Europalia 2023: Georgia, fascinating melting pot of East and West

  1. Last updated on
Gergeti Trinity Church

The Gergeti Trinity Church, a typical sight in mountainous Georgia. © Getty Images

Europalia will put the fascinating Georgian culture in the spotlight this autumn. An ideal opportunity to get to know this relatively unknown country on the border of Europe and Asia better.

In 2022 – still in coronavirus times – Europalia highlighted trains and tracks. As usual, this year the biennial chose a country again: Georgia. This mountainous country in the Caucasus – located on the Black Sea and bordering Russia, Türkiye, Armenia and Azerbaijan – can rightly be called a bridge between Europe and Asia.

In its long history, this small but coveted territory was often dominated in whole or in part by surrounding superpowers. In addition to Greeks, Romans, Persians, Arabs, Byzantines, Mongols, Ottomans and Russians also passed through it. All these peoples contributed to a very special melting pot of cultures, although sometimes they left just as much of a path of destruction behind them.

Basiani Ensemble

The Basiani Ensemble focuses on the popularization of traditional Georgian polyphony, a common thread throughout Europalia. © Basiani ensemble

Rich programme

High time to highlight this special but little-known country on the edge of Europe, Europalia thought. From 4 October 2023 to 14 January 2024, you can enjoy a rich programme of exhibitions, performances, concerts, film, dance and theatre shows, and literature throughout Belgium.

The tradition of polyphony (polyphonic singing) – very different from our Western polyphony – unites just about all Georgians and is a primary thread throughout the festival. A second thread is 'memories'. How do you as a society and as individuals deal with memories of the Soviet regime or with recent and ongoing conflicts? 

Finally, the unique tradition of 'supras' also inspires the programme: gatherings around lavishly filled tables, accompanied by speech-making masters of ceremony and chants. The full programme can be found on the Europalia website.

Polychrome Pectoral with Griffinsand Birds Achaemenid and Colchian First half of 4th century BC

Polychrome pectoral from the 4th century BC (from the exhibition 'Georgia: A Story of Encounters'). © Europalia

Top exhibitions

The festival has at least two top exhibitions on offer. At the Art & History Museum, the exhibition 'Georgia: A Story of Encounters' is taking place. Here, you will be introduced to Georgia's surprising history, art and culture, beginning with the New Stone Age, some 10,000 years before Christ. Most of the artworks and informational documents brought are being shown for the first time outside Georgia.

Due to the influence of diverse cultures, Georgia has a heritage of unparalleled richness. For example, wine – the oldest cultural property in Georgia by over 8,000 years – serves as the exhibition's starting point. Metallurgy – gold and bronze – also played a crucial role very early on. By the way, did you know that the myth of the Golden Fleece originated in Georgia? The region was known to the Greeks for its great wealth of gold.

BOZAR, in turn, showcases Georgian art, specifically avant-garde art between 1900 and 1936. Especially in the brief but enchanting interlude from 1918 to 1921, an inspiring avant-garde scene flourished. In 1918 – after the fall of the Russian Empire and the October Revolution – Georgia declared its independence but was incorporated into the Soviet Union as early as 1921.

In short, this brand-new edition of Europalia will open a whole new world for you.

Royal couple visits expo

Our royal couple visits the exhibition 'avant-garde art between 1900 and 1936' at the launch of Europalia Georgia. © FPS Foreign affairs

Europalia and the FPS

The FPS Foreign Affairs has been a loyal partner of Europalia for many years. Indeed, it can fully identify with the original purpose of the festival, which has existed since 1969: to bring Europeans closer together and create a dialogue through art and culture. Since then, countries outside Europe have also been regularly featured.

This makes Europalia an interesting diplomatic tool for the FPS to promote European unification and international collaboration. For an open economy such as ours, cooperation with foreign countries is extremely important. A good relationship with other countries and a positive image of Belgium are essential, and Europalia makes a major contribution to this.