“New and Old Tusheti” - Meet the woman who preserved and introduced Tushetian handicraft traditions to the world
25 April, 2015
“New and Old Tusheti” - Meet the woman who preserved and introduced Tushetian handicraft traditions to the world
On April 14, Lili Murtazashvili’s personal exhibition called “New and Old Tusheti,” dedicated to Giorgi Antsukhelidze, Georgia’s national hero who perished in Tskhinvali, was held at the Folklore State Centre of Georgia. The exhibition displayed both centuries-old and new Tushetian felted rugs and other traditional woman’s craft - beautiful colored socks, shepherds’ attire as well as household items of typical Tushetian family.

Lili Murtazashvili: “Currently my works are exhibited and sold along with the works of my children, grandchildren and
neighbors in London.”


Tusheti is a historic region in northeastern Georgia, located on the northern slopes of the greater Caucasus mountains, famous for its breathtaking nature, incredible high castles and, of course, unique culture. In particular, Tusheti stands out among the highland parts of Georgia with its ancient customs. The inhabitants of the highland use wool to create amazing clothes, shoes and rugs. Local women skillfully decorate them with geometric shapes and patterns, using only plant extracts to form harmonious color palettes.
The exhibition reflected the unique traditions, folklore and the soul of Tusheti, yet it is impossible to describe what this place really looks like. Every Georgian and every tourist has to go and see it with their own eyes and experience an amazing world they have not known before.
Lili Murtazashvili is a Tushetian woman and music teacher at Alvani local school in Kakheti, eastern Georgia. She was brought up in a shepherd’s family and learned traditional crafts before she learned to read and write. Her mother, grandmother and ancestors used to knit and embroider colorful clothesgeotv.ge and rugs with beautiful patterns for their entire lives. This family tradition was passed along from one generation to the next. Lili has managed to both collect unique Tushetian rugs (some of them over a century old) and preserve the tradition of handicraft itself. She continues the practice of felting and dyeing wool with natural plant extracts together with a few friends. A few years ago, their project, called “Preservation and Development of Tushetian Handicrafts” won a small grant that united Lili Murtazashvili and seven other women. They were teaching the art of felt-making to the Alvani schoolchildren and after the completion of the project, they continued their activity free of charge. Their main goal is to promote Tushetian needlework, wool and the unique breed of sheep it is harvested from.

“I collect all the plants that I need to dye the thread in the forest by myself.”

“I have kept and preserved all these unique pieces of art at my own home in Jvarboseli village, located in Gometsari Gorge, Tusheti. As a result, I ended up with a museum which, in turn, became a tourist attraction. The house itself was built in 1920s, which makes it part of our cultural heritage as well. Six years ago, for the first time, I received funding from the World Bank that helped me create 60 colorful threads. Also, my project called “Tushetian Handicraft” won a competition held by European Union and through funding I acquired, I am going to build a work studio where I will employ local people. In addition, I will be able to exhibit the entirety of items I have preserved there, along with new works. At present, I am teaching traditional handicraft to 15 schoolgirls, free of charge. Still, it is a very time- and energy-consuming work. I collect all the plants that I need to dye the thread in the forest by myself. Some plants are very difficult to get because they grow on very tall peaks and I sometimes have to ask others to bring them for me. I can extract dyes of about 5 or 6 colors from a single plant. I often use tomato stems, fig leaves, some mountain minerals as well as other different kinds of plants to create natural dyes.
I am lucky that my crafts have attracted so much interest. Currently my works are exhibited and sold along with the works of my children, grandchildren and neighbors in London.
Moreover, last year, through the assistance of Georgia’s Ministry of Culture, my works of art were put on display in Strasbourg, France. I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to introduce traditional Tushetian art to the world. We must preserve our unique heritage and pass it across the generations,” says Lili Murtazashvili.

Beautiful colored socks decorated with geometric shapes and patterns
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Household items of typical Tushetian family
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Author: Lika Chigladze
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