Press release for Mestia’s website

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

Will the low volume/low-budget seasonal tourism (mostly hikers) hurt Adishi, Georgia, economically and force its residents to leave for a more prosperous lifestyle elsewhere? Or will full-scale tourism reach Adishi as it has in nearby Mestia?  If so, will the authentic experience and hospitality received by tourists today in Adishi be replaced by standard hotels/services and commercial interactions?

I hope that my documentary film will answer such questions. My name is Dr. Keith Kenney and I’m a visual communications professor at the University of South Carolina. I’m working in Tbilisi for 11 months and my job is to improve the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management (CSJMM). In my free time, I want to create a documentary film about Adishi.

I agree with UNESCO. The Upper Svaneti region of the Caucasus deserves to be a World Heritage site because of its exceptional mountain scenery and its medieval-type villages and tower-houses. Adishi is in a gorgeous location with some of the most hospitable people on Earth.

I believe, however, that Adishi will experience strong forces for change in the next couple of years.  Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, has promised to develop the Svaneti region; the government has already built a good road to Mestia and the entire town of Mestia seems under construction or re-construction. This development could extend to Adishi. The government could build new roads, replace electrical poles, perhaps even re-start Adishi’s school and add a library. If a ski resort were built nearby, which is in the planning stage, entrepreneurs then could open new hotels and restaurants, maybe even a gift shop. If such development does not reach Adishi, the farming village might continue to simply provide homestay experiences to hikers for a night. But it is doubtful that maintaining the status will be possible, in part because the current tourism model may not allow Adishi residents to earn a sustainable living.

I don’t know what will happen. But when mountain or seaside people experience hardships, they tend to sell their highly desirable land for a quick profit, and then all kinds of businesses arrive to cater to wealthy vacationers. Prices rise, and the local people either end up serving tourists or moving away.

Moreover, I am concerned because many of Adishi’s buildings and defense towers have become piles of rubble.  If such deterioration continues, then Adishi’s potential to attract tourists could also deteriorate. My film will show how Adishi residents will respond to challenges they encounter as time goes by.

Two recent graduates from the master’s program in Journalism and Media Management at the CSJMM are assisting in shooting and editing the film. Nana Mghebrishvili and Mari Papidze have already shot several hours of video and they will return to Adishi with me at the end of January, in the middle of May, and at the beginning of August to tell the story. My wife, Susanna Melo, and Ramaz Gerleiani are also invaluable team members. Susanna is the film’s photographer; in addition, she suggests shooting opportunities and helps interview Adishi residents. Ramaz, our official driver, translates from Svan to Georgian.

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About keithrkenney
Keith Kenney is a professor of visual communication at the University of South Carolina. He is living in Tbilisi, Georgia, for a year. This blog is about several topics. "CSJMM-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management in Tbilisi, Georgia. "USC-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC) at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. CSJMM and SJMC are recipients of a "Journalism School Partnership" program grant from the US Department of State. The purpose of this $750,000 grant is to improve CSJMM and ensure its sustainability. "Tbilisi, Georgia" is about Susanna Melo and my experiences in Tbilisi. "Columbia, SC" will be about our experiences in our home town--Columbia--when we return home. "Georgia" is about Susanna and my experiences when we travel in Georgia outside of Tbilisi. "United States" is about our experiences traveling in the US. "Films and Photography" is about two documentary films I'm working on in Georgia. One story follows how Adishi handles the rapid tourism that is being developed in Svaneti. The other story follows Tamaz Jalagania, who is a craftsman of swords and guns, an opera singer, and an extraordinary storyteller. "Scholarship" is about my current books, articles, reviews, and grants.

One Response to Press release for Mestia’s website

  1. Billy Hucks says:

    I have an intense interest (among many-lol) in linguistics. The Svan, or Kartvelian language is so very intriguing. My theory, along with several renown linguists, is that along with Basque and a couple of others, it’s a remnant of an ancient ‘mother tongue’ contemporary with, or possibly predating Indo-European.

    I’m looking forward to seeing this documentary about the Svan culture.

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