at somebody else’s place, during meals or concerts, in movie theaters or in the street, in bed or bathroom, on a train or aboard a plane, in lessons and during the breaks, when dancing or when walking up and down the stairs. In a word, screen-gazing has become a viral sickness which becomes more and more infectious every second. The IIG community is ready to stop going out completely, and live their lives in that weird virtual reality which is little by little overwhelming the entire world, including Georgia. My concern is the effect on products that are necessary for human survival. The word ‘product’ in this context has a collective meaning, including everything that comes out of human hands. What is the IIG going to do to survive? Just gaze at their screens and forget about survival exigencies? What about human contact with nature? Do they recognize the need for our being part of nature? Or they are going to feed themselves only with information produced and used by the IIG? Maybe they hope that the world is going to be mechanized so utterly with their help that the current natural demands of a human being are no longer relevant. The IIG might be geniuses of their kind, but the developed informational skills are not the feeders of a human. It is a fact that something odd is happening with the kids whose noses are buried in screens on a permanent basis. The scientific, technical and informational development is good, but not enough to physically survive and, moreover, not enough to generate happiness. The happiness generated in virtual reality may seem like happiness, but I doubt it feels like happiness. I’m not against progress. I’m against losing the main thing that we humans possess: the ability to be happy, morally and physically, as we have always been. The IIG style and way of generating happiness through screens is dry and fragile and may someday break.

Georgian Mountains Wine Company

Taste the best wine! TEL: 514 12 22 99, 597 122 277 Facebook: @georgianmountainswinecompany E-mail: info@gmwine.ge





FEBRUARY 9 - 12, 2018

First Zara Home Store Opens in Tbilisi Since its launch in 2003, Zara Home has expanded rapidly, and now operates on the five continents, on more than 70 markets and boasts over 500 stores. With a team of more than 5,000 professionals, the brand offers the latest fashion and décor trends for every season, with stores constantly refreshed with the delivery of new items weekly. Thanks to a diverse group of designers from around the globe developing unique products, Zara Home brings trends from the international runways into the home, helping customers to create a warm and fashionable environment. Zara Home is owned by the Inditex Group, the first worldwide Fashion Retail Group. Inditex has nine brands: in addi-


he first Zara Home store in Georgia opened in Tbilisi last week. Spread over more than 450 sqm, located on the first floor of Tbilisi Mall at 16km Aghmashenebeli Alley, the new Zara Home store represents all the collections of the home wear brand, including Zara Home Kids. The newly opened Zara Home also features an innovative design, true to the current image of Zara Home around the world. The store inside presents an avant-garde and elegant concept in harmony with the simplicity and respect

for nature upheld in the materials used within the store. The use of neutral colours, chestnut wood and marble floors are just some of the features of this Zara Home new store. “By opening Zara Home at Tbilisi Mall, we are bringing the top home fashion and decoration brand into the city’s favorite shopping destination, making shopping at the new brand store an enjoyable experience for our dear customers. We are expecting a huge number of customers in the Tbilisi Mall store to take advantage of our many exclusive collections,” said Dr. Yassine Sibari, CEO of Zara and Inditex Group of Saudi Ara-

bia, Central Asia and Caucasus Region, Alhokair Fashion Retail. As with all Zara Home stores throughout the world, the new Tbilisi store will present two collections each year, inspiring the design team to present ideas each season that are always on trend. The store will then be refreshed with the delivery of new items twice a week. Zara Home is the home wear brand of the Inditex Group. Its collections are based on the latest fashion trends and include: bedding, table and bath linens; furniture; tablewear; cutlery; and other decorative items for the home, as well as a loungewear and a bath & body line.

tion to Zara Home, there are also Zara, Pull&Bear, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Stradivarius, Oysho, Lefties and Uterqüe. Zara Home was launched as a new business format from the Inditex Group in August 2003. By the end of its first year, the brand had 26 shops: 22 in Spain, two in Portugal, one in the United Kingdom and one in Greece. Today, Zara Home is present in 74 countries, in 2017 opening its first stores in Israel, Belarus, Czech Republic, Tunisia and Armenia. The Tbilisi store of Zara Home is operated by Retail Group Georgia, a subsidiary of Alhokair Fashion Retail representing more than 35 Fashion brands in Georgia and operating up to 50 stores on the market since 2012.




Speaking English: The Annual ESU Competition



t is almost time for the annual English-Speaking Union’s Public Speaking Competition, which is run by the British Corner in Vake Park. On March 14, the first round of the competition will be held, and the second on March 29. Aiming to inform, persuade, entertain and inspire the audience, young speakers will convey their opinions in a variety of styles, from personal accounts to lectures and jokes. The aim of the English-Speaking Union (ESU) is to promote friendship and understanding through the English language. The Public Speaking Competition is one of its most successful projects, with 40,000 youth from over 60 countries taking part in the Final in London. Georgia has participated for 21 years and has sent young people aged between 16 and 20 to speak at the Finals. GT met with the president and founder of the English-Speaking Union of Georgia, Marina Tsitsishvili, to find out more. “All my life, I’ve been trying to promote the English language and British culture. In 2016, my humble work was highly appreciated when I received an MBE (Member of the British Empire) for ser-

vices to UK-Georgian cultural and educational relations. It’s an award from Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. I am really very proud that I am the first ever Georgian national to receive this award.” The English-Speaking Union was set up in London in 1918. It’s an international organization which functions in more than 60 countries The Patron of the English-Speaking Union is Queen Elizabeth II, the President is Her Royal Highness, Princess Anne. The main goal of the ESU is to promote friendship and understanding through the English Language. But my vision for the ESU goes far beyond the global use of English; it encompasses the active promotion of different cultures among ESU member countries. ESU-Georgia aims also to introduce Georgian culture to the UK. So, we brought a dance company of Georgian children to perform at the Barbican and the Central School of Ballet. The venture was a big success. The BBC made a special program about the company and the journal ”Dancing Times” wrote: “Two hours later the ceiling of the studio was in danger of falling down – the cheers of students and staff were deafening, 16 boys and one self-possessed girl were accepting standing ovation.” We also invited a male choir Tsinandali to sing Georgian polyphonic songs at

