Monday, April 30, 2007

The Mother of Georgia

While I was conducting research for one of those other places I attempt to post to I stumbled upon the picture I used for last week's Wordless Wednesday.

At first I thought I had found yet one more thing that makes my state sometimes strange and unique, however, I had incorrectly assumed the statue’s title referred to “my” Georgia. As I kept looking at images it became clear the landscape I was looking at was not my homeland of red clay but was the landscape of the former Russian territory of Georgia.
The statue is located outside of Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, and can be seen for miles around. While the statue is named The Mother of Georgia she is also referred to as Kartilis Deda and is located on top of Sololaki Mountain.

Many archeologists have agreed the oldest traces of wine making come from this region dating back to 7000 to 5000 B.C. Perhaps this is why the statue is holding a bowl or cup which symbolizes hospitality as she offers guests a drink of wine. The menacing sword is a warning to Georgia’s enemies. Since the times before and after the Silk Road this territory has had a turbulent journey to independent nation status.

There are a couple of good views of the statue here….one view is looking staight up from the base of the statue (make sure you scroll down and click the “next” button to advance to the next picture). Another link seen here has a picture of the statue in relation to its surroundings and a few other Georgia scenes.

You just never known what you will discover when you embark on a “clicking” journey.


The Tour Marm said...

Soviet Art was never very good, but this is still an interesting post.

EHT said...

Thanks dear friend. I'm glad I kept you guessing. I apologize that I haven't been by to send guesses your way. Things are still quite stressful at school. :)

Aaron Linderman said...

Glad to hear the word about Georgia is spreading; it really is an under-appreciated jewel.

Sarah Cobham said...

Words, power and how language defines us.

“The tongue is mightier than the blade” *

“The pen is mightier than the sword”

This idea has appeared time, and time again through -out different cultures, times and religions and has settled here in the West as a euphemism for polite negotiation. Hopefully this is in preference to passive/aggressive power struggles.

Not so, it would appear, in Georgia.

The menacing sword held in the right hand of Kartilis Deda, a huge statue which stands at the top of Sololaki Mountain and can be seen from most of Tbilisi is impressive. The translation into English gives the statue another name. Known as The Mother of Georgia the statue represents a philosophy which gives the Georgian people both power and keeps them powerless. In her left hand this giant Deda holds a bowl for wine which is synonymous of the great traditions of wine-making and hospitality that Georgia is notably famous for. The sword, clutched in her right hand is meant to be a warning to any potential invaders. Georgia will defend her lands, territories and rights.

Here is double-think at work again; the power of the ideas presented in this statue, loyalty to kin, honour and hospitality keep the culture alive which actually, only succeeds within strict and rigid cultural and orthodox guidelines. However, without an ability to relax or remove the metaphorical sword many aspects of that culture become powerless, the way women are perceived, for example or the way the certain phrases define such perceptions of who the Georgian people are.

There is a phrase I have heard 1000’s of times in Georgia and it transcends the different regions, tribes and traditions.

“ I am waiting for you”

Ok, that’s great but what does it mean? It seems full of power yet feels powerless at the same time. It seems out of context, out of time. It gives and it takes in the same instant and assumes an intimate connection with you, as a potential guest, but also makes you, the guest, responsible for that connection and any action needed to arrive whilst being waited for. Your action will ensure the statements success or failure. That phrase, followed by a shrug of the shoulders and another utterance, “What can I do?” seals the double-thinking process which continues, to this day, to put my head in a spin.

The potential guest is never quite invited, but is always welcome, the potential guest is placed in a passive/aggressive position and like Kartilis Deda, is kept trapped in a never ending cycle of hand holding the cup of wine and offering friendship but from behind a sword which threatens to kill should they come too close. If the guest fails, or offends as they inevitably will, the shoulder shrug confirms the low expectation of the guest in the first instance whilst absolving all responsibility for any involvement in the first place and the side-stepping phrases which started the cycle start again. At this point neither the pen, nor the sword can offer any answer, or comfort.

I first saw Mother Georgia as part of a night-time drive/walk through Tbilisi. The air was electric with both sexual tension and confusion. The night had started with the phrase, ‘I am waiting for you’ and had ended with a shrug, palms up, and a, ‘What can I do?’ as I had tried to explore the contradictory ideas presented in the Deda with the Georgian man who was later to become my lover but who then (and now) had absolutely no idea what I was talking about.

Recently large statues of Stalin have been returned to their original plinths in Tbilisi and through-out Georgia, the process funded by the new government. As Kartilis Deda looms over Tbilisi, defining and confining I wonder, if statues are symbolic of a Georgian identity, then what does it all really mean? Head spin time again.

Georgia prides itself on great art, literature and culture so I hope that eventually Georgia is able to begin to see that there are alternatives to the passive/aggressive- powerless/power conundrum that is self-perpetuated by what Deda symbolises.

Some phrases are best forgotten.