Kubdari, a Makhvshi chair and African lullabies in Chuberi
Chuberi, which is located in upper Svaneti, isn’t a big settlement at all. It’s a small, peaceful village, populated by approximately 1 000 people, most of them Svans. The Svans are an ethnic subgroup with its own language, customs and culture. The locals cultivate their traditions, being language, crafts, cuisine, folk songs etc. Most of them own small farms and earn their living through agriculture and livestock breeding.
Chuberi is very beautiful. It’s hidden in the Nenskra valley, surrounded by giant mountains. Although Svaneti is one of the major tourist destinations in Georgia, fewer visitors are found in this exact part of the region. Chuberi is part of the Mestia district, which is rarely visited by international tourists.
So, the locals decided to change this reality and attract more tourists to the Nenskra valley.
Last weekend, they organized a festival together with volunteer groups from various countries. The event aimed to share the cultural heritage of the Svaneti region and facilitate tourism development in the Nenskra valley.
Nenskra valley – a view from Chuberi
The festival’s camping area
The volunteers and villagers started preparing for the festival one week before the event. A power supply line was laid to the festival venue, a stage was constructed, WCs were installed and even an old bridge across the Nenskra River was repaired. The locals will make use of all the aforesaid after the festival as well.
The locals were also actively involved in preparations
The bridge across the Nenskra River was repaired and lighting was installed. Afterwards, children decorated the bridge
Many ‘locals’ visited the festival venue
The welcome sign, done in three languages (English, Georgian and Svan)
The festival entitled ‘We are Svaneti!’ was held in Chuberi from 15-17 July. It brought together representatives from 13 countries. Visitors from Bulgaria, USA, Nigeria, Egypt and other countries had a unique opportunity to become part of the Svan culture.
As for Chuberi residents, this event allowed them to meet their friends and relatives residing in other villages, because they usually don’t have time to visit each other due to their daily chores.
They were communicating, singing songs, eating Kubdari and were happy being together.
Those who arrived here stayed in tents, enjoying freshly-baked Kubdari, and at night were entertained with traditional Georgian dances and songs. The guests couldn’t hide their excitement, because they became part of Chuberi life for a couple of days.
Representatives of the international organizing groups Klara (Czech Republic) and Rosa (Spain)
Kubdari is a meat-filled Svan pastry dish. During the festival, the guests had the chance to taste Kubdari, cooked by Chuberi and Khaishi hostesses.
Fish caught in the Nenskra river, salted and grilled, is a traditional Svan food cooked by the locals. Guests enjoyed the dish which was served with tkemali (a Georgian plum sauce) and vodka, while listening to Georgian songs at a bonfire.
Along with the tasty dishes, the locals also presented their dances and songs. The festival guests had a chance to take a closer look at the handmade items and calligraphy works, as well as to buy them.
Oresti Tsindeliani, a native of Chuberi village, is an artist. He brought a Makhvshi chair to the festival. Makhvshi is translated from the Svan language as ‘the head of the family’. Such a chair can be found in each and every family in Svaneti.
Lile (the fourth from the right) is an art teacher at Chumburi school. After school, she also gives art classes, teaching handmade techniques to interested individuals. Her students crafted some beautiful handmade items for the festival.
Everyone was impressed by the ‘Nenskra’ ensemble’s performance
Everyone felt anxious before the performance
Eventually everything worked out well and the audience was delighted
Several workshops were also organized as part of the festival. For example, the guests could produce handmade items themselves, as well as could attend guitar classes and fishing sessions.
Strange as it may sound, the African songs ‘workshop’ was also held in Chuberi. Tulu, a Nigerian musician, who was invited as a special guest, hosted the workshop. He taught festival participants some African songs and then performed jointly with them on the stage.
Soap-bubble blowing is a huge fun for everyone!
Local children are teaching the visitors how to fish
The ‘workshops’ were explored by many artists and actors with hidden potential
The children presented a makeshift transport
“This festival showed how important it is to safeguard and preserve the traditions of those villages. If this pearl of upper Svaneti gets the necessary support it needs and is adequately developed, it will become one of the most fascinating places in Georgia, offering unique adventure experiences to visitors,” Leni, a guest from the USA, said when speaking about the details of the festival. She organized the ‘slack-lining’ sessions in Chuberi. This improvised ‘attraction’ was one of the festival’s major challenges and amusements.
Gari Chkhvimiani is a local activist. He is the director at the local judo school. A a child he used to live in Abkhazia, but he often missed classeS and travelled to Chuberi. Now, he lives in his dream place, he tries to promote it and is actively engaged in various activities to protect this area.
“This festival is important not only to me, but to the whole village, because people from various regions have discovered Svaneti and Chuberi village. We made many friends during the festival, which is the most important outcome of this event,” says Lika, a local resident.
Both the locals and Chuburi guests expressed hope that the ‘We are Svaneti!’ festival wouldn’t be a once-off event and have already started discussing plans for next summer.