Langolen International Eistedfod in Wales where they were awarded the first prize. ESU-Georgia supported by Georgian Ministry of Culture organized an exhibition of a famous Georgian painter Zurab Nijaradze at the Air-Gallery in London and so on. As for introducing British culture to Georgia here are a few examples. We celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday at an event where students of British and American Schools read Shakespeare in the original language while students of the Drama School read the same in translation. We encourage British schools to perform English plays on our stage. With great support from British Embassy, we were honored to have the UK Military Band “Salamanca Band and Bugles of the Rifles” to perform on our stage twice in 2015 and 2016. Again,withthesupportofBritishEmbassy, the British-Georgian Chamber of Commerce and Georgian Government, we organized the venue of high profile called “Taste Britain”, promoting traditional British food and agricultural products. The event was attended by the delegation from Wales, headed by the Head of Welsh Parliament Dame Rosemary Butler. In 2015, with the support of ESU-Georgia, I set up an English Language Centre “British Corner” which in 2016 was rebranded as British-Georgian Cultural Centre. And again, it’s a place not only for teaching English but introducing British Culture, British traditions and even British cuisine.


Hostages to Misconception REVIEW BY TIM OGDEN


’m not much of a film critic, and indeed my cinematic tastes run to the primitive: gunfights, suspense, against-the-odds stories of historic valor and a big fat dose of black humor, that’s my style, or something so truly awful that it transcends into brilliance. I’ll keep my philosophical and poignant musing in books, thank’ee – now drum up Nicolas Cage wearing a confused expression being chased by [insert contemporary bad guys] because he [insert maverick but moral motive] so he could [insert tragic family backstory]. Still, whenever a Georgian film makes it to the international film festivals, I’ll pause my 100000th re-watch of Dunkirk or Black Hawk Down and re-direct my mind away from bullets, bombs and blood-and-iron courage, and attune it to

sad-looking Georgian women living with belly-over-belt Georgian men. Last year’s Hostages depicts a hijacking incident from the ’80s, when a group of young Georgians – the children of wealthy, intellectual types – decided to try to force a Russia-bound plane to land in Turkey in an attempt to replicate the success of some Lithuanians a few years earlier and get out of the USSR. If you’re not familiar with the story, the pilots refused to comply with the hijackers’ demands and landed back in Tbilisi; the aircraft was then shot to pieces by Russian special operations troops in a classic display of Soviet disregard for human life. The surviving would-be escapees were arrested and subsequently executed. A chilling story, you’ll agree, not least because the families of the dead were then charged with paying for the bullets of the firing squad that had killed their children. It’s a story worth telling, but Hostages didn’t quite do it for me. I’m no Roger

Ebert, but to begin with, the pacing seemed rather fast: 45 minutes in and we’re already on the plane, waiting for the hijackers to pull out their weapons. Previously, we’d seen the young people complain and deride the Soviet regime, but not nearly enough of the brutality they hated; oh, the fact that wearing jeans and listening to The Beatles etc. was all forbidden is oppressive, but I think many people in the West who haven’t heard the first-hand stories of Georgians who lived through those years will wonder if it was worth it for these young people to risk their lives. This is only reinforced by the fact that substantial amounts of time are spent looking at their home lives, which are happy and comfortable, as I imagine they were in real life, the parents being the wealthy intellectuals I mentioned two paragraphs ago. But without outright and overt displays of Soviet aggression and oppressiveness, the impact is lost;

10 Galaktion Street

held in numerous countries around the world; approximately 40,000 young people aged 16-20 take part in them annually, and all the winners are sent to London to take part in the finals. The main purpose of the ESU International Competition in London is to bring together some of the best world speakers. It showcases the highest standard of public speaking while giving participants a chance to meet and make friends with young people of various cultures. The theme of the competition comes from London. This year’s topic is ‘the best way to predict the future is to invent it’. The winner will go to London for a week on May 14. The finals in Tbilisi will be held on March 29. The competition will be judged by HE Justin McKenzie-Smith, the British Ambassador, and Irakli Gilauri (Bank of Georgia) who has been sponsoring this competition for years. This year the lucky winner will be even luckier because ESU is celebrating its centenary. It will be a big celebration, attended by members of the Royal Family.


meet young speakers and give them tips regarding the competition in London.

WHAT IS YOUR IMPRESSION OF THE WAY ENGLISH IS TAUGHT IN GEORGIA? I think it’s pretty good. Judging by our Public Speaking Competitions, the number of young people (between 16 and 20) who speak fluent English has increased considerably. Of course, it is also due to exchange programs. Young people nowadays have more chances to study abroad and Georgian teachers have more opportunities to go on teacher training courses. Plus, there are more native speaker teachers in the country. In British Corner, we have a policy that Georgian teachers usually teach up to intermediate level after which we give our students an opportunity to work with teachers who are native speakers.


