The Knight in Panther’s Skin Predicts future

THE KNIGHT IN PANTHER'S SKIN

PREDICTS FUTURE

Do you remember taking a random book from the shelf, thinking of the most tantalizing question and then opening a book on a random page and reading the very first line, that could shed some light on the outcome of the problems bothering you? So, here is a digital version of this fortune telling experience we all did when we were kids (well, let’s be honest, some members of the IERI team still do).  

Instead of a crystal ball or other bearer of the knowledge we have chosen the most mystical and famous Georgian piece — “The Knight in the Panther’s skin”, a medieval epic poem by Shota Rustaveli. Now, since our main motto is “Contemporary Heritage” we have used the re-issued comic book based on the poem and presented by Sulakauri Publishing with the drawings made by Davit Machavariani, contemporary Georgian artist. 

So, how does it actually work? Two simple steps. 

( 1 ) Close your eyes and think of your most passionate desire and then ask a question, that bothers you.
( 2 ) Open your eyes and press the “Tell Fortune” button below. The answer pops up automatically. Enjoy beautiful predictions. The amount of tries is endless. 

როგორ მუშაობს ეს ყველაფერი? ორი მარტივი ნაბიჯით.  

( 1 ) დახუჭე თვალები და დაფიქრდი შენს ყველაზე სანუკვარ სურვილზე და შემდეგ დასვი კითხვა, რომელიც გაწუხებს.
( 2 ) გაახილეთ თვალები და დააჭირეთ ღილაკს “Tell Fortune”. პასუხი კი ავტომატურად გამოჩნდება. ისიამოვნეთ ლამაზი პროგნოზებით. ცდების რაოდენობა უსასრულოა.

However, if you don’t really believe in astrology or symbolism, take this fortune telling experience as a possibility to have some good laugh or just look through amazing paintings created by Davit Machavariani. The comic book is available at IERIstore.com 

Highland dreams

HIGHLAND DREAMS

AN ADVENTURE IN TUSHETI

by Eleonora Tsiteladze

My name is Nora Tsiteladze, I’m  26 and for the past years, I’ve been dreaming of visiting the hills of the Caucasus. In my childhood my Granny would always tell me marvellous stories about the highlands of our beautiful Georgia. I would imagine mysterious clouds covering majestic mountains and wise shepherds narrating ancient legends. In Georgian mountains, she used to say, one can find anything she’s looking for. Seeing a miracle in little details, obtaining answers to complex questions, and maybe even, finding true love – was all made possible up in the hills. 

This summer my wish has finally been granted and I left for Tusheti – a highland region in north-eastern Georgia. Articles from Wikipedia are far from being informative enough when planning a trip to Tusheti since this region is full of surprises. In this article I will share the impressions from my journey and at the end, provide you with fashion tips for such adventures. Let’s go! 

As a passionate adventurer, I always end up with a collection of hilarious stories from my journeys. Obviously, a trip to Tusheti was not an exception and I have a bunch of stories to tell.

GETTING READY FOR THE TRIP

To begin with, the goal of this trip was collecting insider materials for IERI and creating a Fashion Map of Georgia. Unexpectedly for me, I was assigned to a group of @lifenstyletbilisi – a team of performance artists, art dealers, photographers and videographers. We were all united by a common goal – to get inspired and implement our ideas at an altitude of 2500m and above.

Like any self-respecting traveler, I had checked the weather prior to my trip and, based on this, packed all mountain essentials. My essentials included a couple of dresses, beautiful sandals and of course, a swimsuit.  I was pretty sure I’d wear my fashionable clothes up in the hills. Little did I know how things would actually turn out for me. I checked the weather of the nearest town. How short-sighted of me! Checking the weather “in the nearest town” in Tusheti is like going to Maldives and checking the weather in Paris. That was useless — the weather in my village had nothing to do with the weather in “the nearest town”.

 

THE ROAD 

So all dressed in white I entered the cramped bus and got ready for my 6 hours long trip. When the bus got to the Tusheti road, and I realized how dangerous the road was, my face turned as pale as my look.
At some point along the serpentine, I felt as if I were a blockbuster hero or a drone shooting for National Geographic. Turning on some mysterious music on the stereo, I suddenly burst out in tears – I just couldn’t stand this endless stream of fear and admiration. 

