Dante monument in Piazza Santa Croce in Florence © xsmirnovx/ Shutterstock

Dante monument in Piazza Santa Croce in Florence © xsmirnovx/ Shutterstock

Georgia looks to Italy for cultural development programmes – an almost thirty-year collaboration that this year finds a new, promising impulse. And from now on, when you visit Tbilisi, you will come across Dante

26/04/2021 -  Marilisa Lorusso

After the protocol for the establishment of diplomatic relations between Italy and Georgia in 1992, the first Italian-Georgian agreement was – significantly – on tourism cooperation. This first agreement of 1997 highlights how cultural cooperation can contribute to improving mutual knowledge and stresses the importance of creating synergies in terms of safeguarding historic buildings and the environment. Other agreements have been signed with the aim of intensifying collaboration in the field of culture and science, expanding cultural collaboration also to the technological sphere and developing exchange programmes for artists and between universities.

For almost three decades, the cultural dialogue between Italy and Georgia has created various types of programmes. Today, this expansion process is experiencing a new momentum thanks to the Dante year.

On April 16, a bilateral meeting of the Culture Commissions of the Italian and Georgian Chamber was held to discuss Georgia's enthusiastic participation in the initiatives linked to the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri and more.

Cultural Georgia

The Republic of Georgia turns 30 this year. In the tumultuous years 1991-2021, the country gradually consolidated its statehood and national identity. Although many issues remain unresolved – including the question of secessionist lands and the specific cultural communities that inhabit them – the country is gradually acquiring the legal and institutional instruments to continue its path of cultural growth. The language law for the protection and promotion of Georgian dates back to 2015, while a Code of Culture is being drafted. In the present term, a separate Culture Commission was created – a new autonomous commission, confirming the priority given to culture for the country's social advancement, values, national cohesion, and also for tourism. Within this process, president of the Georgian Culture Commission Elisso Bokvadze – internationally renowned pianist and UNESCO Artist for Peace (here her profile during a tour in Italy ) – sees a partnership with Italy.

Italy for Georgia

Georgia's interest in Italy develops on two levels, as explained by President Bolkvadze during her meeting with the President of the Culture Commission of the Vittoria Casa Chamber. President Bolkvadze is working to include artistic-musical training in the great school reform that will overcome the Soviet model of education, to make this specific training a vehicle for further exchanges between the two countries. More Italian and Georgian artists could have the opportunity to take part in higher education exchange programmes, in addition to the current Erasmus+, and scholarships from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

The other issue that arouses Georgia's interest concerns the preservation of cultural and archaeological heritage. Italy has led the way in this field – its ability and legislation to preserve and relaunch its cultural heritage, including that of the rural environment, was also the basis of important reforms which were later included in European legislation. Training courses and specific professional figures have also been created and consolidated, which Bolkvadze considers an important link in the growth chain of the sector in Georgia.

In particular, Georgia feels the need for specific, valid training courses in the field of restoration, and an ad hoc collaboration for the frescoes of the churches of Svaneti is urged. This project would run alongside initiatives that have already been held to the full satisfaction of the parties, such as the activity of the Institute for Conservation and Restoration which in 2018 offered courses for the staff of various Georgian counterparts including the Agency for the protection of monuments, the National Museum, the Academy of Fine Arts, and the George Chubinashvili Research Center. There are also four Italian archaeological missions financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, in some cases in sites of particular importance: for example in Dmanisi, a key site from the point of view of paleontological research , as part of a wider international research programme, and in Gonio/ Apsaros, on the Black Sea, where the remains are found of the easternmost fort of the Roman Empire .

Midway upon the journey, Dante

Dante makes an appearance in Italo-Georgian cultural relations as Georgia generously reciprocates in cultural collaboration, giving great visibility to the important 700th anniversary which commemorates the death of the father of the language and Supreme Poet, a cornerstone of Italy's entire cultural tradition.

The events that Georgia will dedicate to Alighieri this year are different and all noteworthy. A commemorative stamp will be issued with a portrait of Dante made in the 1950s by Georgian artist Sergo Kobuladze . On May 19, the first state contemporary dance company “Tbilisi Contemporary Ballet ” will host the world premiere of the show "Beatrice ", inspired by the "Divine Comedy", in the Great Hall of the  Shota Rustaveli State Theater in the capital. The music for the show was specially created by Italian composer Dario Marianelli, winner of the Oscar and Golden Globe, and will be performed under his artistic direction by the exceptional Baroque orchestra Georgian Sinfonietta .

Vittoria Casa comments: "The anniversary includes an important cultural calendar in the Georgian capital and President Bolkvadze has granted her full support for all the initiatives. We share with her the conviction that culture is an important meeting ground to strengthen Georgia's proximity to Italy and Europe".

From September 2021, Dante will be physically in Tbilisi: a bust of him will be placed in front of the Parliamentary Library of Georgia . The event will be followed by Lectura Dantis and the scientific conference "Dante Alighieri and the Divine Comedy: roots of Europe and world heritage", in collaboration with the Tbilisi Committee of the Dante Alighieri society. Other events will be held during the Italian Language Week in October.

We hope that, with the easening of the pandemic, an even more vigorous cultural cooperation can begin under Dante's watchful and pacific gaze in Tbilisi.

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