2002, when our representative Sophia Gorgodze won International Public Speaking Competition in London. Later we were invited to Buckingham Palace where Sophia received her certificate from Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, then President of the English-Speaking Union. Since then, Sophia has made a remarkable career. She studied at Harvard University and achieved a PHD. She now teaches Educational Strategy at Ilia University. I’m very proud of her. Every year we invite her to the British Corner to

We all know that English is a global language and I’m sure it will become even more popular in the future. As for the British Corner, we’ll do our best to promote it as much as we can. Besides the excellent team of teachers, our language school can boast a fine location and facilities: in Vake Park, in a building with light classrooms equipped with all the conveniences and necessary appliances. We feel confident we can conduct teaching courses at the highest possible level, and this confidence is strengthened by the fact that the high expertise of our teachers is combined with a very strong sense of responsibility and motivation.

it isn’t hard to picture a Western audience wondering why they bothered, since their lives clearly weren’t as bad as the average person in the USSR. Perhaps it’s a consequence of the writers assuming that what is common knowledge for them is also well-known around the world, which sadly it just isn’t. Dammit, I still have to explain in France and England that Georgia isn’t part of Russia! The ending scene of the parents visiting the desolate graves of their children is touching, but I’d say they missed an opportunity by not showing the graphic execution scenes. I read a novel about the same story, Flight from the USSR, by Dato Turashvili, and his description of when the prisoners were executed was, in a quiet way, rather horrifying. Something like the last scene from Valkyrie, when Tom Cruise’s would-be Hitler assassin Claus von Stauffenberg and his accomplices are methodically and ceremonially shot one by one, would have had a much harder message. The danger with any historical film is that the audience knows what the ending will be, especially when the characters are based on real people: I would

have liked to see more set-up, more Soviet horror, and perhaps some commentary on Georgian nationhood, especially as it was Shevardnadze, a Georgian, who ordered the deaths of his countrymen, and this same man then dominated the country until 2003. At least one of the pilots was Georgian, and I think there was opportunity to further explore the slavish devotion to Russia, a conquering power, by some Georgians, including Shevardnadze. Perhaps they might also have made something of the all the Georgians who died in the ’20s to keep the Soviets out. Still, the performances were superb, let down only by the pacing and content of the script (I have always said that Georgians often make very natural dramatic actors), and it’s certainly worth watching. The incident isn’t well-known outside of Georgia, but this might draw attention to something that really does not deserve to be forgotten, especially as Russia is becoming increasingly aggressive, and its neighbors have much to fear. Perhaps people watching this film might also realize, to a small degree, why they should be worried too.

Tel: (995 32) 2 45 08 08 E-mail: info@peoplescafe.ge




FEBRUARY 9 - 12, 2018

Disaster Risk Reduction & ASB in Georgia risk reduction with a special focus on inclusive disaster risk reduction, strengthening social services, and working with the Georgian Samaritan Association (SSK), which we support with our office and staff, although they are an independent organization.”

TELL US MORE Besides the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) program, we would also be prepared to do emergency disaster programs, but that only happens when there’s an emergency! Another main pillar of our organization’s activity in Georgia is the supporting and strengthening of social services through the establishment of social enterprises- anything to do with the elderly, the disabled, or the marginalized. We also have a project to resocialize prisoners and run inclusive programs for children in day care centers.




rbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB) was launched in Georgia back in 1992 as an organization providing humanitarian aid to the country. In 2010, it changed its scope and began focusing more on assisting Georgia’s IDP population, supporting social enterprises and social services in the

country, and launching an Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction project (IDRR). GEORGIA TODAY spoke with Karl Koester, ASB Georgia Director, to find out more about the organization, the IDRR project concept, and the activities ASB has implemented within the project framework to date. “Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB) worked in the area of humanitarian assistance until 1997, and then we pulled out and re-emerged in 2010 with a different focus to meet the needs of the time. Since 2010, we’ve been working on disaster

Our DRR project has a special focus on disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction. Georgia is a country that experiences frequent floods, landslides, earthquakes, avalanches and droughts, which affect vulnerable communities in particular, making this project extremely relevant. We’re now implementing the fourth phase of the project, in partnership with the European Commission. ASB also works closely with the Government of Georgia on various initiatives related to disaster risk reduction, from DRR policy and planning to communitybased and preschool-based DRR; capacity development, media outreach and much more. Initially, in order to raise awareness of DRR from an early age, we started by introducing and implementing the program in the kindergartens, covering up to 500 kindergartens throughout the country, both in Tbilisi and in different regions of Georgia. We did

training for kindergarten teachers, caregivers and administrative staff, and developed, disseminated and trained staff in the use of special education materials for kindergarten children. What we’re teaching through our program is how to deal with disasters, and since the emphasis is on an inclusive risk reduction approach, we’re introducing how, for example, a wheelchair user might evacuate a building, or how persons with visual or hearing impairment can deal with disaster. These may be very simple technical aspects, but still they are very important to know, as the evacuation time during a disaster may be very limited, so it’s vital to be prepared in advance. After the trainings within the kindergartens, we created special committees inside each in order to maintain the sustainability of our program, and gave kindergarten staff the capacity to continue ensuring safety within their respective kindergartens. In close cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia, and with the Emergency Management Agency of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, we worked on kindergarten curriculums, meaning it’s now mandatory for kindergartens to teach DRR. The full package of the DRR program was transferred to Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia for the internal education countrywide, and, of course, since there are more than 500 kindergartens in Georgia, additional finances have to be provided to cover all of them fully. We decided it is just as important to teach DRR to students aiming to become teachers, and initiated a DRR course in universities, with a focus on six of the state universities. The course is accompanied by a special guidebook for the lecturers and students, as well as by special educational material. The program kicked off in January at Telavi State University, the universities of Gori, Kutaisi, Batumi, and Zugdidi, and at the Samtskhe-Javakheti State University. In

addition, students have the chance to use the program materials at the DRR resource centers created in these universities. Another major component of the DRR project is the work we do with disabled people organizations (DPOs), which is one of our largest target groups. We train these groups, aiming to prepare them for disasters, providing them with guidelines on how to work with persons with disabilities. We do this in close cooperation with the Crisis Management Council and the Emergency Management Agency of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, so, today, we can say that there are guidelines already set detailing how to incorporate disability in DRR and how to actively involve DPOs in this process. Yet another achievement that I’d like to mention is the education roadmap that we created with the Ministry of Education and Science, a document highlighting all the main directions and necessary tools for integrating DRR into the Geor-gian education system, and noting the gaps and results we’re aiming to achieve. Particularly after the flood of June 13, 2015, we decided to add a media training component to our DRR project, providing trainings for journalists representing all types of media; print and online, alongside PR department representatives, with international trainer Nigel Kay, former journalist at the BBC. We developed a media guide book for the journalists, too. Further, together with the UNICEF office in Turkmenistan, we replicated our pre-school Disaster Risk Reduction program and delivered trainings for day care centers, and preschool education sector representatives in Turkmenistan as well as sharing ASB’s developed DiDRR education material, to use in the regions and to support them in implementing the program throughout the country. For us, it’s equally as important to cooperate with the private sector. For example, we trained the m² Real Estate company staff and their residents in DRR.

