The Eliava

Selling The Past: A Story From Tbilisi

The Eliava is a vast open-air market in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, selling building materials, tools and machinery - much of it from Soviet days and Russian-made.  It's a place full of stories.
I am producing a 'visual report' on the Eliava, by drawing a large 360 degree panorama of one section of the market and the people who work there.   Each panel is a metre long and I have done all the drawing on location in amongst the stallholders.  

So why draw the Eliava bazaar?  First, it's a fascinating visual challenge.  Second, as a journalist I see the market as a compelling snapshot of Georgia's post-Soviet story.   It's a place that symbolises and caters for the demands of a new aspirational society, and where the Soviet past also lives on.  The past is on sale here, in the search for a new future.
When you enter the Eliava, you take a journey through time, into a labyrinth of stalls selling an astonishing array of old Russian tools, power engines and spare parts, providing work for hundreds of people.  Most of the stallholders grew up under the Soviet Union; some are struggling to adjust to the new post-Soviet Georgia. Selling the past is helping them make a living in the present.
Many served in the Soviet Army. Vazha was a former Soviet wrestling champion, then coach. Tamaz is a refugee from South Ossetia. While Pridon sells motors in the daytime, he's a poet at night.  I want to complete this visual report on the Eliava with individual portraits and write up their stories, along with added audio and video material.  I then want to exhibit the work, making it as accessible as possible with displays in public and online, as well as in galleries and museums.
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