On my way up to the hills, I saw tons of strange but beautiful plants. I couldn’t stop myself from leaving a piece of IERI on those flowers.

I expected Mother Nature to express all the dissatisfaction caused by our intrusion, though this feeling was broken by the driver, who informed me that the plants could actually be eaten and that it was especially good for digestion.
I thought to myself, ” I survived the severe cold and jumping over a cliff. Now, why not celebrate my good fortune and pay tribute to my digestion?”. But I abstained.
I preferred eating traditional Shoti, which, according to tradition, is purchased in 300 pieces at once. So eventually, I reached my destination all covered up with bread.

FASHIONISTA IN TUSHETI

I was greeted with applause in Omalo – perhaps because I was the only girl in the whole village wearing such an outfit. Meanwhile, I was literally freezing. But Georgia will never leave anyone in trouble. I pimped up my look with traditional Tushetian socks.
I realized that sandals worn with colored, woolen socks are the coolest trend of the season. Knitting beautiful socks from natural sheep wool and dying them with natural color is the main hobby of local women.

I realized that sandals worn with colored, woolen socks are the coolest trend of the season. Knitting beautiful socks from natural sheep wool and dying them with natural color is the main hobby of local women. By the way, a Georgian artist @bagrationi_lia made a stunning and interesting performance from the wool of local sheep. The performance symbolized vanity and reminded the audience that nothing is eternal in the world.

Every day we visited different villages, where I was constantly searching for dizzying shooting angels and sometimes even risked my life for the sake of artsy photos. As a real fashion enthusiast and, obviously, unlike most tourists with boring backpacks, I went hiking with a beautiful handbag full of IERI jewelry.

Despite the fact that I looked and felt like an urban madman, I managed to reach all the peaks and overcome difficult obstacles, even when the equipped fellow travelers timidly turned back. It was either Chacha or love for fashion that I had to thank for keeping me alive in this journey.
Up in the mountains, I attended a mesmerizing performance by @utabekaia. Watching dancers in abstract handcrafted costumes on top of the hill was breathtaking!

By the way, the owners of my guesthouse “Nadiani” – Tushetians in the 13th generation – showed me a handmade carpet, crafted by the owner’s great-grandmother. Look at this beauty …

Levan, the owner, told me that many locals had not left this height for more than 20-30 years. But in general, the most dangerous road is usually closed in autumn, and the entire population is transported to Kakheti to spend the winter. However, the most devoted ones stay here in winter too. 
Honestly, I’d love staying in Tusheti once I get old. I’d be a crazy old woman, who weaves carpets all the time. Wearing white.

 

FEELING LIKE A LOCAL

On the 4th day of the trip, Tusheti felt like home. I started hugging trees and talking to birds – turns out my eighth chakra had opened, as I felt magical energy.  I mimicked goats, ran away from herding dogs, fought off an eagle with my bag, and even played a game “don’t kick the frog”. Once I took a turkey for a stone and after several unsuccessful attempts to sit on it, realized that the stone was actually someone else. I’m still ashamed of the poor turkey.

For some reason, I saw signs in everything and everywhere. Once, after the evening fun, running across the field, I accidentally crashed into a horse. Honestly speaking, I still can’t figure out who was shouting louder – me, or the horse. I took this comical incident as another symbolic sign. I should definitely be doing something great for having such amazing episodes. I’m grateful for these memories! 
And do you know what was another sign for my good fortune? – I was sunburnt so badly that even the middle parting in my hair got burnt. So here we go – there’s another tip from me. Always take a sunscreen, as well as a hat to the hills – “Oh, that’s what the [damn] hat is for … “, I thought.

At the end of the trip, we saw a beautiful gorge with a mountain river and myriads of stones. Touching the stones, my palms got hot and I suddenly realized that these stones were magical and capable of granting wishes. 
I took a few magical stones for IERI. Now you can touch the Tushetian stones in our store and make a wish. Placed under the water, Liya jewelry looked especially beautiful on top of these stones.

For the sake of more beautiful shots, I dragged the blocks back and forth and looked like a cockroach throughout the whole journey. Thankfully, my effort was much appreciated by the touristic group I was assigned to. The group members praised my dedication to the job and we soon became good friends. In the evenings, sitting by the fire, we played ‘truth and dare’, and shared our impressions of Tusheti to each other.