WHAT CHALLENGES AND GAPS CAN YOU HIGHLIGHT WITH REGARDS TO DRR AWARENESS IN GEORGIA? WHAT DO YOU THINK HAS CHANGED SINCE THE PROJECT WAS LAUNCHED? I think the culture of DRR is still being developed; however, we think that the attitude of the general public has changed towards the importance of DRR. We believe that people now clearly realize that awareness and knowledge [of DRR] is immensely important. The demand is certainly there from the Government of Georgia.

DO YOU PLAN TO EXPAND THE DRR PROJECT REGIONALLY, INVOLVING ARMENIA AND AZERBAIJAN? We will have to explore opportunities and see if they are interested.

WHAT’S IN THE ASB PIPELINE OF PROJECTS FOR GEORGIA IN 2018? We will be working with the Georgian government more to ensure that people with disabilities are considered and included by society; that their rights are protected and that their lives are improved. We’re planning to implement this through signing a convention with the government. We’ll also be focusing on public–private partnerships and supporting more social enterprises, in order to provide more social services to communities. We’ll continue working in the direction of DRR, too, although the resources and grants for continuing the program are limited.




LIONS Quest Program for Prevention of Violence & Bullying in Schools OP-ED BY NINO BESELIA, EDUCATION SPECIALIST


iolence and Bullying is a major high school issue in Georgia as well as worldwide. Violence is everywhere: in families and on the streets, in districts and establishments. Violence in the news comes as no surprise, as, on a daily basis, local and international TV channels report savage acts of violence. In this article, we would like to share a special program by Lions Quest, which includes social and emotional learning issues. The aim is to prevent violence in schools. A Red Cross Child Violence Neglect study, led by UNICEF, revealed that 60.8% of interviewed children have experienced some kind of verbal abuse, and 39.2% are victims of physical and verbal violence. (4385) A UNICEF survey in Georgia 2013 showed that child violence is widespread. The major circumstance for violence is family, with 45% of families think that being strict is an essential part of raising a child. Every second Georgian thinks that strict methods are more effective than non-violent. Experts, law enforcers, different GOs and society often question the reasons for violence and wonder how to prevent it and solve the issues surrounding the topic. According to psychologists, violence is a method of control and suppression which includes emotional, social, economic, physical, and sexual enforcement, alongside suppression and damage. It can be direct (e.g. physical), and indirect (threat, persecution, lie). Violence is considered an act or word which can insult, damage or mistreat the rights of a human. There are many forms of violence and it is spread across every level of society, specifically in families and schools. Violators can be parents, close relatives, teachers or peers. Adults sometimes do not realize their abusive actions towards their children or students. This why children who have experience of abuse become violators themselves. Raising a human is a delicate balancing act, and most parents concentrate more on the process than the results. They do not consider the expected risks. Childhood experience determines human development. Previous experience show that victims of violence become violators. What is the reason for child violence? It is hard to give a specific answer to that question. Child violence can be caused by personal, cultural or social factors. Children with an abusive experience have difficulties adapting to the environment and end up with physical and psychic problems. During adolescence these issues are even more vivid and, as result, society, parents and teachers get back the results of their actions. Children start drinking alcohol, get addicted to drugs and some become

part of criminal circles. In short, they express their protest by making the wrong choices. International studies clarify that fighting violence with violent ways is not efficient. The best way to prevent it is to educate and bring up children correctly. In an educational system, there are methods of teaching against bullying and violence with help of social – emotional learning. These are the principles the LIONS Quest (LQ) programs are based on. LIONS Quest is about the fundamental skills for life. The International LIONS Club Fund, a large charitable and humanitarian organization, implements prevention of an unhealthy lifestyle. LIONS stands for Liberty-Intelligence, for Our Nation’s Security, while ‘Quest’ is short for question. LQ programs have branches in over 50 countries. The program has three categories: preschool for kids, secondary for high school, and university students. The key focus is on social and emotional development of youth; fundamental skills such as responsibility, effective communication, setting aims, making the right choices, taking control in a situation of conflict, and prevention of alcohol and drug usage. A separate direction of the program is violence and bullying. The LQ program created manuals based on the specifics of age-group and the implementation of the program includes family and society participation. The program starts by preparing teachers. Around 420,000 teachers have been trained worldwide and the manuals were translated into more than 30 languages, including Georgian. The program starts functioning in Kutaisi, Georgia, in 2011, with the program ‘Skills for Adoles-

cence’. Since 2013, the program has also been running in Tbilisi. In 2014, LQ Georgia was founded to actively promote the implementation in other regions of Georgia such as Gori, Akhaltsikhe, Rustavi, Tskaltubo, Batumi and Zugdidi. The LIONS Quest Country Director in Georgia is Tamara Gegenava, and Regional trainers in Georgia are Nino Beselia and Tamta Gabisonia. Through the program, over 1,900 Georgian teachers and tutors were prepared. Many teachers adapted the LQ program for their

classes, also using the material for extracurricular activities. Most importantly, there has also been interest from parents, and their participation has become an essential part of the program. The program conforms with the standards of Ministry of Education of Georgia for preschool and high school curricula. The LQ program includes six major themes: positive learning environment, personal development, health and prevention, leadership and socialservice studies, evaluation and conclusion. Quest activities and lesson scenarios improve children and teenagers in 5 directions: self-reflection, selfcontrol, social awareness, communications skills, responsibility of self-behavior and development connected knowledge, skills, attitude and values. The LQ programs create a positive school atmosphere, uniting students, school personnel, and families in order to educate children in 21st century skills. The program aims to help students to be self-confident, aware of their rights and to respect others’ rights, too. They also learn to be responsible for their actions in order to make the right choices and decisions, preventing them from becoming a victim of violence or being a violator. On 11, 12, 13 January 2018, Tbilisi Courtyard Marriott hotel hosted the European LIONS Quest annual conference, seeing participants from 22 countries as well as 50 education experts. The LIONS Quest program believes that empowering youth can make the world a better place.




