Ravishing Colchian Oda Houses on the verge of disappearing and astonishing stories of their rare residents
05 March, 2019
Ravishing Colchian Oda Houses on the verge of disappearing and astonishing stories of their rare residents
“Georgia is rich in cultural heritage monuments, which have preserved the valuable history and need to be protected. “Georgia is rich in cultural heritage monuments, which have preserved the valuable history and need to be protected. Hopefully, the issue of Colchian Oda Houses will be solved in near future and they will be granted the status of cultural heritage monument…” - says a photographer - Giorgi Nikolava, who walked 15 kilometers on foot to capture Oda Houses and to study the
history behind them...
- Not long ago you took photos of Oda Houses in three villages in Samegrelo… Earlier you photographed Veriko Anjaparidze’s beautiful Oda House...

- The Oda House was truly beautiful and they say it used to belong to Veriko Anjafaridze. The photo of the Oda House is unique as the Oda House was destroyed by a natural disaster and its beauty can only be remembered in that photo. It is worth mentioning that renowned Georgian artist Revaz Adamia transfers Oda Houses onto canvas and has already created 40 works. His project is ready to be submitted to UNESCO in the hope that Oda Houses will soon be on the list of monuments which need to be preserved… I was with Rezo Adamia, when he was working on drawings of Oda Houses and it was right there my desire of capturing the beauty of Oda Houses was triggered.
Abasha region claims the most Oda Houses, which have been preserved in Abasha region to date. I visited three villages in Abasha region – Sujuna, Old Abasha, and Ontopo… I walked 15 kilometers on foot… I was delighted to find Konstantine Gamsakhurdia’s Oda House well preserved; though, actually it is not the one he used to live in; it was built later and is not as old as other Oda Houses. It has been turned into a museum and is now a visitor attraction…
Oda House, which used to belong to Veriko Anjaparidze

- Are all of these Oda Houses abandoned?

- Majority of them are abandoned. When I was about to leave the place, I was informed that there was another Oda House at the far end of the village with a 91-year-old woman – Suliko Zhvania - living there alone. The Oda House is 200 years old and was built by Suliko Zhvania’s grandfather…
- The woman enchanted me when I visited her house... The feeble elderly hunched woman brought an accordion, put it next to her and told me: - “I just can’t live without it; I play it every day and sing. My husband passed away when I was young and I have no children, so I live alone”… She has trouble getting into the yard and stays inside all the time. While she was singing, she told me: “Please, be quiet for a minute and listen! Can you hear that?” I heard a bee buzz from afar. “Are these bees? But how?” – I asked her in surprise… “They are behind this wall” – she said and touched the wall. “My parents were still alive when bees came and settled here. Beekeepers kept coming and asking me to let them take the bees with them and that I could keep honey… But I refused. Bees appeared to love listening to songs and I sing for them”…
Suliko Zhvania worked as a dentist in Zugdidi for 25 years. Now she is the last and the oldest member of Zhvania family living in the surroundings... Zurab Zhvania appeared to have visited her once; she keeps the photos taken during Zurab Zhvania’s visit on her table… “Guests are welcome in my house, anytime; and despite the fact that I hardly have anything to live on, I can always find something to treat my guests with” – She said. Unfortunately, the lonely elderly woman no longer gets social benefits, thanks to a government decision made not long ago… When I was leaving, she told me: “Next time you happen to visit the place, you have to visit me”. I said goodbye hoping to see her again soon...

- Did you come across other Oda Houses with special residents?

- When I was taking a photo of one of the Oda Houses, an 82-year-old resident of the house told me that he had come back to live in that Oda House a year ago; that he had spent his whole life living in Tbilisi and he had just discovered that he had been missing the place a lot… He invited me to his house to have a conversation, saying that he had a lot to talk about, but I was late as I had to visit a neighboring village… It was early morning when I approached a pretty Oda House. I took several photos of that Oda House from afar. Suddenly I heard someone saying: “You may go inside, the door is open”. And when I turned back I saw an elderly woman standing behind me and looking at me. “They have already taken photos of this house; my grandchildren have shown them to me on the computer. “They say it was taken by a photographer from Senaki”. I was about to smile, but I did not want her to notice it…
- The owner of this Oda House passed away and the house is collapsing slowly. They are selling the house and the buyer will demolish and use it to build his barn. The Oda Houses need to be looked after because abandoned Oda Houses have started collapsing and they will have disappeared after 20-30 years. The status UNESCO will grant is crucial for the fate of these houses.
Roofs of many of these Oda Houses are covered with slate, which flaws their beauty and hue. Residents lived only in three of the Oda houses I visited, the rest of them were abandoned. Some of them were locked, so I could not enter. I saw ravishing twin Oda Houses which, as I was told, belongs to actress Ani Tkebuchava.
I am planning to visit Zemo Adjara and capture typical Adjarian houses. I visited Racha five years ago and photographed marvelous houses. I was told, that one of these houses had once been Stalin’s summer house. Indeed, it is an unusual house, which was on the edge of collapse at the time I visited it. I don’t know what has happened to that house. Georgia is rich in cultural heritage monuments, which have preserved the valuable history and need to be protected. Hopefully, the issue of Colchian Oda houses will be solved in near future and they will gain the status of cultural heritage.

Photo courtesy: Giorgi Nikolava

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