Poet, artist Zurab Rtveliashvili dies at 54

Rtveliashvili gained asylum in Sweden in 2010 after being arrested for performances in Georgia. Photo Cato Lein/via icorn.org.

Agenda.ge, 20 Apr 2021 - 15:56, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian poet and artist Zurab Rtveliashvili, celebrated for his performances in Sweden where he had gained asylum in 2010, died in a Tbilisi clinic on Tuesday after a month-long illness at age 54.

PEN Georgia, a union of Georgian authors and poets, reported the death of the artist - admitted at the Aversi Clinic with blood clot last month - along with local media.

Struggling with the illness over the past month, Rtveliashvili succumbed to the complication a year after his return to Georgia. Over the last decade he had made a name for himself with his avant-garde poetry and performances recognised by Swedish critics.

Winner of the 2012 Voloshin International Creative Symposium, Rtveliashvili published poetry collections and saw his plays staged at Stockholm's Teater Giljotin.

The Georgian poet performing alongside percussionist Kaveh Mo. Photo via levurelitteraire.com.

In 2015 he was named Performing Poet of the Year at the Stockholm Museum of Ethnography after a show involving the Georgian with Iranian Sufi musician Kave Sharifi.

Reviews by Swedish magazine Popular Poetry throughout that year called his live performances "charismatic and powerful". His style of bringing poetry to the stage earned praise for "demonic intensity" (literary critic J. Engborg), while he was also called an "unforgettable performance artist" (A. Lingebrandt).

In 2018 he was one of the Georgian literary personalities showcased in the country's Guest of Honour programme for the Frankfurt Book Fair, and was hosted in events introducing the Georgian scene to readers in Leipzig.

Born in 1967 in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, Rtveliashvili later represented the "generation of post-Soviet artists that have radically changed the vector of Georgian literature" (Georgian National Book Centre).

His published works included Irection (1997), Apocriph (2001) and Anarchy (2006) in Georgia and Dictatorship of Poetry (2016) in Sweden. The latter also earned the Saba Literary Award for Best Poetry Collection in his home country after its release in 2018. The poet also featured in the 2009 documentary At the Top of My Voice.