FEBRUARY 9 - 12, 2018

Executive Chef David Tavernier Set on Taking the Georgian Restaurant Industry to the Next Level and to the standard that I expect, and the kitchen is kept clean and tidy. As long as they adhere to this basic etiquette of keeping things professional, calm, tidy, organized, and give their 110%, I’m an easy guy to work with.



he Tbilisi food scene has undergone many changes over the last decades. The traditional styles and approaches to cooking and dining, while still prevalent in many parts of the city, have made way for new, modern techniques from around the world. A host of restaurants now serve fusion cuisine, and the resistance to change of yore is slowly giving into a growing internal demand for something different. Yet, the biggest and most profound change is still to come: Qalaqi. A restaurant — no, a culinary institution; that promises to make waves in the Georgian wine and dining industry, GEORGIA TODAY sat down with its Executive Chef David Tavernier to get exclusive insight into Tbilisi’s impending food revolution.

WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF GEORGIAN CUISINE? I really like Georgian cuisine. I am not too into the stew scene, kharcho, etc., as I personally don’t see a lot of variety in them, though I’m a big fan of khuchmachi: not only does it taste great with a really nice balance of spice and juices, but it’s a dish that is really complicated to cook, intestines, heart, and other organs, perfectly. It’s a very complex dish that, as a chef, allows you to judge the quality of a restaurant instantly.


TELL US HOW YOU GOT INTO THE RESTAURANT BUSINESS IN GEORGIA? Being French, I started my culinary journey in France, undergoing a classical, French evolution of chefs. I went to cooking school for two years during which I was an apprentice at a restaurant, and upon graduating and receiving my diploma I started to work full-time at restaurants. Working at a Michelin star restaurant was always a dream of mine, so I began in my region of France, Burgundy, where I worked at all of the local Michelin star restaurants, over many years, under different chefs, different styles of cooking, being exposed to a plurality of techniques and traditions. At 23, I went to Luxembourg and England, before coming to Paris for a year and half to work under a two Michelin star chef, Michel Rostang, who gave me the opportunity to work at his restaurant in the Caribbean as an Executive Sous Chef. Then I went to Dubai for a short while before ending up in Lebanon for a almost two years, where I learnt a huge amount about restaurant management and organization from the chef I worked with. In addition to operating the restaurant, from March to October, every single weekend we had weddings to cater too, each with unique menus and dishes: one of them was the second biggest in Lebanese history with 1,700 guests! As for Georgia, Qalaqi is a consulting by Nicolas Isnard, a French Michelin star chef. When he got his contract in Tbilisi, he began to look for an Executive Chef to run the place. My job is to create the menu, organize, train the staff and run the restaurant. I was given complete freedom to create the menu, with Nicolas approving/rejecting proposals, or offering suggestions on what to add to a certain dish.

WHAT KIND OF CUISINE WILL BE SERVED AT QALAQI? First, traditional Georgian food prepared by my chefs. Some dishes I don’t touch at all because they are really good, and some I put a little twist on in texture or taste, or in the design and plating, for example. And second, European, which I’m in charge of. These two will occupy the first two floors in a high-quality brasserie format. Then, there’s the fine dining. The third floor will be a one Michelin star standard fine dining French restaurant, “Bronze by Nicolas Isnard”, all dishes signed off by him with 35 seats maximum. It will completely different from anything else in Georgia; the way of service, the style of cooking: everything will be revolutionary; a Michelin star quality ‘top of the top’ establishment. We will have two formulas: there will be a menu with five starters, six main courses (three fish, three meat), four desserts. Out of this, guests will be able to choose four or six courses. The former will come with one starter, two mains (one fish, one meat)

Qalaqi: Tbilisi’s impending food revolution

and one dessert; the latter with two starters, two mains (one fish, one meat) and two desserts.

WHERE WILL YOU BE SOURCING YOUR INGREDIENTS FROM? I try as much as possible to work with Georgian produce. My philosophy has always been to take advantage of the good stuff that my host country has to offer. While there may not be such a large selection in Georgia, there is some very good produce and agricultural know-how. I’d say that at least 80% of the menu is made from Georgian produce. Even the plates in the fine dining restaurant will be handmade by two Georgian ceramists. I try on every aspect of the job, the service, the food, the plates, the music, the training, everything, to help the country and its restaurant culture grow.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE GEORGIAN DINING AND RESTAURANT CULTURE? The Georgian food industry has reached a point in its history when it’s ready to step up. People are open to it; 20 years ago everyone clung to rustic traditions, but today they want change, they want all the new methods from around the

world to come to Georgia. That’s what I want to bring, not just through the food, but through the training of chefs in the kitchen. For every fine dining chef, foreigner or Georgian, in this country, we have two problems. First, the produce, of which is difficult to find good quality and diversity. Second, the staff. In Georgia there is an absence of a very high-level gastronomic cooking school, and the idea of fine dining is still in its infancy. The task now is to train the staff and change their attitude towards work. Currently, there is is this international mentality amongst young people that they will get everything instantly, make big money and be “free”. No, first you have to stop and learn everything, it’s only after that that you will have the necessary skills to earn your “freedom”. The problem with many young people is their mentality. I was shocked when I came to work here and saw people sitting in the kitchen using their phones. I don’t sit in the kitchen, and if I as the chef don’t sit then no one does. My mentality is ‘when you work , you work.” You’re not here to play with your phone, listen to music, sit and sleep in the kitchen, or spend three hours of your day outside smoking — no. I’m not a guy with a big ego; at the end of the day I am an employee

