Tamarisi Art Gallery displays Edisher Baramidze’s paintings

Susanna Melo and Tamara Tsintsadze in Tamarisi Art Gallery; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

Tamara Tsintsadze; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

Story by Susanna Schisler Melo

I started up a conversation with Tamara Tsintsadze at an IWA (International Women’s Association) coffee morning when I thought I had overheard her say that she was a Latin American Studies specialist and had been to a conference in Rio. The latter was correct, but she is an African-American Studies specialist—and the only one in Georgia!

Tamara is well traveled and has many interests. You could say she is a woman who wears many hats. She is president of a couple of organizations (Rotary; Society of Georgia-China Friendship) and Director of the School of Languages and Humanities as well as the “Tamarisi” Art Gallery.

Since Keith and I enjoy learning about Georgian artists and their work, we decided to pay a visit to Tamara’s gallery in Saburtalo. She was kind and gracious as she talked to us about how she started her gallery and her various collections of art.

We were quite surprised when we walked into her well-lit, well-designed, spacious room with paintings covering all wall surfaces. Most of the displayed paintings are by the deceased artist Edisher (Botso) Baramidze, whom Tamara began collecting 15 years ago. She now owns approximately 250 of his paintings.

The story behind Edisher is bittersweet. He would have been my age had he not died 6 years ago. His bohemian lifestyle cut his life short. He came from a creative family, but according to an article I read, the family members were so involved in their own work and careers that Edisher was neglected. As a schoolboy, Edisher got involved with music; he put together bands and experimented with a variety of music trends. It was only later in his life that he began painting.

Keith and I enjoyed looking at Edisher’s various painting styles. Many of his works use mixed media such as “paint, stone, brick, clay, sawdust, human hair, woolen threads, seeds and other things.” The photo below shows a portrait of a man whose hair is actually the human hair that belonged to his daughter after she got a haircut!

If you would like to see Edisher’s paintings, please contact: Tamara Tsintsadze at Tamriko@gmail.com.

Edisher (Botso) Baramidze’s painting incorporates his daughter’s hair; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

Some of Susanna’s sculptures

Dona Maria and Senhor Jose

Dona Maria and Senhor Jose

“My Gift to Keith” and “The Etruscan Dreamer”

“My Garden”

Teapot set

Happy birthday and anniversary, as well as a welcome and goodbye party

We had so many reasons to celebrate. Let’s begin from the left. We welcomed Stewart Lindsay, our neighbor in Columbia, South Carolina, who traveled to Georgia and Azerbaijan for a vacation. Susanna Melo and I celebrated our 8th anniversary and have been grateful for the ten years we’ve known each other. In addition, we celebrated Susanna’s and Anderson’s July birthdays. We bid farewell to Anderson de Jesus Lopes and William Santos, our two Brazilian “sons.” Two hours after our dinner, they returned to Brazil  for a well deserved vacation after dancing through Japan for a month. Our Georgian “daughter,” Tamuna Gabelia, who is a good friend of Anderson and William, helped make the party soooooo lively. The Brazilian ambassador to Georgia, Carlos Alberto Asfora, honored us by joining this festive occasion. Copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

On this day, eight years ago . . .

Susanna and I were married at Washington Street United Methodist Church in Columbia, South Carolina, eight years ago on this date–July 24. We first met exactly two years earlier on a group Fulbright trip to South Korea for educators in South Carolina. We really believe that we love each other today more than ever. We wish that everyone can experience the closeness, friendship, and happiness that we’ve enjoyed.

Khinkali birthday dinner in Dusheti

Dusheti, a town 30 miles northeast of Tbilisi, is well known for its khinkali. Susanna joins other women in making khinkali for a birthday dinner; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

Tamuna Gogatishvili invited us to Maia’s home in Dusheti, where friends and extended family members gathered to celebrate Mate’s 15th birthday; copyright Susanna Melo, 2012.

Mate blows out the candles on his birthday cake–a raspberry layered white cake; copyright Susanna Melo, 2012.

Maia must have spent the entire day in the kitchen cooking the meal and making the delicious birthday cake; copyright Susanna Melo, 2012.

After dinner, the young generation danced traditional Georgian dances and played the piano for everyone’s pleasure; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

Susanna’s ceramic mugs, teacups and snack bowls




Susanna’s blue-green period in ceramics








Where in the world is Davit Gasparyan?

Susanna Melo, Anush Chubaryan, and Davit Gasparyan pose outside a cafe by Republic Square in Yerevan, Armenia; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

Story by Susanna Melo

As an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teacher in the United States, I taught many children from around the world, but throughout the years, only one from Armenia. Davit Gasparyan was a student who was easy to remember. He was bright, worked hard, loved to write, enjoyed discussions and never missed an opportunity to talk about Armenia. At the end of fourth grade, he left A.C. Moore Elementary in Columbia, SC, and I never heard of him again.

