National Geographic : 2014 Oct
Svaneti 97 Village children spend much of the winter skiing. Now, spurred by an expanded airport in Mestia, developers are building modern ski resorts to boost tourism. Jachvliani’s dead grandmother, sits on a wooden table. square in full festival regalia: boys in burgundy cassocks, silver daggers hanging from their belts; girls in long black peasant dresses. Their audi- ence consists of 50 foreign tourists in colorful parkas, paying six dollars each for the show. The revival of Svan music was under way before tourists began arriving in Svaneti, but it wasn’t until 2012 that the all-male ensemble, Kviria, first performed for visitors. The outside world’s growing interest in the intricate musical form has had a rebound effect: More Svan children are flocking to Chartolani’s classes. Arghvliani doesn’t know yet if she’ll pursue a career in traditional music—she loves Beyoncé and dubstep too—or even if she’ll stay in Svaneti. She sees her culture moving in two directions: “The Svan language will disappear with my gen- eration,” she says. “But the music will live on.” In Svaneti even old feuds can have lasting reper- cussions. A century ago in Cholashi, Jachvliani’s great-grandfather killed a neighbor to avenge the slaughtering of his prize bull. The feud ended when the Jachvlianis paid the neighbors two and a half acres of farmland and 20 head of cattle, a blood price whose effects can still be felt. The family now has just one bull. The sev- ered head of the other, sacrificed in honor of Jachvliani’s dead grandmother, sits on a wooden table, eyes still open, thick gray tongue lolling sideways. Under the beast’s implacable gaze, Jachvliani and the other men of Cholashi de- vour the ormotsi’s ceremonial first dish: a spicy heart-and-liver stew. Later in the day, before the raucous evening feast, Jachvliani and several men who haven’t shaved in the 40 days since his grandmother’s death gather outside her room.