Europalia arts festival to showcase Georgian polyphony, remembrance, avant-garde

  • Georgian theatre art, and troupes like the Tbilisi-based Royal District Theatre, will be explored by those visiting the venues hosting the next Europalia edition. Photo: Bobo Mkhitar via Royal District Theatre, 3 Feb 2023 - 16:38, Tbilisi,Georgia

The Europalia arts festival, a biennial multidisciplinary event highlighting artistic and cultural facets of select countries in its editions, will this year showcase Georgia through the country's tradition of polyphonic singing, remembrance of its traumatic historical events and the legacy of its avant-garde art scene in the first decades of the 20th century.

Organisers of the festival, which is based in Belgium but also hosts events in other European countries, said it would aim to explore the country's "fascinating culture and the art scene of its bustling capital, Tbilisi, alongside that of lesser-known cities and regions".

A programme involving film screenings, stage art performances, concerts, exhibitions and literary presentations will host events across Belgium later this year, they revealed, introducing those attending the festival to such iconic facets of Georgian culture as polyphonic singing and the supra feast tradition, while also hosting exhibitions bringing exhibits from Georgian museums to Brussels.

In the former part of the programme, Georgian choirs will be invited to delight listeners in "numerous projects and at various venues" in Belgium. The section will also attempt to show the country "beyond clichés and [give] a voice to, among others, Georgian women and youngsters, and to lesser-known traditions, regions and artists".

In the part related to exploring remembrance, events at the festival will take a look at how Georgians approach loss and grief in addressing historical eras and events like the Soviet history and conflicts on the territory of the country in the recent decades.

We bring artists into dialogue to discuss these topics, including the practice of commemoration. Georgians take a very different approach to loss and grief, as seen in their commemorations of the dead in various forms and traditions

- Europalia organisers' summary for festival

The 2023 edition of the festival will open with an exhibition addressing the topic of Georgia's avant-garde art scene between 1900-1936 - a subject highlighted in festivals and cultural events across Europe over the recent years due to the fascination with the historical period that produced small but lively cultural practice and figures in the country in the decades.

The Europalia preview release noted the 1910s and 1920s had marked a "blossoming" artistic scene in the country - an era that encompassed three different political and social orders, from the Tsarist Empire to the three-year independent Georgian republic between 1918-1921 and the early Soviet period.

Among other subjects, the festival will highlight Georgia's contemporary artists, including Thea Djordjadze, whose installation was displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in Saint-Étienne last year. Photo: Simon Menges/via Europalia.

It said the artists driving the avant-garde scene in the years had "blended Georgian traditions with elements from the East and West in a unique art that fell into oblivion due to the repression and censorship of the Soviet regime".

Exhibits encompassing artwork, film, photographs, poetry and stage design will be brought to Brussels' Bozar Centre for Fine Arts to highlight the subject.

At another venue in the city, the Art & History Museum, another exhibition will give space to items from museums throughout Georgia, providing "fascinating insights into this complex region, and testifying to multiple cultural exchanges and migrations, starting from the Bronze Age".

The subjects illustrated by the items will include the long tradition of winemaking on the territory of the country, as well as the " forging of (precious) materials, which made the region attractive to diverse cultures" across the ages.

The festival is set to run between October 10, 2023-January 14, 2024, with organisers set to reveal more details in the run-up to the event.