While visiting Yerevan, I was curious to learn if I had the slightest chance of meeting up with Davit, whom I had not seen in more than 3 years. Of course, he could be living anywhere in the world, but Yerevan seemed to be a place to start my search. I Googled “Gasparyan and the University of South Carolina,” and came up with the name of a 2009 Muskie Fellow that just “could have been” Davit’s father; the year coincided with the time I taught Davit. The lead was right. I found Davit, who is now a very handsome 14-year old!

Over a two-hour period, sipping mint iced tea at a café on Republic Square, Davit, his mother Anush Chubaryan, Keith and I enjoyed catching up on everyone’s news. We learned that Davit is back in Columbia attending Hand Middle School, while his mother completes her PhD in Education Policy at USC.

In addition to recent news, we learned that Davit’s family is quite amazing. His maternal grandfather, Edward Chubaryan, was one of the founders, vice-presidents and professors of Theoretical Physics at Yerevan State University. It was also very interesting to learn that Davit’s great uncle, Ghukas Chubaryan, created the magnificent sculptures in front of two important institutions in Yerevan. At the Matenadaran (one of the richest manuscript depositories in Armenia housing manuscripts from the fifth century on) sits the grand sculpture of Mesrop Mashtots, founder of the Armenian alphabet in 405 AD, and his pupil Koryun. The other monument stands in front of the Yerevan Opera Theater. It portrays the composer, conductor, public figure and founder of Armenian classical music, Alexander Spendiaryan.

Given Davit’s heritage, it is not surprising that he is such a talented and bright student, who, by the way, loves art and creative writing!

Alexander Sendiaryan statue by Ghukas Chubaryan, in front of the Yerevan Opera Theater; copyright Susanna Melo, 2012.

Statue of Mesrop Mashtots and his pupil Koryun by Ghukas Chubaryan; copyright Susanna Melo, 2012.

Another Brazilian connection

Susanna Melo and Brazilian ambassador Carlos Alberto Asfora look at Susanna and Keith’s photos of Georgia; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

Susanna Melo and Ambassador Carlos Alberto Asfora; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

Story by Susanna Melo

We keep meeting more Brazilians in Tbilisi. Today we visited the Brazilian embassy behind the Marriot Hotel on Rustaveli Avenue. We enjoyed talking with the “simpático” (friendly, kind) Ambassador Carlos Alberto Asfora. He took time to get to know us and he shared information about his career as a diplomat. We exchanged notes on our experiences in Georgia, and he took interest in the stories behind the photos Keith and I shared with him.

By the end of our visit, we were like family, so it seemed appropriate to invite Ambassador Asfora for a home-cooked meal. When he visits our home in July, he’ll get to meet William Santos and Anderson Lopes, young Brazilian ballet dancers, who are presently on tour in Japan. In the ten months since the Brazilian embassy opened, Ambassador Asfora has only met a handful of Brazilian futsal players. But now we all are aware of the growing presence of Brazilians in Georgia!

Georgia’s Independence Day

Many people had their pictures taken at Alice’s tea party in Wonderland; copyright Susanna Melo, 2012.

I like the ways that Americans celebrate their Independence Day every July 4th. I like grilling hamburgers and ribs outdoors and eating watermelon. If someone invites us to spend the day with them on a lake or a river, that’s fun. Watching small-town parades with politicians waving from their convertible cars brings on a wave of nostalgia. Homemade peach ice cream tastes wonderful on a hot day! Seeing many red-white-and-blue flags boosts my patriotic spirit. If you’re watching with children, then fireworks displays are exciting. One of my most fun times, however, was when my son Ethan and I made a potato gun and then launched potatoes high into the air over a lake.

My first Independence Day in Georgia, however, was as much fun as any Fourth of July. Rustaveli Avenue, the main street through Tbilisi, was closed to traffic and lined with tents. Tens of thousands of people looked inside these tents to see all of the products produced in Georgia—everything from chocolate to shoes to furniture to subway cars to bricks to cheese to tanks. To entertain the crowd, dancers danced, singers sang, and musicians made music. Kids had lots of fun. They had their faces painted and played a variety of games. Of course, politicians were present. President Saakashvili attracted his own crowd as he walked through the larger mass of people. Creating this event was a smart idea and it was well executed. Georgia can be proud of its economic development in the 20 years since it broke away from the Soviet Union.

Tens of thousand of people strolled down Rustaveli Avenue on May 26, Georgia’s Independence Day, including one man on stilts; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

Traditional dances were performed near Freedom Square; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

Adults pulled the block to their end, and kids competed with each other to seek who could reel in their block the fastest. This happened over and over again throughout the day. Copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

Four people with great voices sang from the balcony above the theater on Rustaveli Avenue; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

Anderson de Jesus Lopes, William Santos and Susanna Melo shared cotton candy; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.