Panorama at Jruchrula and Kvirila River confluence

Chiatura section. N. Davitaia.

Kvirila Gorge wall drawing. M. Kapanadze, N. Davitaia, N. Kapanadze.

Grasses, manganese washing cells. Cowles.

Sabagiro: over Jruchrula Gorge. Cowles.

Chiatura section. N. Davitaia.

Abandoned sabagiro station. Cowles.

Kvirila River Edges. N. Davitaia


RA008 | Chiatura: We Come in Peace focused on the city and region of Chiatura in the Imereti province of the Republic of Georgia. Chiatura is a working landscape, dominated by mining operations and facilities. In this month-long course, participants were introduced to techniques of landscape research, analysis, interpretation, and design through intensive site exploration and artistic production.

Site Location Chiatura, Georgia | Exhibition 1st Tbilisi Triennial: Offside Effect. Center for Contemporary Art, Tbilisi, October 2012 | Publication Ground Up Journal: Grit Issue \ Metropolis M Books: Offside Effect

Sandro Sulaberidze, Nona Davitaia, Tornike Jashia, Mako Kapanadze, Levan Skhirtladze, Ana Chaduneli, Tamar Chaduneli, Natia Kapanadze, Nuliko Debili, Sopo Miminoshvili

Site History

For over 100 years manganese has been mined at upper elevations of the Kvirila gorge. The manganses ore is processed in mills in the gorge, transferred to railcars at the river bottom, and then transported to plants in Zestaponi. Black sediments from mining operations foul the Krivila River from Chiatura southward. Half of the riverside operations are in ruin – a linear landscape of black drifts of ore and piles of crumbling concrete. One system of ropeways conveys ore from the mines to processing facilities on each side of the river. A second set transports people from the river bottom to the upper levels of the gorge and from village to village.

The first phase of the workshop focused on exploration of the region, and resulted in a series of artworks interpreting how land use and social spaces are stratified in relation to elevation. These works were exhibited at the First Tbilisi Triennale. The second phase focused on materials of the site; the ore and grit – the physical, material, and textural elements that define the aesthetic character of Chiatura. The third phase, to be developed over winter 2013, synthesizes the two previous analytical phases into a design proposal into a remediation program for the city and the Kvirila gorge.

On the first day of the first phase, each participant was assigned to a different sabagiro, or gondola, to travel from the bottom of the river to the upper elevations. They spent the day sketching, slowly returning to the guest house in a situationist “derive”. Each participant returned and shared stories and vignettes about the landscape of the gorge. This exercise helped build the group’s collective knowledge of the site. The next day, participants were assigned a series of landscape terms to define both verbally and with illustrations or photographs from Chiatura, creating a common, site specific language to discuss and evolve the project. After a few days some participants had to return to Tbilisi and a core group of 4 students remained. The following days participants revisited certain sites for further sketching and study, including the terminus of the mine train, an ore processing plant, and the village of Darkveti at the upper plateau.

The installation at Europe House-entitled “We Come in Peace”, is an interpretation of a series of “social and ecological incidents” that occurred during the workshop, and at different elevations within the gorge. A large section-elevation drawing orients viewers to the topography of the gorge, and each installation carries an elevation notation that corresponds to the section drawing.  In these works, the participants sought to capture how spatial, social and psychological implications of how sabagiro travel within the topography of the city creates an idiosyncratic vertical urbanism.

Mshvidoba, or “Peace” is the name of a miner’s sabagiro. It rises 1000 meters from the center of the city at a 42 degree pitch.  We Come in Peace refers to a pop culture meme; a message to humans from friendly aliens arriving on planet earth.

In the second phase, participants investigated three sites in Chiatura: a concrete plant in Darkveti near the start of the gorge, an abandoned ore washing plant, and the Itkhvisi-Zodi ropeway. The resilience of the land and people of ­­Chiatura was witnessed, and ideas of physical and metaphoric grit filtration, catchment, and processing were explored. The second day, they created drawings interpreting the sites. Soils, mining surplus, vegetation, architectural and industrial artifacts, and water are represented in this visual vocabulary, as reference points to guide aesthetic and material decision making for continued projects in Chiatura.

A selection of videos from Youtube:



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