Lakushdi village is a very small community of some 17 families, based in the remote High Caucasus Svaneti region of the post Soviet Republic of Georgia. Because of the challenges faced by families living in Svaneti which until recently has been cut off in the winter by snow, many families have left, draining the community’s life blood. This is a region of ancient traditional customs, an agrarian economy, where poverty is the most pressing issue, and basic facilities like health care hardly exist . One of the village’s most sought after assets however is a particular source of ancient traditional music, considered to be one of the UNESCO’s “Masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity.”
In order to develop a strategy to sustain their traditional way of life, and to empower their children and grandchildren, the village elders invited us to the village.
Their proposal was that they wished to invite a group of paying guests to the village to learn their songs, and partake in these ancient rituals, alongside their children. This would bring much needed economic benefits to the village and the event would be a community enterprise. The village children were to participate fully in this event, a children’s choir would be formed, disabled children would be a priority, and lifeblood pumped back in to the village by their own efforts. All families would participate and the community would benefit.
The first group of 22 people participated 4 years ago and the project has been a resounding success. Every year a group of visitors arrive who are committed to supporting the village and its way of life. There are now 2 children’s choirs and children have begun to value their way of life and see it in a new way. 2 families have returned. 4 families with disabled children have benefited financially and now more foreign groups come to the village in the same spirit. Most houses now have inside toilets and showers. The children are learning English, and a unique social enterprise model of sustainability in village life has been pioneered –at the community’s own initiative. Hope has returned.
You can support the work of Braveheart Georgia in Lakushdi Village by purchasing DVD’s about the ancient ritual of Limkheri. You can learn 15 sacred and secular songs by village elders and songmasters, or join the annual trip to celebrate the Laghusdhi Harvest Thanksgiving Festival Feast of the Virgin Mary in Svaneti, which marks the beginning of the Autumn harvest season in the Georgian High Caucasus.