europalia georgia
— about this edition
Kirill Zdanevich, Sketch for the play Malshtrem, 1924 © Georgian State Museum of Theatre Music Film and Choreography - Art Palace of Georgia - Museum of Cultural History, Tbilisi

In 2023, europalia dedicated an arts festival to Georgia! The starting point for this edition was the country’s fascinating culture and the art scene of its bustling capital, Tbilisi, alongside that of lesser-known cities and regions. Between 4 October 2023 and 14 January 2024, visitors could enjoy a rich programme of exhibitions, performances, concerts, film, dance and theatre productions and literature across Belgium.

The tradition of polyphony or multi-voice singing – very different from Western polyphony – was the first major common thread throughout the programme. Renowned Georgian choirs could be heard in numerous projects and at various venues. In a broader sense, the festival showed Georgia beyond clichés and gave a voice to, among others, Georgian women and youngsters, and to lesser-known traditions, regions and artists. The programme was also inspired by supras – gatherings around richly filled tables, accompanied by chants and speeches from toastmasters– and challenged contemporary artists to creatively and critically explore this living tradition in interdisciplinary creations.

The second core theme running through the programme was ‘remembrance’. How do you, as a society and as an individual, deal with memories of the Soviet era or recent and ongoing conflicts? We brought 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.

The festival’s opening exhibition, The Avant-Garde in Georgia (1900-1936) at Bozar (Brussels) highlighted, for the very first time, a largely forgotten chapter of avant-garde art in Europe. In the 1910s and 1920s, an artistic scene blossomed in Georgia, centered on taverns and cafes opened and decorated by artists from different backgrounds. These artists 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. The exhibition brought together paintings, drawings, film, photography, poetry and costume and theatre designs from this artistic laboratory and gave a voice to these artists, many of whom were persecuted during the Soviet era.

Georgia: A Story of Encounters, a cultural heritage exhibition at the Art & History Museum (Brussels), brought together unseen treasures from museums throughout Georgia, providing fascinating insights into this complex region, and testifying to multiple cultural exchanges and migrations, starting from the Neolithic era. These included Georgia’s wine culture – the oldest one in the world – and the forging of (precious) materials, which made the region attractive to diverse cultures.

Alongside existing work, the festival programme featured numerous new, interdisciplinary creations, in collaboration with dozens of artists and partners.

The programme was organised in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth of Georgia.

Discover what events are still running