"Book of My Mother"
writer: Agata Mayer | images: Natela Grigalashvili
Natela Grigalashvili is the first female photojournalist in post-Soviet Georgia, recognized with many awards for her photo collections. Apart from taking pictures, she lectures at a local university and sets up photography clubs outside of major cities, where access to education and culture is limited. Whenever she has some time on her hands, she takes a bus to the all-familiar place, her native village, returning to people she grew up with and her mother, the two bonded in an uneasy relationship. In a struggle to tear down the barrier of indifference and deeply rooted accusations, Natela started the touching photo project “Book of My Mother”. She kept on taking pictures of her mother until she realized that the mutual anger and disappointment were no longer of much significance. She meant the book as a sincere story, an attempt at reconciliation and getting close to each other, a tribute to the parent. It turned out a soul-stirring portrait of the two.
Natela's mother, Keto, was born in the beginning of the Second World War in a high mountainous village. She was only ten years old when her mother died, hit by a train and her father, who fought in the war, never returned home. After that, she was raised by her brothers and their wives, and never spoke about this part of life.
She got married in Tagveti, a poor village made up of wooden cottages, nestled amidst misty valleys and rolling pastures, with a breathtaking vista of the Caucasus Mountains, where Natela and her brother were born. Keto wasn’t a strict parent but she wasn’t a loving mother either.
Born concurrently with “Book of My Mother”, the “Village of the Mice” photo series depicts Grigalashvili’s native village. Due to economic hardships and lack of infrastructure, Tagveti is now largely deserted, with most of the people she knew and pictured dead or gone away to a city. Migration affects not only individual villages, but also the country as a whole. Conceived out of longing, the photos have ultimately become an important social narrative.
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