MY INSTRUCTION FOR THE POTENTIAL TRAVELERS

“If you get scared, look for white stones, they are a sign that everything will be fine”. Do not try to understand this phrase now – visit Tusheti and you’ll get what I’m talking about.
During this extraordinary journey, my attention was grasped to the similarities between Georgian national clothes and pieces at IERI Store. Furthermore, I realized that almost all products from IERI are synthesized with Georgian nature. Consequently, IERI Store definitely represents “fashion inspired by Georgia”.  
As a little compliment from me, I compiled some images for you. The images feature different looks for cold weather and uneven roads. So now, nothing will prevent you from enjoying amazing and magical Tusheti.

 

Translation by Sopo Kevkhishvili

Summer Essentials

Winter’s Mix and Match with a Rebel Edge

WINTER'S MIX AND MATCH WITH A REBEL EDGE

Photographer: Denis Tsoy
Model: —
Location: Wine Factory
Stylist: Masho Naskidashvili

IERI RECOMMENDS:

Into The Woods

INTO THE WOODS

Photographer: Georgy Kostava
Model: Lika Rigava, Anastasia Jovanovic
Location: Lisi Lake
Stylist: Masho Naskidashvili

IERI RECOMMENDS:

Exploring the Streets of Tbilisi

EXPLORING THE STREETS OF TBILISI

Photographer: Denis Tsoy
Model: Salome Jokhade, Salome Potskhverashvili
Location: Mtatsminda
Stylist: Masho Naskidashvili

IERI RECOMMENDS:

Reviving the past

REVIVING THE PAST

MUZARADI USES ANCIENT FABRICS

By Sopo Kevkhishvili

IERI Store is a space where the past is appreciated and the future is determined. Here, you will see vintage carpets from 1932 along with the latest collections by contemporary designers. The latest collaboration between Muzaradi brand and Art Palace Museum is a clear illustration of our concept.

Ketevan Kherkheulidze. Photo by George Kardava for Kommersant

Established by Ketevan Kherkheulidze Muzaradi is an accessories brand that creates headpieces inspired by ancient Georgian warrior helmets. Ketevan Kherkheulidze started her brand in 2017, and surprisingly, the hoods and headpiece made quite a splash on social media, which encouraged her to start a brand. Newly founded Muzaradi attracted a lot of media attention, both for its refined design and a meaningful idea behind it, which lies in reviving Georgian past – the brand’s name is translated as a helmet, and its logo exemplifies a coat of arms of the Kherkheulidze family.

Ketevan Kherkheulidze, willing to add more glimpse of Georgian history to her brand, started working on a new project and collaborated with Art Palace, which was inspired by TBC bank though.

Art Palace of Georgia. Photo by an unknown author for Google Arts and Culture

Art Palace Museum was built in 1882 by Prince Oldenburg as a family home for his beloved wife Agraphina Japaridze. Designed by an Italian architect Paul Stern, Art Palace originally represented a palace of most uncharacteristic architecture for Tbilisi. Currently though, Art Palace is a state museum of Georgian theater, music, cinema and choreography, which exhibits more than 300,000 objects.

For the project/collaboration, Ketevan Kherkheulidze visited Art Palace and explored “Textile from Georgia”, a book telling the stories and exploring the origins of Georgian textile fabrics and patterns. Under this collaboration, Muzaradi created headpieces with the patterns from ancient Georgian Fabrics, restored by the Art Palace team.

IERI team has recently had a chat with Ketevan Kherkheulidze. In the interview [below], the designer provides a detailed overview of Muzaradi’s latest collaboration with the Art Palace and introduces Moodboard readers to the brand’s exciting upcoming projects.

         How did you discover the book “Textile from Georgia” and why did you decide to participate in a project by TBC Bank and the Art Palace Museum?

         TBC Bank contacted me and suggested collaborating with the Art Palace Museum. Since I am mostly abroad and often feel nostalgic about my home country, Georgian culture-inspired projects are of  particular importance for me. I deeply value such projects and always have warm sentiments for them. Learning about TBC’s offer – creating headpieces, which  feature patterns of ancient Georgian fabrics – I felt thrilled and honored, and started working on the project with pleasure.

         The book “Textile from Georgia” features myriads of fabrics. How did you select fabrics and patterns for your collection? Was there a particular selection criterium that you followed?

