'Abkhazia is not a black hole' – how a former diplomat got theatre back on its feet
Theatre in Abkhazia has struggled to function for years, but one recent development has shaken up the local scene.
Up until 2016, former deputy foreign minister Irakli Khintba was known as just that – a foreign policy specialist and the author of works in the same field.
But since then, Khintba has radically changed the scope of his activities and was appointed director of the State Russian Drama Theater named after I. Fazil Iskander. Abbreviated – RUSDRAM.
Under his direction, the theater has now become the most successful in Abkhazia, causing a tectonic shift in the local cultural soil.
In an interview with JAMnews, Irakli Khintba talks about what prompted him to change his occupation so radically, about the achievements of the theater and the role that culture can play for Abkhazia.
Why the move from diplomacy to the theater?
This happened because it could not be otherwise. People get into theater when they feel it’s the only thing they can do. I have been completely and irrevocably in love with the theater since childhood.
I was attracted by the mystery of the theater building itself, the darkness of the stage space. The mystery of the performance. I have always felt that the theater contains the answers to the most important questions of life. This is a micro-model of society, country, world.
So in my life two passions have always coexisted – theater and political science. And society now sees in me not an official and a political expert, but a theatrical figure, a successful cultural manager – and for me such recognition and status are of the highest significance.
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Diplomatic experience in theater is simply irreplaceable. Where, if not in the theater, you can fully apply the skills of preventing and resolving conflicts, negotiations and cooperation, goal-setting and goal-setting, forming friendly ties with the “outside world”, skillfully combining strategy and tactics?
The secret of success in theatre
The recipe is simple in form, but complicated in terms of practical implementation. A combination of several components is needed: effective management, deep knowledge of the subject, financial literacy and cleanliness, openness to cooperation, courage and an all-consuming love for the theater.
The theater demands love – for performances, for people, for the audience, for the building. For all. Otherwise, it dies, destructive tendencies inevitably begin to grow in it.
Honesty is always profitable. If you are successful, work a lot and transparently, do not steal, do not use state property for personal selfish purposes, effectively spend budgetary and earned funds, then there will certainly be patrons and friends who will readily help you, knowing that their money will be used for good purposes. and not go into the director’s pocket.
And viewers will take money to the cashier when they are not deceived. Reputation is extremely important.
Theater will help overcome the isolation of Abkhazia
The theater can play a colossal role in overcoming the international isolation of Abkhazia. This is an important part of the mission of our theater – the creation of a favorable image of the country through the demonstration of samples of high theatrical art created in Abkhazia.
This is how we push all boundaries, including the boundaries of perception, breaking negative stereotypes about our country. If the country has a theater of this level, then Abkhazia is at least not a “black hole” or a hopeless state project.
There are studies showing a correlation between the progress of art, which carries universal meanings, and socio-economic development, an increase in investment attractiveness.
It’s not always possible to travel with tours
The theater has plans to tour countries that have not yet recognized the independence of Abkhazia, but there are also objective obstacles, since many of our young artists do not have Russian citizenship, therefore, they cannot travel further than Abkhazia and Russia. I hope this problem will be resolved soon. And we receive invitations regularly from European countries and beyond.
We have not yet encountered the problem of being unable to speak on behalf of our country, but, of course, I am well aware of such unpleasant incidents.
All this is the erroneous policy of isolating Abkhazia, which can lead to anything, but not to the strengthening of trust in the regional and wider international contexts and the resolution of conflict contradictions. It will only get worse for everyone. Therefore, it is necessary to come to an understanding of the inadmissibility of creating artificial obstacles to interaction in non-political spheres.
Abkhazia needs “soft power”
When we talk about “soft power”, we must first of all keep in mind the attractiveness of Abkhazia, its non-violent and noneconomic impact on the surrounding world in order to improve the international image of the country.
Unfortunately, much remains to be done in this direction. We have objective factors of attractiveness – for example, nature, sea and mountains, but Abkhazia is not only material space, but also metaphysical, semantic, value space.
We have a rich history, unique language and distinctive culture – all this must be converted into instruments of ‘soft power’. This is a big job that requires professional skills and modern creativity.
In this sense, theater acts today as the most important cultural tool for breaking through walls of misunderstanding, negative stereotypes, information stigmatization.
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