Gori was one of the most important ceramic centers active in Georgia in the early 19th and 20th centuries. However, the survival of this practice is under threat as there is only one local artisan, Mr. Giorgi Tatulashvili who possesses the relevant skills and actively continues to create the ceramics in Gori today. The practice of making ceramics runs in Mr. Tatulashvili’s family, who himself acquired the skills from his grandfather.
The Georgian Arts and Culture Center (GACC) NGO represents and supports Mr. Tatulashvili in the endeavor to safeguard this practice.
The ICH element has been integrated and promoted through the tourist experience in 3 phases – firstly, his studio was renovated, adapted, and divided into 2 sections: the workshop and exposition areas, along with the rehabilitation and preservation of the traditional old fire kiln; this work was made possible through GACC’s small grant scheme. Next, the studio was promoted through various media channels, and lastly, the local government of Gori supported the development of Tatulashvili’s Ceramic Workshop-Museum. Additionally, GACC regularly provides advisory services, capacity-building activities, and assistance for the development of creative, innovative, and experiential touristic offers such as masterclasses in ceramics.
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Three key stakeholders have benefited from the abovementioned activities devised to boost tourism in Gori:
Mr. Giorgi Tatulashvili increasingly participates in crafts and tourism fairs as a result of which awareness of his studio on the local and national levels has increased. Further, tourists buy products from him and participate in interactive workshops which help generate additional income.
Travel agencies can enrich their touristic offer as Tatulashvili’s studio is now considered to be a stop worth making along the usual tourist route often leading to an extended stay in Gori.
Finally, more attractions in Gori are imagined to pave the way for the formal development of the lodging and hospitality sectors which will lead to increased job opportunities for the local people.
Challenges in developing sustainable ICH Tourism
The integration of traditional crafts in the development of tourism offers is not without its challenges. Developing craft-based experiences which are appealing to visitors may threaten the integrity and sustainability of the tradition. This is a major concern as flourishing tourism experiences often inadvertently lead to cultural freezing, appropriation, trivialization, standardization and also, and commodification while obscuring the real extent and nature of assistance received by the heritage bearers themselves.
Further, since GACC has no stable source of funding, it is not possible to ensure consistent and long-term interventions to ensure the survival of the traditional craft practice.
The creation of an Ethnographic Corner co-funded by EU BSB Joint Operational Program 2014-2020, which will double up as a craft-based creative tourist destination in collaboration with Mr. Tatulashvili is envisioned to create new jobs, contribute to the local economy, and raise awareness of and interest in the local ICH among the youth.
Significant learning that emerged from this experience is the importance of informing ICH bearers about the possible positive and negative effects of tourism on their practice. It was also observed that additional capacity-building initiatives are very helpful to ensure that creative touristic offers are tailored in a way that will not be at odds with traditional craftsmanship and its safeguarding.
“It is important to make ICH bearers the main developers of such offers to avoid the prevalence of tourism actors’ vision in the process. Another aspect is working with tourism actors to raise their awareness about ICH and its safeguarding to guarantee proper understanding from their side.” – Tamar Kiknadze (Programs Development Manager, GACC)