         True, the book presents numerous beautiful fabrics. Honestly, I did not follow any specific criteria during the selection process; however, I paid particular attention to the aesthetics of each pattern. Although it was extremely difficult to choose ornaments, I still managed to select ten exquisite patterns for this limited edition.

I should also note that I was pleasantly surprised after discovering so many colorful garments, which were apparently, worn by our ancestors. I love playing with colors and such a rich color palette [of fabrics] gave me room for plenty of  experiments and creativity.  

         Have you ever co-worked with other brands/companies before? 

         Generally speaking, I find collaborative projects as an issue of delicacy. My potential working partner and I should have similar creative viewpoints and strongly agree on certain aspects. Finding a partner with such bonds is quite hard – that is exactly why I seldom collaborate. 

My first collaboration was with Ria Keburia Gallery and three other artists, Anya Mokhova, Elena Tarabakina, and Marousia Nizovtseva. We staged an interesting performance “Dom Moi Mili Dom (XI)” in Moscow.

My second collaboration was with Sopho Gongliashvili. This project was quite spontaneous – once I visited Sopho, and after having an informal conversation,  suggested her working on a mutual project. Sopho agreed and specially for this project, collected some sketches that have never been turned to jewelry pieces and ornaments from her previous works – each having an interesting story behind. Soon, we released Muzaradi headpieces featuring Sofio Gonli’s beautiful patterns. This limited edition can be purchased exclusively at IERI STORE. 

       Do you plan to work on other collaborative projects in the future? 

       Yes, the rest is yet to come. Currently, I am working as a costume designer for a project by Sarajishvili, Georgian Philharmonic Orchestra, Zagareli, and Muzaradi. This project aims at recording Georgian songs and later on, releasing vinyls.  Tato Kotetishvili shoots a teaser for this project, which, along with other interesting details, features Muzaradi new headpieces.

I also plan to start co-working with a French street artist Alexandre Bavard, who is well-known for his graffiti and worldwide performances/installations. 

 

       Besides the classic headpieces, Muzaradi also offers a wide selection of hats, T-shirts, raincoats, bags, and headbands. Do you aim at adding more pieces to the collections?

       Muzaradi’s classical headpiece can be seen as a foundation of the brand’s concept. Also, it is Muzaradi’s  main accessory, which, regardless of the season, is always in high demand. 

The rest of Muzaradi products, though, vary from season to season and are created in accordance with demand. Normally, I create pieces upon necessity for myself. In case if a particular piece gets popular, I add it to the Muzaradi collection. For instance, amid the pandemics, I tailored a face mask. As the mask invited much public interest, I decided to create more of such pieces. Soon, Muzaradi face masks will be available in IERI STORE. The top priority for Muzaradi is the quality and functionality of the products.

     Muzaradi has been on market for nearly four years already. What do you consider the brand’s biggest achievement? 

I am delighted that Georgian people know Muzaradi and love the brand. The demand on our headpieces is quite high in Georgia. For me personally, such a positive attitude from Georgians is Muzaradi’s  top achievement. I am proud of this success

IERI team has also reached George Kalandia, a professor of history, director of the Art Palace Museum and co-author of “Textile from Georgia”, who speaks about the book, discusses the significance of Georgian fabrics and presents Art Palace’s other interesting collaborations.

Giorgi Kalandia in the Art Palace. Photo credits to artpalace.ge

         What is the idea behind your project?

         The main aim of our project was the revival of the unique Georgian fabrics that our history stores from VIII, XV, XVI centuries. Those fabrics are extremely fragile and the only way to showcase them to the audience is to expose them. In order for those fabrics to become part of people’s lives, we had to come up with a solution: in the world today, which is full of museums, people are no longer satisfied with the window displays. They actually want to feel and touch the history! 

For that reason we had collected all valuable materials preserved in our museum, as well as the ones featuring on Georgian frescoes and soon, started experimenting with them. We had a team of painters, designers and painter-restorers, who worked on this project for over two years. Our team visited a number of churches and monasteries all over Georgia and made copies of the existing frescoes. These copies served as a foundation for an electronic version, which was later transferred onto the fabric. 

Most importantly, we did not transfer painting onto the fabric using any modern method. We wished to discover how our ancestors had been dressed, or dyed their fabrics back then. That is why we used their techniques, including hand-colouring, cold printing, and hand-painting. We had learnt all of these methods and later used them for our project. 