too who is paid his salary by the owner. He doesn’t pay me to sleep or smoke or play with my phone, so if he doesn’t do that for me, why should he do that for my staff? I put the same strictness and expectations on myself as I do for my staff: if I’m on my phone in the kitchen its because I’m placing some orders or in contact with my suppliers; they will never see me on Youtube or Facebook in the kitchen. In the kitchen your sole focus is the food: you need to be 100% focused to make great food, even the simplest tomato salad. I have two faces, if you will. I’m really old-fashioned when it comes to the hierarchy and organization of the kitchen, chef, sous chef, section chefs. I learnt my trade with the really old-style French chefs who would often start screaming from the moment they walked in through the door. If I have to scream, it means that someone has really pushed me too far. My philosophy is that if there is a mistake, screaming doesn’t change anything. You have to find the solution to it, teach whoever screwed up to not do it again, and then make sure that it doesn’t happen again to anyone else, either. I would say that I am really “cool” and open in the kitchen as long as the job is done properly. I give my staff a lot of liberty, as long as the job is done on time

Walnuts. This is the first country I’ve been to where walnuts are pervasive. In France, we use walnuts as a garnish, it’s not in our culture to use them, or any kind or nuts, in cooking. I discovered a whole new world of possibility after moving here. Traditional Georgian food is very similar to what we had in France 70 years ago. I’ve re-discovered this mentality of cooking that my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother used to teach me. In the European restaurant we’ll have two dishes based on family recipes: one from my mother, the other my grandmother. Initially, I wasn’t considering including them in the menu but after starting to understand Georgian, I said “I want the European menu to have some French dishes similar to Georgian ones.” So I called my mother and asked her to give me the recipe for her beef stew with red wine, doing the same with my grandmother and her veal stew with cream sauce.

WHAT ABOUT THE WINE? I’ve discovered some incredible wine here. I’m a real fan of the Qveri wine; I’d never seen that anywhere else in the world. It’s really nice to drink and cook with, or to make some cocktails with. It is completely different from what, as a foreigner, you think of when you think about wine. It’s a lot more complex, and that’s what I like: what I’m looking for in wine is the same as in food: different tastes, temperature, some bitterness, sweetness, herbs. My way of cooking is a balance of taste, texture, color. You have that in Georgian wine too, which is really interesting.



‘Welcome to Georgia- The Musical’ Premieres for Valentine’s



he Welcome to Georgia Musical is to premiere at the Vaso Abashidze Music and Drama Theater in Tbilisi next week. The show, especially created for foreign visitors traveling to Georgia, reveals to them in a lively, heart-warming and informative way, the country in which they are staying. The musical is a theatrical romantic comedy that tells of a Georgian boy who takes his French girlfriend to visit his friends and family in the Kakheti region of Georgia. During the 90-minute show, there are more than 10 musical, dancing and singing performances by 18 different actors. Most of the dialogue is in the English language, and any Georgian scenes have English subtitles provided. The Welcome to Georgia Musical project is set to become a main feature of the must-see cultural program for foreign visitors, introducing Georgian national

dance performed in national costumes, Georgian polyphonic songs, and popular Georgian folk songs combined with lively, humorous dialogue. The audience will be introduced to interesting facts about Georgian history, its culture, traditions, everyday life, wine and Georgian supras; welcomed just as if they were a part of the feast. GEORGIA TODAY spoke to lead actor Lasha Ramishvili, who plays the booming, full-of-personality Toastmaster, Dimitri. “I’m happy that we have an opportunity to present our country to guests through this amazing and truly top-quality project! It’s a joy to play this part and it makes me even more proud to be Georgian! To all guests, I say: Welcome to my country!” Director and Choreographer Archil Sologashvili, for whom this is a debut as director, told us that he was “addicted” to the show from first conception. “I didn’t have to do much to make the story Natia [Amiridze, Creator and Producer] wrote come to life- it flew from the pages! The story captures everything: culture, traditions, nuances of language…and it

offers visitors the chance to get a true taste of Georgia by means of a theatrical performance.” There are to be three closed premieres in February, and from March to June 2018, the show will run from one to two times a week, with the next season to open in September 2018. The tickets for the Welcome to Georgia Musical are on sale now at tkt.ge, with prices ranging from GEL 60 to 80. Don't miss out! The Creators and Producers of the project are Natia Amiridze and Mikheil Maisuradze. Director and Choreographer: Archil Sologashvili, Composer: Rusudan Morchiladze, Author of Song Lyrics: Irina Sanikidze, Costume Designer: Anano Mosidze, Scenography by Giorgi Ustiashvili, and Screenplay by Irakli Kakabadze, Rati Tserodze, Natia Amiridze, and Guranda Iashvili. Premiere: February 12, 13, 14 Next performance dates: MARCH - 13, 20, 27 APRIL - 3, 11, 17, 26





FEBRUARY 9 - 12, 2018


TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER Address: 25 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 04 56 February 10, 11 EVENING OF MODERN CHOREOGRAPHY The program includes one-act ballets: SERENADE, SECHS TÄNZE, PETITE CÉRÉMONIE BY GEORGE BALANCHINE, JIRÍ KYLIÁN AND MEDHI WALERSKI Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-50 GEL February 15 TRAVIATA Starring: Nino Chachua, Otar Jorjikia, Sulkhan Gvelesiani, Nutsa Zakaidze, Mishelina Kobaliani, Tamaz Saginadze, Irakli Mujiri, Giorgi Chelidze, Levan Makaridze, Paata Sukhitashvili, Temur Akhobadze Tbilisi State Opera and Ballet Theater Choir, orchestra and ballet dancers Conductor: Kakhi Solomnishvili Music director of the production: Zaza Azmaiparashvili Director: Laurent Gerber (Switzerland/Italy) Choreographer: Nina Ananiashvili Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-70 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER Address: 13 Shavtelis St. Telephone: 2 98 65 93 February 9 THE AUTUMN OF MY SPRINGTIME Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL TBILISI VASO ABASHIDZE MUSIC AND DRAMA STATE THEATER Address: 182 D.Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 2 34 80 90 www.musictheatre.ge February 12, 13, 14 WELCOME TO GEORGIA – THE MUSICAL * Premiere A musical, theatrical play and romantic comedy telling a story about Georgia and its people by combining song, dance, culture, traditions, history, national

