Mother of Georgia vs Statue of Liberty

Copyright Susanna Melo, 2011

Copyright Susanna Melo, 2011

We can see the 60-foot Mother of Georgia statue from our apartment window. In fact, many people can see her day and night on the hill overlooking Old Tbilisi. So who takes the trouble to climb the steep hill to get a close look at this aluminum statue? Well . . . two types of people—camera-toting tourists like Susanna and me, as well as young lovers holding hands (like Susanna and me). It seems that the good views and semi-private surroundings attract young couples. Of course, some tourists visit, so the couples maintain a high level of vigilance so they can break off an embrace or a kiss quickly.

The Mother of Georgia has become one of the symbols of Tbilisi. It was erected in 1958 when Tbilisi celebrated its 1500-year anniversary. The statue is supposed to symbolize the Georgian national character because in her left hand she holds a bowl of wine to greet those who come as friends, and in her right hand she holds a sword for those who come as enemies.

Copyright Susanna Melo, 2011

The Statue of Liberty, on the other hand, symbolizes the United States. It was dedicated in 1868, and it symbolizes freedom because it depicts the Roman goddess of freedom. The goddess bears a torch and a tablet upon which the date of the American Declaration of Independence—July 4, 1776—is written. A broken chain lies at her feet.

Given the two countries’ histories, I think that both statues are appropriate symbols. Tbilisi has been invaded 29 times, so it must be prepared to defend itself, yet Georgians also have the reputation, justly deserved, of being the most hospitable people on earth. The United States takes great pride in independence, both from Great Britain and as a national characteristic. The freedom symbol is a bit more problematic, however, especially now, with the country’s harsh treatment of undocumented immigrants.

Let’s hope that both countries try to remain true to the symbolism of their most famous statues.


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.

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