This is exactly why our fabrics are unique: they come in small quantities, and cannot be purchased in bulk – they require much physical effort [to be created]. Furthermore, these fabrics are especially valuable since they represent tangible historic art. After our project had come to life, a number of companies, including TBC and Muzaradi, decided to collaborate with us. We are currently working with these brands.

         The garments presented in the book “Georgian textile” and in the Muzaradi collection are very colorful. Does it have anything to do with Georgian history or some national particularities?

         Historically speaking, Georgians are a very diverse nation and often their costumes are colorful. This diversity is also well illustrated in Georgian royal clothes, each of which comes in only one piece. Back then, the garments were crafted by, let’s call them designers or tailors, who were often present at the royal household. The tailors usually worked on Kings’ outfits. For instance, in this picture you can see King Lasha-Giorgi (son of Queen Tamar), who is wearing Kabacha (a Bizantian dress for men). The ornaments featuring on the crown, clothes and sleeves are quite similar, which gives us a reason to assume that this particular dress had been crafted especially for the King. The design of the garments  is unique since it was never repeated.

Queen Tamar and Lasha-Giorgi

         I have heard a number of ridiculous myths regarding ghosts living in the museum. How do you react to such misbeliefs? 

         We do not do anything about these myths since they only benefit us. Such mystical stories grow public interest towards us, so more people visit our museum. We discussed this matter with our European colleagues, who advised us not to prove the nonexistence of ghosts scientifically. 

We aim to have as many visitors as possible. Sometimes, when people come to see ghosts here, they end up discovering the unique pieces that our museum possesses.

         What inspired you to start working on a project like this?

         As a historian, I always look for different approaches to history. Years ago, movie directors, while working on their films, made research about the costumes of their ancestors, and later, included the garments in their films. They searched for frescoes and historical facts in the literature, which featured such costumes. I found this method, as well as the research very exciting. So basically, this approach to history was my main inspiration for the book.

Costume collection exhibited in Art Palace. Photo credits to Google Arts & Culture

CONCLUSION:

The collaboration between Muzaradi and Art Palace, cherishing Georgian past and presenting an alternative approach to history, is displayed in IERI Store. In order to get a better idea of this collaboration, view our gallery below. Meanwhile, you can visit Art Palace virtually and explore the astonishing collection online.

This pattern was found in the fresco of Beka Jakeli (in the middle) in Sapara, St. Saba monastery. The fresco is dated to the XIV century.

The quote from “Textile from Georgia” book: 

The colour, manner of adornment and decoration make the shirt, worn by Beka Jakeli, special. It is difficult to guess what kind of figures are depicted on the costume’s fabric; however, they are presumably either cherubs or flock of pigeons. The v-neck embroidered piece is thought to have been made of golden thread and pearls. The shirt is longer than the dress – this style of a dress was an old Georgian tradition. Italian missionary Arcangelo Lamberti spoke of this style, indicating that the Georgians had outstanding taste and that their style of dresses was always sophisticated.

This pattern can be seen on the garment, worn by George Chorchaneli, on the fresco in Zarzma Monastery. The fresco is dated to the XVI century.

This pattern can be seen on the garment, worn by George Chorchaneli, on the fresco in Zarzma Monastery. The fresco is dated to the XVI century.

This pattern can be seen in the fresco of Psalm in Samegrelo. The fresco, dated to the XV century, depicts a lady (on the right), who wears a garment featuring these ornaments.

This pattern can be seen in the fresco of Psalm in Samegrelo. The fresco, dated to the XV century, depicts a lady (on the right), who wears a garment featuring these ornaments.

Georgian textile of the XV century is characterised by the freshness of colours and variety of geometric ornamentations. A Venetian traveller Giosafat Barbaro, travelling in Samegrelo, indicated that Samegrelo produces poor quality textile.  In the following centuries however, Georgians extended their production of linen. According to an 18th century english source, Mingrelians had to pay tribute to Turks and give them  sixty thousand ‘eli’ pieces.

. This pattern can be found in the fresco of Levan I, Principal of Samegrelo. The fresco is located in the Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior and is dated to the XVI century.

