Discover Georgia
Horce race festival of Tusheti Region captured by Polish photographer
02 June, 2018
The Polish photographer Magdalena Konik is a frequent visitor of Georgia and is interested in exploring both traditions and sites of the country.
Recently the foreign photographer visited northeast highland of Georgia and captured a local festival with her camera. The photographer impressed by the landscape of the place , shared her impressions about Zezvaoba, annual festival held in Tusheti with Georgian Journal.
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Tusheti is located at an altitude of 1650-4493 m. above sea level

„Zezwaoba is a festival held annually on
the last Sunday of May in Tusheti villages, in Kakheti. The event is accompanied with fair spectacular horse racing in memory of Zezva Gaprindauli, who was Tushetian warrior and one of the leaders of the Bakhtrioni rebelion in 1659” - Magdalena told Georgian Journal.
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Spectators watching a man riding an unsaddled horse
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Those who are skillful can ride horses without saddle

According to the legend, after the rebellion the Kakhetian King agreed to give Tushetians a land to have larger areas for grazing their sheep and descent from the mountains for winter, but under one condition –the king agreed to give the land through which Zezva would pass on his horse without any stop from Tusheti. Zezva rode his horse until it fell down and died. This is the place where the villages of Kvemo (Lower) and Zemo (Upper) Alvani are located, and where shepherds from Tusheti lead their herds in autumn and go back to Tusheti in May.
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Preparations before the race starts
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Riders on the way from Kvemo Alvani to Zemo Alvani

The Polish photographer speaks about the festival in detailes.

„The horse race is part of the funeral tradition called Dalaoba. Mourners on horses, mostly merited riders and competitors, sing a funeral song in honor of the deceased in front of the Talavari (an old Georgian clothing, used uniquely only in mountain regions). Talavari is overlaid on a table. There are also the belongigns of the deceased. During Zezvaoba, Talavari is used as a symbolic dress. Dalaoba is accompanied with food, Aludi (local beer made for the holidays) or wine, wool, referring to shepherds traditions, barley or oats, with which they feed their horses while singing” – Magdalena emphasizes.
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Riders pay tribute to renown Zezva in front of Talavari

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Mourners light honey candels in front of Talavari

As Magdalena says, firstly, the list of competitors is created and only then Dalaoba begins. Riders take flag from Kvemo Alvani to Zemo Alvani and sing a song there. There riders raise another toast, mark horses that take part in the race, with white strip material and return to Kvemo Alvani.
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There riders mark horses with white strip material

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Riders feed their horses with barley
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Riders feed their horses with oats

There the riders once again sing songs and make official invitation to end the holiday with so called "Funeral Race".

The Polish photographer unvailed other details about about the race as well. The race track is about 5 km long. This year it ran along the Alazani River and ended near the bridge at the entrance to Kvemo Alvani.
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Excited passers by take photos of Tushetian riders

Dato Qaadze, one of the best Tushetian riders, who is only 13 years old, won the race. The victorious horse, Tabango, belongs to Soso Babulaidze.
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13 years old winner Dato Qaadze

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Fight for victory without saddles on dusty road

Tusheti is a historic province of Georgia located in north-eastern part of Georgia, Kakheti region, at an altitude of 1650-4493 m above sea level. Tusheti covers 896 sq. km. The place is notable for picturesque landscape, medieval fortresses and rich folk culture.
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Another young competitor participating in the race

Traditionally, the Tushs are sheep herders. Even today, Tushetian Guda cheese and high quality wool is famous both within the country and beyond its borders. These two products are exported to Europe, Russia and the US. Sheep and cattle breeding stays the leading branch of the economy of highland Tusheti.
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A man having fun riding a horse

The local shepherds spend the summer months in the highland areas of Tusheti but live in the lowland villages of Zemo (Upper) Alvani and Kvemo (Lower) Alvani in wintertime. Their customs and traditions are similar to those of other eastern Georgian mountaineers.
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A riders takes flag from Kvemo to Zemo Alvani

One of the most ecologically unspoiled regions in the Caucasus, Tusheti is a popular tourist destination and mountain-trekking area.
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Tushetian riders on the road, between vehicles

Photo courtesy: Magdalena Konik

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