The comedian fighting prejudice with laughter in Georgia

Throughout the day, Kikonishvili works with artist and activist Tekla Tevdorashvili and others on the Fungus Gallery, an LGBTQ+ artwork collective and gallery in a quiet nook of Tblisi that invitations artists from throughout the Caucasus area. Tevdorashvili says it’s arduous to understate the significance of membership tradition in these social modifications. “Nightlife modified the entire context of how Georgian society perceives queer individuals. Golf equipment had been the primary place to supply them a secure house, and now the angle individuals have within the golf equipment is shifting to sunlight.”
One other hotspot for Tblisi nightlife is Success bar, the one homosexual bar in the complete Caucasus. Its proprietor Nia Gvatua initially simply wished to redecorate the considerably dingy place in order that she may make it value visiting for the local people. 5 years in the past, after asking round, she was invited to fulfill with an area businessman, who proceeded to open his secure and gave her $20,000 money on the spot. She set about remodeling the bar right into a cultural hub. “Once I started, it was extra about aesthetics. I used to be actually into digital music for a few years, so after I started, I used to be extra targeted on which DJs I wished to e book and what cocktails I wished to make.” A linchpin of the Tblisi LGBTQ+ scene who has shared model ideas with Vogue, Gvatua paperwork the scene with pictures, and directs drag reveals at Success, Bassiani and different venues.
Resistance and resilience
However Tevdorashvili and others wished to get entangled in additional than simply golf equipment, so that they arrange Fungus, the place they lately placed on Resilience, a bunch exhibition of pictures and multimedia artwork devoted to trans girls. Named as such as a result of fungus comes from the darkish underground, Fungus’s motto is “we thrive wherever we get even slightly likelihood to develop,” and it is situated subsequent to Clara’s bar, the place Talikishvili performs fortnightly. Although the reception from the locals was initially awkward, issues have warmed up so much lately, with one man coming lately to inform them “respect from the neighbourhood!”.
For Tevdorashvili, this want for secure areas is all too actual. A couple of years in the past she put an artwork set up up in a public park days earlier than the annual church-organised “day for household purity”. The set up was a rainbow-coloured field entitled “Closet”, with handwritten notes from the LGBTQ+ neighborhood, which performed a speech after which the Diana Ross music Coming Out. She had solely advised a number of trusted blogs about it prematurely, but it surely was attacked by a far-right activist inside only a few hours of being up. Tevdorashvili recognised him from demonstrations. The police got here however they suggested towards placing the paintings again up. This was a setback, she says, however not a defeat: “What we artists and activists has gone via have solely made us stronger.”
Kikonishvili agrees. “It is not like homosexuality was invented in Georgia after the breakup of the Soviet Union,” he laughs. Although it was briefly made authorized after the October revolution, Joseph Stalin (born in Georgia as Iosip Jugashvili) criminalised homosexuality once more in 1934, with the sturdy help of creator Maxim Gorky. (The liberty of same-sex sexual exercise was not formally enshrined in legislation in Georgia till 2000, and, in fact, regardless of that legality, social acceptance has been one other matter.)
Kikonishvili factors to the Berikaoba pageant, which he says is widely known throughout the nation by cross-dressing, ingesting and feasting, in addition to the recognition of homosexual Georgian cultural figures just like the famed Tblisi-born director Sergei Parajanov and conventional dancer Vakhtang Chabukiani, as proof of the shallow roots of up to date homophobia in Georgia. “Chabukiani is essentially the most beloved Georgian dancer ever, and he was homosexual and everybody knew it.” Parajanov, nevertheless, was persecuted by the Soviet authorities for his sexuality as a lot as for his subversive filmmaking.