This pattern can be seen in the fresco of King Alexander III of Imereti and Queen Nestan-Darejan in Gelati Monastery. The fresco is dated to the XVII century.
Royal family members used to wear luxury adorned clothes. This especially festive textile with abundant decorations indicates to the taste of 17th century Georgia.

This pattern can be seen in the fresco of King Alexander III of Imereti and Queen Nestan-Darejan in Gelati Monastery. The fresco is dated to the XVII century.
Royal family members used to wear luxury adorned clothes. This especially festive textile with abundant decorations indicates to the taste of 17th century Georgia.

This pattern can be found in the fresco of Duke of Ksani Shalva, dated to the  XVII century. This is a copy of the fresco, made by Gregory Gagarin.
In this miniature, the duke of Ksani, Shalva, wears a coat made of precious cloth called “Kulaja”. Kulaja was a man’s costume worn by noblemen over the “Akhalukhi”.

 

This pattern can be found in the fresco of Duke of Ksani Shalva, dated to the  XVII century. This is a copy of the fresco, made by Gregory Gagarin.
In this miniature, the duke of Ksani, Shalva, wears a coat made of precious cloth called “Kulaja”. Kulaja was a man’s costume worn by noblemen over the “Akhalukhi”.

 

This flower-shaped detail can be seen on the garment worn by a Ktetor Chikovani in the fresco in the Assumption of the Mother of God Church, Martvili. The fresco is dated to the XVII century.
The textile of the clothes worn by a member of the Chikovani family is distinguished with its colourful and refined ornaments. The colours are sharp but their brightness complements the abundance of flowers.

This pattern can be found in the fresco of King George III (father of Queen Tamar) in Vardzia, dated to the XII century. The King is  wearing a ceremonial apparel with a crossed lorosi, covering the King’s left hand.

This pattern can be found in the fresco of King George III (father of Queen Tamar) in Vardzia, dated to the XII century. The King is  wearing a ceremonial apparel with a crossed lorosi, covering the King’s left hand.

This ornament can be seen in the fresco of Ktetors Kurtsiki and Araba in Zarzma Monastery. The sleeves of the garment worn by Ktetor Kurtsiki feature these patterns. The fresco is dated to the XIV century.

This ornament can be seen in the fresco of Ktetors Kurtsiki and Araba in Zarzma Monastery. The sleeves of the garment worn by Ktetor Kurtsiki feature these patterns. The fresco is dated to the XIV century.

Georgians outside of Georgia

GEORGIANS OUTSIDE OF GEORGIA:

THE FAMILY STORY OF GEORGIAN CUISINE

by David Gigauri

Before you read these stories by David Gigauri, there are some things you need to know about him. Well, first of all, David is the author of the book called “Be My Guest: The Georgian Recipe for Cooking Success” available at IERISTORE.COM. David, together with his co-author Anna Saldadze, collected interesting historical anecdotes and facts about the national cuisine and Georgians who lived outside of the country. This book spells out the favourite recipes of some of Georgia’s most exceptional expatriates, along with their stories, and in their language (hence the occasional imperfections in English). The recipes themselves are either authentically Georgian, improvised versions of the originals, or personal dedications to Georgians themselves – like Lobster à la Bagration by the ‘King of Chefs and Chef of Kings,’ Marie-Antoine (Antonin) Carême. Secondly, David himself lives in London, he is one of those proud Georgians who keeps promoting the culture of his beloved country, even having grown up abroad, and he is the nicest person you could ever meet. So, there we go, passing the word on to David Gigauri:

“… The event that became the genesis of the book, was precisely in a format that became the concept of the book – two Georgians abroad discussing food and drink. I was at the Hemingway Bar at the Ritz Paris visiting my future co-author Anna Saldadze, when a little trivia fact about the location kicked off a two-hour discussion…and led to a book. As a passing comment, it was noted that at this precise bar, the Ritz cocktail-making legend Frank Meier created a drink for a socialite Georgian emigre Nicky Tumanishvili (called Nicky’s Fizz, made with gin and grapefruit, delicious!). This triggered a conversation that took us across the globe and generations, from General Bagration defeating Napoleon (while having a lobster dish created in his name), to enigmatic muse of the Silver Age Salome Andronikashvili writing about making Chikhirtma soup in post-war London, to the stage of New-York City Ballet and its founder, the great gourmand George Balanchine. Eighteen months after our rendezvous in Paris, Be My Guest: The Georgian Recipe for Cooking Success was published as a collection of entertaining culinary stories and recipes from some of the biggest names of Georgian emigration. The bespoke visuals of the book give Georgian gastronomy a new look, and it’s now available in a smaller format (and in German too). 

