This autumn, europalia dedicates an arts festival to Georgia! The starting point for this edition is the country’s fascinating culture and the art scene of its bustling capital, Tbilisi, alongside that of lesser-known cities and regions. Starting 4 October 2023, visitors can enjoy a rich programme of exhibitions, performances, concerts, film, dance and theatre productions and literature across Belgium.
Every two years, europalia compiles a diverse artistic programme focusing on a country or a theme. For four months, in Belgium and its neighbouring countries, europalia, in collaboration with a wide network of cultural partners, presents a biennial with a myriad of artistic and socio-cultural projects that bring together visual arts, performing arts, film, music, literature and debate to stimulate an exchange of ideas.
The tradition of polyphony or multi-voice singing – very different from Western polyphony – unites all Georgians and is the first major common thread throughout the programme. Renowned Georgian choirs will be heard in numerous projects and at various venues. In a broader sense, the festival shows Georgia beyond clichés and gives a voice to, among others, Georgian women and youngsters, and to lesser-known traditions, regions and artists. The programme is also inspired by supras – gatherings around richly filled tables, accompanied by chants and speeches from toastmasters– and challenges contemporary artists to creatively and critically explore this living tradition in interdisciplinary creations.
The second core theme running through the programme is ‘remembrance’. How do you, as a society and as an individual, deal with memories of the Soviet era or recent and ongoing conflicts? 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.
The festival’s opening exhibition, The Avant-Garde in Georgia (1900-1936) at Bozar in Brussels highlights, 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 brings together paintings, drawings, film, photography, poetry and costume and theatre designs from this artistic laboratory and gives 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), brings 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 include 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 features numerous new, interdisciplinary creations, in collaboration with dozens of artists and partners. Sign up for our newsletter to receive all the latest updates about the festival!
Avant-garde in Georgia (1900 – 1936)
BOZAR, Paleis voor Schone Kunsten, Brussels
5 October 2023 – 14 January 2024.