Story of Georgian oda houses in Samegrelo told through photos
23 April, 2018
Story of Georgian oda houses in Samegrelo told through photos
Samegrelo, one of the richest and most beautiful regions of Georgia, is distinguished by many unique features which attract foreign and local tourists as well. Its ancient history is what makes the region even more attractive. Due to its location, the area is characterized by abundant greenery and exotic nature: Samegrelo is Located between several rivers, such as Tshenisttskali, Rioni Tekhura and also borders the Black Sea.

Samegrelo boasts old sites, rich Megrelian language (people have their own language there),
delicious cuisine, sweet Megrelian songs and unique traditional architecture that has endured centuries.

Yet another distinctive cultural characteristic of Samegrelo is the traditional Mingrelian house. The local architecture developed slowly over the centuries and by the 20th century, Samegrelo claimed two distinctive types of houses: jargvali and oda.
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Colchian oda house in Samegrelo

The information about this traditional type of Georgian house is kept in the database of Smithsonian University.

“The oda is a common type of house, which is built from wood. The entire building rests on piles, which points to the origin of the design in areas where frequent flooding led to a demand for houses raised above ground level.
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Famous Georgian writer Konstantine Gamsakhurdia House Museum in Samegrelo

Another characteristic detail is the richly decorated wooden balconies at the back and front of the oda; ornamentation on balcony columns and arches typically depicts flowers and leaves. In the traditional oda there are four rooms, each with its own fireplace: a dining room, a reception room, and two medium-sized bedrooms. The oda could be considered a forerunner of the modern mobile home, as it is designed so that it can be easily disassembled and rebuilt in another place.
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Abandoned oda house in Samegrelo

Traditional Megrelian homes typically contain two additional small facilities: one for storing provisions and another with several kvevris (clay brick vessels for storing wine).”
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Unfortunately, nowadays only a few traditional Megrelian houses remain throughout the whole region

Unfortunately, nowadays only a few traditional Megrelian houses remain throughout the whole region. Brick has replaced wood as the primarily material for building new houses, because it is cheaper and more durable. Many traditional odas are closed and abandoned today and they are at the edge of destruction as nobody lives there and no one takes care of these beautiful, cozy wooden houses.
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Many traditional houses in Samegrelo are at the edge of destruction

However, new residential construction continues to incorporate distinctive characteristics of traditional houses, such as columns, balconies, and fireplaces.

It is worth mentioning that renowned Georgian artist Revaz Adamia has been trying to preserve the unique Colchian odas, the traditional houses in western Georgia through transferring them onto the canvas.
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Wooden oda house in beautiful greenery in Samegrelo

He has been depicting traditional odas for quite a long and tried to learn the stories of the families who in these houses. The artist believes that the nature of a human being is always reflected in the houses they live.
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Renowned Georgian artist that nature of a human being is always reflected in the houses they live

Georgian photographer Giorgi Nikolava, who has recently visited Samegrelo for capturing old oda houses that are on the verge of disappearing , tells the heartwarming story of 91 years old grandma, Suliko Zhvania, who lives alone in one of the traditional Megrelian odas. Her house is located at the end of the village and it is quite difficult to find it on your own, so the locals helped the photographer to reach her green oda surrounded by beautiful greenery.
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The house of 91 years old grandma who lives alone in Samegrelo

As Giorgi recalls, she looks week physically, according to her age, but there is unusual light and energy in her eyes. Georgian hospitality is well-known fact for many, and the same happened this time - seeing the guests made her very happy.
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Another abandoned oda house

Grandma invited the photographer into the house and brought accordion, as she wanted her guest to enjoy the beautiful melody. As she told Giorgi, the accordion is of the same age as her and she even cannot imagine her life without the favorite instrument.

When asked if it is difficult to live alone, grandma explained that she was widowed at an early age so she did not manage to give birth to children.
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Old oda house in Samegrelo

“I cannot go outside and walk in the yard because of my poor health conditions and it makes me very sad. Singing is the only thing which keeps me alive,” she said.

While talking with kind grandma, Giorgi heard some strange sound similar to bees’ buzzing. As the host explained to him, the bees have been living in her house, beyond the wall for a long time. Many beekeepers asked her to give them the bees and leave the honey for herself, but she refused, as the bees became like her companions and friends. As it turned out, she even plays on her accordion and sings to them, as the bees enjoy it:

“Do you know that the bees love when someone sings to them? Do you want to hear?,” with this words, grandma grabbed her accordion and carried on singing..

At the end of the visit, kind grandma pleased with the photographer’s visit and asked him to definitely visit her house again when being in Samegrelo.

Photo courtesy Giorgi Nikolava

Related stories:

Traditional Homes of Georgia: The Reason to Be Proud

Renowned artist trying to preserve Georgian architecture through his paintings

Georgian Oda House in former capital of western Georgia
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