costumes and local cuisine. Musical Language: English, some Georgian (with English subtitles) Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 60-80 GEL SHALIKASHVILI THEATER Address: 37 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 595 50 02 03 February 9, 10 LULLABY Directed by Amiran Shalikashvili Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava Str. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 GEL February 9-15 FIFTY SHADES FREED Directed by James Foley Cast: Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson, Arielle Kebbel, Luke Grimes Genre: Drama, Romance, Thriller Language: English Start time: 22:55 Language: Russian Start time: 17:10, 19:45 Ticket: 11-14 GEL WONDER WHEEL Directed by Woody Allen Cast: Jim Belushi, Juno Temple, Justin Timberlake, Kate Winslet Genre: Drama Language: Russian Start time: 14:45, 22:00 Ticket: 9-14 GEL THE DEATH OF STALIN Directed by Armando Iannucci Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Jason Isaacs, Olga Kurylenko Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama Language: Russian Start time: 14:45 Ticket: 12 GEL THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING MISSOURI Directed by Martin McDonagh Cast: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell Genre: Crime, Drama Language: Russian Start time: 12:15, 17:15 Ticket: 12-17 GEL RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 www.kinoafisha.ge

Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL February 9-15 FIFTY SHADES FREED (Info Above) Language: Russian Start time: 13:50, 17:30, 20:00, 22:30 Ticket: 9-14 GEL CAVEA GALLERY Address: 2/4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 200 70 07 February 9-15 WONDER WHEEL (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 14:15 Language: Russian Start time: 16:45, 19:15, 21:45 Ticket: 11-19 GEL FIFTY SHADES FREED (Info Above) Language: English Start time: 14:30, 20:00 Language: Russian Start time: 17:00, 19:30, 22:00 Ticket:11-10 GEL THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING MISSOURI (Info Above) Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket: 16-19 GEL MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE Directed by Wes Ball Cast: Rosa Salazar, Thomas BrodieSangster, Dylan O'Brien Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 12:00, 22:30 Ticket: 10-19 GEL THE SHAPE OF WATER Directed by Guillermo del Toro Cast: Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon Genre: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy Language: Russian Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 16-19 GEL JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE Directed by Jake Kasdan Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy Language: Russian Start time: 14:45 Ticket: 11-15 GEL MUSEUM

GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge


DIMITRI SHEVARDNADZE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Shota Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 215 73 00 26 January – February 25 Georgian National Museum and Stedley Art Foundation present Solo exhibition CARDBOARD. WOOD. STONE BY CONTEMPORARY UKRAINIAN ARTIST ALEXANDER ZHYVOTKOV February 2 – March 3 "Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel"- Georgian National Museum and the Embassy of Italy to Georgia present THE EXHIBITION OF PREPARATORY DRAWINGS BY MICHELANGELO BUONARROTI. ERTI GALLERY Address: 19 P. Ingorokva Str. February 8 – March 1 SUPER HUMANS. UTA BEKAIA’S SOLO SHOW Curator: Levan Mindiashvili DÉDICACE GALLERY Address: 27 Atoneli Str. Telephone: 599 42 54 14


TBILISI STATE CONSERVATOIRE Address: 8 Griboedov St. Telephone: 2 93 46 24 February 10 TRISTAN SIKHARULIDZE 80 Grand Master of Gurulian Singing Featuring: Shvidkatsa (Ozurgeti), Rustavi, Erisioni, Basiani, The Sikharulidzes, Shilda Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 5-20 GEL Book presentation "Guri and Tristan Sikharulidze" (second edition) to be held at the foyer DJANSUG KAKHIDZE TBILISI CENTER FOR MUSIC AND CULTURE Address: 125 Aghmashenebeli ave. Telephone: 2 96 12 43 February 10 TBILISI SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA Works by Ludwig van Beethoven, Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss. Conductor Maestro George Jordania performing an overture by Wagner and Suite by Strauss Soloist David Aladashvili to perform Beethoven’s concerto for piano and orchestra N3 Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 10-30 GEL MZIURI Address: Mziuri Cafe February 11 SAKVIRAO Entertainment program for children Start time: 12:00 RUSTAVELI THEATER Address: 17 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 72 68 68 www.rustavelitheatre.ge February 14 Mikeladze Center and Nikoloz Rachveli Present the CONCERT OF THE GEORGIAN PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA Soloist- Valerian Shiukashvili. Program: Pyotr Tchaikovsky- Piano Concerto N1 Concert dedicated to the 40th Anniversary of the enthronement of the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, Ilia II Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15-45 GEL HARD ROCK CAFÉ Address: 1 Petriashvili Str. Telephone: 240 14 01 February 14 STEPHANE@HARD ROCK CAFE Start time: 21:00 Ticket: 50 GEL TBILISI EVENT HALL Address: 1 Melikishvili St. Telephone: 2 99 00 99 February 14 OTILIA Start time: 21:30 Ticket: 55 GEL REPUBLIC Address: Rose Revolution Sq. Telephone: 240 22 00 February 14 This Valentine’s Day, Republic hosts ZURICH BASED DJ AND PRODUCER JIMI JULES TOGETHER WITH A SHOW OF BEAUTY & THE BEAST Lineup: JIMI JULES KIPO Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 60 GEL OTIUM Address: Near Turtle Lake Telephone: 577 500 231 February 11 COREY HARRIS- BLUES FESTIVAL 2018 Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 70-120 GEL




Medhi Walerski on Staging Petite Cérémonie in Georgia INTERVIEW BY ILIA TAVBERIDZE, STATE BALLET OF GEORGIA


he inclusion of many interesting ballets in the local Theater’s repertoire, hard work and research of young choreographers have resulted in a notable rise of interest in contemporary choreography in Georgia. The South Caucasus Contemporary Dance Festival was created in Tbilisi a few years ago. Medhi Walerski is a French choreographer and former leading dancer of Jirí Kylián’s troupe. He has been working as a stage choreographer for the last ten years and has already gained much respect from ballet companies. ‘Petite Cérémonie’ was first staged in 2011 in Vancouver for the British Columbia ballet company (Ballet BC). Nina Ananiashvili, artistic director of the State Ballet of Georgia, got interested in the successful performance, and invited the choreographer to Tbilisi in January 2017. The premiere took place at the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theater on February 4, 2017. We spoke to Medhi Walerski before the premiere.

