Over the holiday season last year we sold Georgian Christmas ornaments made from felt – khinkali, qvevris, churchkela, wine bottles, wine pitchers and even tonis puri (Georgian bread).
These ornaments were handmade by the men and women of Art Koda – a social enterprise working with families that were displaced during the 2008 war with Russia. These resettled families, originally from South Ossetia, now live in the former military base just outside the small town of Koda, a 40-minute drive from Tbilisi.
Art Koda works to teach new skills and provide new sources of income for these displaced residents. Perhaps more importantly, it offers a place and reason for people to come together and build relationships in their new community (temi – თემი). Considering that these families had been living in South Ossetia for generations, starting over in a new place with new people takes some real courage.
We attended a workshop at Art Koda to make our own felt ornaments, and learned that they were both easy and hard to make: easy, in that all you do is repeatedly poke the felt with a needle until it makes the desired shape; and hard, in that it takes some time and skill to turn a big piece of felt into something that resembles, in our cases, a khinkali and a wine pitcher.
We also received a tour of the Koda settlement and were happy to see the residents beginning to put down roots in their new town.
Our thanks to Art Koda for partnering with us and the Koda community for inviting us to visit (and the Peace Corps volunteer that organized it all – thanks Kim!). We loved meeting you!