This interest in the subject of Georgian diaspora throughout history was not new to me. Being a Georgian who always lived outside of Georgia, it created an inherent interest in my peers, especially that so many of my own family, by fate of history, were spread across the world…and as you would expect, not without a culinary tale: 

Artchil Gourielli-Tchkonia

Archil Gourielli (nearest to camera) hosts a banquet at his home in New York, 1953. Getty Images

Artchil escaped the revolution in 1920’s and ended up in France, while my side of the Gourielli (as they were known at time) family stayed behind. My great grandmother Ekaterine Gourielli ended up as a French teacher in the remote region of Svaneti after her husband was executed by the Bolsheviks. 

Artchil was an avid bridge player and in Paris went to bridge parties at the home of Countess Marie-Blanche de Polignac. Unlike her withdrawn mother, fashion designer Jeanne Lanvin, the countess was a keen socialite. One evening in 1935, the American cosmetics queen Helena Rubinstein found herself sitting across the table from a big, handsome man in his forties, who was a warm, humorous and easy-going bon vivant. She had an excellent time in his company. Although he played to win, as she did, he kept up a stream of amusing patter that made her laugh all through their game. She couldn’t remember the last time she had had such an enjoyable evening. She smiled even when he teased her about being a sore loser because she had got worked up about losing a few francs. As one of their evenings together drew to a close, Artchil suddenly departed from his usual light-hearted banter.

Dining room of Helena Rubinstein and Archil Gourielli with Salvador Dali mural

“Helena, would you do me the honour of having dinner with me tomorrow evening?” he asked her solemnly.

“Tomorrow evening?” she echoed, dismayed. “I can’t — I’m leaving for New York!” Artchil took her hand and held it gently in his. She felt no insistence in his grasp, just undemanding affection and friendship.

“What’s your favourite restaurant in New York?” Artchil asked. “The Colony,” she replied. The restaurant was the watering hole of the rich and famous, the place to see and be seen in the Big Apple. Helena was a regular and had her own table.

“Fine,” he said. “Let’s make a reservation for the next time I’m in New York.”

When they said goodbye, she couldn’t help trembling.

She was swept up in the whirl of business and social life as soon as she arrived in New York but that didn’t stop her heart beating faster when her secretary rang her one morning to say she had Artchil on the line, and did Helena want to take the call?

“Helena?” said the familiar tones when she picked up the phone. “It’s Artchil. You haven’t forgotten our date, I hope? I’m in New York. I’ve booked us a table for tonight at the Colony.”  (extracts from Helena Rubinstein: The Woman who Invented Beauty, by Michèle Fitoussi) 

When he asked for her hand in marriage he did it by the book (not my book). She and my great uncle Artchil were married in Baltimore in 1938. They later released a Gourielli cosmetics and perfume line to honour the name.  

Helena Rubinstein and Archil Gourielli by Salvador Dali

Tamara Bagration-Imeretinsky

Tamara Bagration-Imeretinsky

This family story spans across several countries and generations. After the Western Georgian Kingdom of Imereti was annexed by the Russian Empire, Tamara’s family was not allowed to remain in the country and were forced into exile. My side of the family managed to stay and thus we were separated. Fast forward to Tamara’s father Prince Michael Bagration-Imeretinsky, he was born in Russia, raised in Ukraine, educated in England, and resident in France. Somewhat similar path was followed by my immediate family and the current generation again ended up in the same place – this time in the UK.  

Tresco Island 

Every summer the children and grandchildren of Princess Tamara Imeretinsky gather on Tresco, a small family-run island paradise in the Isles of Scilly, 28 miles south of Land’s End (most westerly point of mainland England). Her eldest son Robert Dorrien-Smith runs the Tresco Estate, with its beautiful sub-tropical gardens, and white sandy beaches. Island-caught produce is plentiful, and Tamara remembers feeding the family with everything Tresco could supply: mackerel or pollock for breakfast, rabbit for lunch, pheasant for dinner. Lobster and crab were everyone’s favourite treat, served cold with home-made mayonnaise, or hot with Thermidor sauce. Lobsters remain readily available on Tresco today, serving as the island’s logo, a welcoming symbol for the many visitors who come to stay on Tresco, or visit the Abbey Gardens. Two animals firmly off the menu are the red squirrels and golden pheasants who run wild in the garden amidst the array of exotic plants from all over the world – the Mediterranean, South America, South Africa and Australasia. Wandering in the warm air amidst the palm trees it’s easy to imagine you might be in Imereti, not too far from the Black Sea.  

