Tbilisi welcomes us once again. Approximately a year has passed since our last time in Georgia's capital, and a lot has happened ever since. Our last visit was for Mercedez-Benz Fashion Week, but our first was for Culture Week in 2022, and now in 2024, a new edition of it has finally arrived, and, coincidentally, there's a new battle to fight at the same time the event is taking place, just like the last time. In the first edition, the focus was on Ukraine's liberty, and even if this is forever a main topic of Georgia's mindset, now the country is also fighting for its own liberation. During the day, art took the lead, and at night, human power manifested itself on the streets. Culture Week 2024 showed the desire of Georgians for freedom, an European future, and a life at peace.
The creative industry always ends up receiving the impact of the political and social situations each country is going through. In an attempt to reverse this tendency, Culture Week Tbilisi has always had the aim of using the power of art to fight back against the forces that go against it, against the freedom of expression and the right of all humans to live at peace. In 2022, we had the opportunity to witness the talent and hard work of Ukrainian artists and creators in the midst of a war that is sadly still being fought, where we learned their history through their eyes and understood on a deeper level what it feels to lose what you once had. In this year's edition, the strong bond between Georgians and Ukrainians is still present, but aside from worrying and caring for their brother country, Georgians also had personal fights to battle against and hopefully win.
The attempts to pass the Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence, most commonly known as Russian law, a rule in which the media and NGO’s that receive more than 20% of their funds from abroad have to register in the country as "agents of foreign influence,” meaning they will be subjected to monitoring of their content, losing all freedom of expression, is a concern that has been present for months now and has reflected in a tense social situation that has manifested itself as constant and persistent demonstrations that have flooded Tbilisi streets nonstop. This is the context in which this Cultural Week developed, and each artist's showcase, exhibition, and art piece’s meaning was magnified by it, going further than their original intention and becoming a protest on its own to defend the right to say, create, and construct histories without any sort of control.
For this edition, the spotlight was shared by art and fashion in equal parts, being a sort of mix of the last two events that have taken us to Georgia’s capital, an idea that Sofia Tchkonia, the mind behind this, has been considering for a while and that finally came to reality. With a carefully crafted calendar that was divided almost equally between exhibits, fashion shows, concerts, and film screenings distributed over four days, the offer was vast and the content was very complete. Taking place on its majority at the already epicentre of culture in the city, Factory Tbilisi, the wide space has been under construction to upgrade its capacity and offer different atmospheres and spaces where to showcase different disciplines, being Theather Factory 42 one of them. Aside from Factory, plenty of other locations around the city opened their doors to different activations and shows, not to mention the different restaurants we had the chance to visit, proving why Georgian food and wine are some of the best that you could ever find.
Regarding art, different disciplines could be found in the exhibition at Factory, including photography, installations, sculptures, and paintings. Ukrainian artist Roman Mikhalov returns to Culture Week this time with shadows as a motif and a concept that reflect the permanent stains left on our minds from all the memories we’ve collected through life, while Georgian artist Levan Mindiashvili also uses his personal style to ponder about time with a memorable quote imprinted on his work, “Past is just a story we tell ourselves," aside from his big violet neon sign that graces the entrance of Factory that reads “reevolution.” 
Azerbaijani artist Faig Ahmed's deconstruction of tradition and stereotypes is reflected in one of his impressive and iconic handmade carpets that appear to be melting in a cascade of colours and expand from the wall to the floor, while the exhibition Curtain Georgian Theatre 1937, curated by Nikoloz Tsulukidze, depicts the tumultuous and painful history of Georgia during the 20th century through the theatrical and artistic expression of its time, with its name symbolising not only the element found at any stage or audience hall but also the iron curtain that isolated the country for decades after its Sovietization. 
Also part of the exhibition, but leaning onto fashion, a curation of pieces from different designers made by the icon and Tbilisi regular Diane Pernet occupied a good space on the Factory. Featuring work from local designers like Supernatural Superstarts by Davit Zhorzholiani, Kvarti by Tinatin Pantskhava, or Uta Bekaia, the installation also houses foreign talent like Ukrainian Mira Matchina or Chilean-born Paris-based Sebastian A. de Ruffray with Sevali. The selected pieces exposed all together showcase the visionary and avant-garde style that has made Pernet one of the most respected voices in the industry and result in a nice blend of talent from around the world. 
Fashion shows in different locations aside from the main space gave us the familiar taste of Tbilisi Fashion Week, with proposals that most evidently reflect the state of the country and the feelings the creative industry has towards the difficult situation. Berhasm, whom we are already familiar with from the past edition, showed another one of its contemporary and raw collections, appropriately named Chaos and New Order, where the shades were kept in the darker range. The faces of the models, with redness under the eyes and a glazed and wet effect on the skin, were meant to represent the protesters reality at the front of their fight after being sprayed with tear gas and pepper spray, an appearance that, far from flattering, portrays exactly the hard times the citizens are going through.
We had the opportunity to see again and in an expanded and extended way the creative visions of young designers like Dzhaba by Dzhaba Kurtishvili and Jesus Star by Lashao Gabunia after getting a taste of what they were capable of on the last edition of the Be Next contest, where we participated as part of the judges. Aka Prodiashvili, with its already recognisable style full of dramatism, transparancies, and theatrical looks, displayed what is probably the most straight-forward message that we saw on the runways, with the last look being a European flag-turned dress. The desire for a European future personified.
Documentary film screenings are a first for this event, but they turned out to be one of the greatest successes thanks to the perfect selection of pieces to show. Renowned film director Reiner Holzemer presented not one but two films, the first being his documentary Juergen Teller about the legendary photographer, and the second being Martin Margiela: In His Own Words, an audiovisual piece in which Margiela himself narrates and explains his life on an extremely rare testimony that results in a quintessential definition of what true fashion is. Having Holzemer on the screening with us, giving us insight about how this masterpiece came to be, from his first encounter with Martin to the decision to use his voice on the film, was an experience hard to forget. 
Music and dance are always an unmissable part of the week's planning, taking a special place as the opening and closing acts of the event in such a way that we can arrive and leave with a fresh taste of Georgian culture in our memory. The Georgian National Ballet and Orchestra Sukhishvili were in charge of receiving us with the intricate choreographies that are world-renowned, and the farewell was given with an emotional opera concert by singer Anita Rachvelishvili, director Nikoloz Rachveli, and the Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra. Rachvelishvili also sang the Georgian national anthem on our surprise visit to Georgia's president Salome Zourabichvili’s house, who, with a straightforward and powerful speech, made us clear that the country will keep fighting for its emancipation, that freedom of speech is non-negotiable, and that through art, culture, and events like this, everything is possible.