You may have heard / read about Zof from The Picktures before – she is a good friend of mine who currently lives in Yerevan, Armenia where I visited her earlier this year. She also shares my passion for street art and I’m more than happy to show you her finds in one of my favourite cities – Tbilisi!
I love street art. I’m addicted to capturing it in all the new cities I happen to explore. My blog is full of posts portraying vibrant artsy side of different places: Prague, Riga, Bucharest, Paris, Berlin, Bratislava, you name it. All that said, I never posted anything on street art in Yerevan, the city I live in. While wandering the streets of downtown I miss graffiti, I miss the touch of anonymous artists that must be hiding somewhere around.
Tbilisi street art
Grass is always greener of the other side (of the border), they say. When I’m longing for street art too badly I can always hop on the bus to Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. I mean the country, not the state. As soon as you walk down the city center, you see it. It is waiting for you there. It’s been a while since I had an idea of this post. More and more travelers make their way to Georgia; they write about her treasures and hidden gems, her mountains, monasteries and her sea shore. I haven’t seen any posts about street art scene in the capital. OK, I haven’t seen any single post on street art scene in Tbilisi. Bloggers mention it in their articles covering the city, that’s for sure. I feel like it deserves a little more though.
The art defines the place and the place defines the art. Tbilisi isn’t different. Art of her streets is raw, full of politics and voicing social challenges contemporary Georgian society is facing. Soviet past still occupies minds or at least this is what the pink face of Stalin staring you down from the facades of buildings on the very posh Rustaveli Avenue.
Street art is more than a way to embrace the past though. It’s also a weapon in crafty hands of activists. I remember how surprised I was when I saw graffiti promoting vegetarianism and veganism in the street of Old Tbilisi. Most of Georgians love meat and consider its juicy pieces to be a part of cultural heritage. If you are a vegetarian, you are weird. Well, not for everyone. Not for the graffitists. And this feels refreshing. What makes it even better is that some of these educators are really gifted. It’s not only a shout out. In most of the cases, it’s just art. It might be more or less socially engaged but what matters more is that in many cases it also has a conceptual and esthetical value.
Awakening the society, embracing history, raising awareness about social problems and promoting ideas. Is it everything street artists are trying to do? No. They create art and this is most important. When you walk down Rustaveli Avenue, you might think all the pieces of street art you would find in the Tbilisi space is strongly politicized but this would be an overstatement. It’s enough to take a stroll from Freedom Square to Gorgasali Square to see it. Fifteen minutes is all it takes.
Politics is left aside here and pop art is a queen. Everything might be an inspiration from Charlie Chaplin to Soviet cartoons. I even found my all time favorite Cheburashka there. This is where the imagination speaks up. Even in the Caucasus imagination has nothing to do with politics and it reaches beyond borders.
Of course, Tbilisi is not a world capital of street art. It’s nothing comparable to Berlin, Paris or other European capitals with their vibrant Bohemian neighborhoods attracting tourists from all over the world. But the importance of this form of expression is increasing and we should keep our fingers crossed for its growth. Because creativity matters.
PS I wish I knew who was the person that wrote “miłość”, the Polish word for “love” on the walls in several places in the Old Tbilisi. Well, love matters too. This is sure and certain.
Zofia Bałdyga aka Zof is a Polish NGO worker interested in international migration issues, translator from Czech and Slovak, an occasional poet and photoblogger. A visual addict. Her blog, The Picktures presents photo essays from her travels. Currently based in Armenia, she feels at home everywhere but her favorite places in the world are Prague and Yerevan. You can follow Zof on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon or Pinterest
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If you think of visiting Georgia or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it:
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