Presentation of Ethnographic Films from Museum’s Archives
22 November, 2012

On November 20-21,  for the first time in Georgia, at the auditorium of Georgian National Museum, the public had a unique chance to attend the retrospective of Georgian ethnographic films, taken from old archives.  It was a touching moment for Georgian publics and most probably, quite an interesting material for tourists as well as for all researchers concerned and simply for the ethnography lovers. The reason for screening them is quite honorable – with the help of UNESCO, those films

have been digitalized.   

The Georgian National Museum keeps worthy ethnographic material of 1960-70s, depicting the lifestyle and religious festivities characteristic to different regions of Georgia. The material dates back even to the earlier period– cinema tapes starting from 1929 and continuing to 1940-50s. Six documentaries have been digitalized so far: “Khevsureti”, “Shrovetide in Georgia”, “Pshavi”, “Mtiulet-Gudamakari”, “Tusheti” and “Following the Railway of Caucasus Pass”.

Mirian Khutsishvili, who is one of the last Mohicans of the Museum and has been working on those films, a ‘live chronicler’, as he is called at the museum, noted: “This material proves that we are the people of ancient culture.”

Soso Zurashvili, organizer and Curator of ethnographic cinema resources commented for Georgian Journal: “We have valuable cine-photo archives, which comprise documentaries dating back to 1929. With the help of UNESCO, we have been able to digitalize some of them, which enabled us to present this treasure to the public, taking them from the depth of the National museum archives. Today is the presentation. Similar film-showing will become annual and it will be based not only on the archives of our museum but also on the stocks of the whole South Caucasus.”

It was interesting to watch the film “Khevsureti” which comprised the comparatively new materials from 1961-1990 as well as those of 1929, which was rather valuable for comparison. Atengenoba was the main religious festivity, which was celebrated in Khevsureti as well as in Pshavi. It is worth to mention that this is a Christian holiday, which dates back to the 3-4th centuries and is connected with the name of Atenegene, Greek clergyman who was tortured by the unfaithfulls. However, in the Georgian highlands, Atengenoba has almost no links with Christian festival and is turned into a typical pagan celebration. Even now, when there hardly lives anybody and Khevsureti is practically deserted, people go back to their lands to celebrate this day and sacrifice slices of Georgian pastry Khada and loafs of Georgian bread as well as cattle. The film also tells us about quite a weird tradition from today’s perspective, which is called “devoting the horse to the  deceased person’s soul”. It was a ritual to hang all the objects and clothes of the dead person to a horse and bless it. The tape also showcases Gudani village, where their main sanctity – Gudani Cross is located. Here too, gathering of the elders of the communities were taking place where the most important issues were discussed and resolved. It was a tradition too to give away (mibareba) an ill child to cross to be cured. If they were not ill, then, children were left close to the cross for some time in order to obtain its protection.  At “Sapikhvno” -  people’s council in old Georgia - young people would listen to the tales of heroic deeds of their ancestors in order to honorably continue their lifestyle and preserve their qualities. The film also shows the Khevsurian fencing, which is an extinct martial art now. Then very interesting Mutso village is shown, which is now more like a tourist destination than a village and represents a bright example of ancient high skills and knowledge of building  the fortresses that stand on the edge of abysses.

The second film was no less interesting: “Shrovetide in Georgia”. It is worth to mention that Georgian highlands have preserved an unbelievable mix of Christian and Pagan traditions -  next to that Christian event, they celebrate “Berikaoba”, which is a Georgian analogue of Roman-Greek Spring festival and symbolizes the cult of fertility. Berikebi were the young men, wearing awesome masks and horns, who would go to any house of their choise. The hosts were prepared to host them generously. It was a bad sign if Berikebi did not like their treat. They would show their discontent by lying on the soil of the host’s yard. It was believed that something wrong would come upon the host’s cattle that year. The same was “Keenoba”, but it had the historic background and symbolized Georgia’s fight against its historic enemies. At the end of that occasion, the main protagonists would come to the people and ask for contribution, as it was done by the historic enemies. It is also interesting how the houses and lifestyle differed. When you get down to the flatlands, for instance, Kakheti, you’ll observe that the architecture of houses look more civilized.

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