Medea's Daughters: Georgia's pioneering women in the arts

Nana Ekvtimishvili and Tamta Melashvili

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With Nana Ekvtimishvili and Tamta Melashvili.

This is an online event. Bookers will be sent a link in advance giving access and will be able to watch at any time for 48 hours after the start time.

Georgia is the mythical home of Medea and powerful medieval queens such as the 12th-century Queen Tamar. Women had the vote in Georgia’s first republic of 1918-21 as well as five women MPs. Women were prominent, too, among Georgia’s pioneering filmmakers, beginning with Nutsa Gogoberidze in 1927.

Yet what was their fate during 70 years of Soviet rule, and do women, and women in the arts, have the freedom today that was promised a century ago?

Meet award-winning filmmaker Nana Ekvtimishvili, at the forefront of Georgia’s cinematic new wave, whose newly translated first novel The Pear Field is set in an abusive children’s home in 1990s Tbilisi. She is joined by equally garlanded author Tamta Melashvili, whose novel To the East fictionalises a suspected love affair between Tbilisi’s famous avant-garde poet Paolo Iashvili and the married poet Elene Bakradze.

The novel intimates that 14 pseudonymous erotic poems attributed to Iashvili (co-founder of the Blue Horns in 1915 and a friend of Boris Pasternak) were penned by his secret lover. What might the continuing dispute over the authorship of these love poems say about Georgia today?

Hosted by award-winning cultural journalist and critic Maya Jaggi, Artistic Director of Georgia’s Fantastic Tavern

In association with Maya Jaggi and Writers’ House of Georgia. Part of Georgia’s Fantastic Tavern: Where Europe Meets Asia (25-28 February 2021), an online festival of Georgian writers from the Caucasus, with food and song, inspired by the café culture of the first democratic republic of 1918-21.

For further information visit

Learn more about the British Library’s Georgian collections in this blog article written by curator Anna Chelidze.

Nana Ekvtimishvili is an award-winning film director, screenwriter and fiction writer. Born in Tbilisi in 1978, she studied philosophy in Tbilisi and screenwriting and drama at the Academy of Film and Television in Potsdam-Babelsberg, Germany. Her debut feature In Bloom (2013) premiered at the Berlin film festival, won many awards around the world, and was Georgia’s Oscar nomination for best foreign language film. Depicting a bride-kidnapping in the war-torn Tbilisi of her childhood, the film was a landmark in the rebirth of post-Soviet Georgian cinema. In her latest feature, My Happy Family (2017) – also co-directed with her husband Simon Gross, and now streaming on Netflix – a woman in her early 50s walks out on her husband, mother and children in Tbilisi in favour of a room of her own. It premiered at Sundance in 2017, when its filmmakers were named among ‘new directors to watch’ by The New York Times. Her debut novel, The Pear Field, is based on the cruelty and abuses of a real ‘School for Idiots’ on the outskirts of Tbilisi. Published in Georgian in 2015, it won awards including the Ilia State University prize, and the Saba and Writers’ House Litera debut prizes. The English translation by Elizabeth Heighway was published in 2020 by Peirene Press.

Tamta Melashvili was born in 1979 in Ambrolauri, Georgia, and lives in Tbilisi. She studied international relations in Tbilisi and gender studies at the Central European University in Budapest, and now teaches at Tbilisi State University – the first university in Georgia and the south Caucasus, founded in 1918. She began to write during a year in Germany, and her books include the non-fiction Georgian Women in Germany: Empowerment through Migration? (2009). Her lauded first novel Counting Out (2010), about two teenage girls in a provincial town in an unnamed war zone, written after the 2008 Russo-Georgian war, won the Saba prize for best debut. An extract, translated by Elizabeth Heighway, was published in Words Without Borders in 2014. Her second novel, To the East, questions the authorship of 14 pseudonymous poems by Elene Dariani that are attributed to the Georgian Symbolist poet Paolo Iashvili – some of whose poetry was translated by Boris Pasternak – who shot himself in the Writers’ Union in Tbilisi (now Writers’ House) in 1937 during Stalin’s great purge.

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Name: Medea's Daughters: Georgia's pioneering women in the arts
Where: Entrance Hall
The British Library
96 Euston Road
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When: -
Price: Free Event: £0.00
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546