Ilia Zdanevich

Pablo Picasso gives Ilia Zdanevich a haircut. Côte d’Azur. 1947

Known as Iliazd, he was a Futurist writer, artist, typographer, and book designer who moved to Paris in 1921. My side of the Gardapkhadze family remained behind in Georgia (our maternal grandparents). While still in the country, he was credited with discovering the art of the then unknown genius artist Pirosmani. From 1922, Zdanevich designs fabrics, first in collaboration with Sonia Delaunay, then, from 1927 for Coco Chanel. Ilia Zdanevich was introduced to Chanel by Serge Diaghilev, and this meeting resulted in a long-lasting artistic collaboration and a close friendship. Initially he became the head of the graphic bureau of «TISSUS CHANEL», and eventually became the head of her textile production. His most important artistic period came later with his livre d’artiste editions that made him famous all over the world. Graphic works for these editions were created in a collaboration with Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, Fernand Leger, Georges Braque, Alberto Giacometti, etc.

Café Etoile, a painting by Iliazd’s brother Kirill Zdanevich, 1912 (Sotheby’s)

He was known to be a master of all trades and our family learnt that he would stick around in the kitchen while Mrs Zdanevich was preparing her famous pilaf, and would suddenly interrupt his own flow of conversation about painting or Georgian spelling to give her valuable culinary advice. Alas, neither the pilaf recipe nor his advice reached us, but anyone who has seen or read his work, can at least guess how this advice was delivered.

George Gigauri

My brother George is a senior humanitarian, serving as the Chief of Mission of the UN Migration Agency in Bangladesh. He previously served as the Chief of Mission in Papua New Guinea and held numerous posts in Asia and Europe.

Many moons ago, in a faraway world, there lived a creature named Bonono, a giant eel larger than a coconut tree that would roam the ocean, hunting sharks and swallowing fishermen who had the misfortune to cross his path. This is a legend of the people of the tide in the Tulun Islands, who live at the top of an underwater volcano in the Solomon Sea, known to the Western world as the vanishing Carteret atolls of the Pacific Ocean. This is where George was heading to inspect some climate change adaptation project they started the previous year.

George Gigauri approaching the Carteret Islands, South Pacific (2016)

So they began their boat ride. They tested the sat phone and equipment; all seems to be in order but the crew still looked anxious. Two weeks ago a fishing boat with 10 people onboard went missing – many people have vanished on this journey. The skipper, a weathered man with a mouth red from chewing betel nut, and skin so dark that it shimmered blue, looked relaxed. One shouldn’t worry then.

The water is of such a shade of azure it looks like they are gliding on an icy desert. The giant white clouds are hanging so low, it feels like you can touch them, and their reflection on the water looks like submerged icebergs. Far far away they saw pillars of rain that seem to unite some clouds and ocean, making them appear as trees growing out of the sea. Suddenly flying fish flit around the boat and a little later the skipper frantically points to the right … a huge splash and they catch a glimpse of a whale diving back under, as he blows a fountain into the air. The water extends into the horizon in every direction with no landmass in sight.

George sailing past a mud warrior of Sepik, Papua New Guinea

It was time to eat. Led by their skipper they got the line and the hook and started to fish. Within minutes, the water around the boat was swelling with fish, creating a flicker of colour in each ray of light. This in turn created a frenzy above the boat, with birds torpedoing the waters for easy prey. No one was going to go hungry that day. 

Upon return to Port Moresby, his administrative assistant encountered a dilemma. Normally UN officials receive a per diem allowance to buy food when on a work trip, which is reduced if the food is provided by the host. She knocked on his door inquiring how to treat this situation, where neither of these two cases apply. They both agreed that the ‘host’ was treating them that day.

 You can order a book “Be My Guest: The Georgian Recipe for Cooking Success” by David Gigauri and Anna Saldadze here