YOU DESCRIBED PETITE CÉRÉMONIE AS “A QUIRKY ESSAY ON THE WAY WE BOX OURSELVES IN”. WHAT IS THE MAIN MESSAGE OF YOUR BALLET? Petite Cérémonie was a debut for me as a choreographer. When I started working on it, I didn’t have a clear message that I wanted to share with the audience, what I wanted more was to ask questions. The ballet is a study of the idea of the difference between man and woman, as well as of the idea of confinement, which is why we worked on the idea of what life in a box was like. My interest is to show the contrast between chaos and order. As a choreographer, I’m also interested in feeling that I am free to interpret the piece I am watching in whatever way I want. It is like watching a painting: someone standing next to me might see something completely different than I do. We can have different ideas about what it means, so I don’t want everyone to see the same thing in my works, I just want people to feel free to see what they think that is. Therefore, there’s no clear message, and the feelings of the audience after the show should be very personal.

CONTEMPORARY DANCE CHOREOGRAPHERS OFTEN GET INSPIRED BY MUSIC, FEELINGS, DREAMS, OR EVEN THEIR PRIVATE LIVES. WHAT WAS YOURS FOR THIS PARTICULAR BALLET? We started by watching a speech from Mark Gungor; it was a speech about a scientific study looking into male and female psychology. As I’ve already told you, this subject is very interesting to me. When I work with large groups in the studio, the approaches of men and women are very different. I couldn’t say which one is better. There are simply moments when these differences clash, and moments when they match. This is precisely what sparked my interest, and what I used while working in the studio.


idea of ceremony as a process or ritual. For example, when we celebrate something, one of the main attributes is the music that is played. Somewhere else, there’s a totally different music, but both places are connected by the idea of celebrating something. For me, working on this piece also gave me great pleasure from its music – its music that I like very much. We could understand this music as a ceremony that is taking place throughout the night at different places, but only for 25 minutes.

DID YOU ENCOUNTER ANY DIFFICULTIES WHILE WORKING WITH THE TBILISI COMPANY? WAS THERE ANY NEED TO AMEND THE IDEAS EMPLOYED IN VANCOUVER? When Nina Ananiashvili invited me here and I read some information about the Georgian company on the internet. It mainly performs classical ballets, and I was nervous about how the dancers would adapt to my style. But actually, I didn’t encounter any difficulty. The challenge for me was to adapt the work for the company, and almost recreate some parts, especially the one in which a man is juggling while others are talking on the scene.


I think classical ballet deserves to be revised, almost given a second life, even though I think classical ballet should also be kept the way it is, because actually it’s fantastic to keep this heritage. Right now, I have a commission for Romeo and Juliet. I can’t tell you much about it, because the discussion is still at an unofficial level.

Working with Jiri Kylián taught me to be humble, patient, as well as the relationship between a dancer and a choreographer. I learned the process from both sides. The way he takes care of his dancers is truly unique. Of course, working on the creative side and staging ballets with Kylián was also very inspiring, but above all, it’s his human side that was particularly interesting and motivating.


Showing on February 10, 11. See page 14 for more info.

YOU HAVE A LOT OF EXPERIENCE WORKING WITH CHOREOGRAPHERS INCLUDING JIRI KYLIÁN, WILLIAM FORSYTHE, MATS EK, SOL LEÓN AND PAUL LIGHTFOOT, ETC. WOULD YOU SAY YOUR CHOREOGRAPHIC LANGUAGE IS CLOSE TO THEIRS? It would be impossible for me to say no. When you belong to a family, it’s in your genes. But I have my personal language as well, which is made up of my experience with these diverse choreographers. This is something which I was trying to get away from at some point in my career, but I decided to do the exact opposite, to embrace it, and to develop my own vision from what I’ve learned from these choreographers.

DO YOU ALWAYS HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU WILL BE STAGING WHEN YOU ENTER A STUDIO, OR IS THE PROCESS DICTATED BY MUSIC AND DANCERS’ BODIES? For ‘Garden’, the last creation I made for NDT (Nederlands Dans Theater), I knew exactly what I wanted, and had chosen the music in advance. Even though I was thinking about each movement of the choreography for a long time and often changed them, I had a clear idea in mind. Sometimes, I enter a studio armed with a strong sensation or dream, but this process doesn’t follow any rule. Sometimes, halfway through the working process, I change my mind because of the people I work with at the studio, or how it develops into something organic, something more alive. You have to be ready for change, and to let go of what you have already done. But it’s very dependent on the company I’m working with.

WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE NEAR FUTURE? WHERE HAVE YOU WORKED? In the near future, I’m planning to work on a choreography for NDT. I am preparing a new ballet there for August. Before that, I have decided to do yoga, so that I can relate more to the body. I am interested in learning yoga from a physical point of view. As for choreography, I also have future projects, including a big production to prepare for 2018, as well as some courses – I intend to study light, costume and set design in London, in order to enrich my choreography work. I will also take acting courses, because I am focusing on dialogues in my creations.



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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1021  

February 9 - 12, 2018

Issue #1021  

February 9 - 12, 2018