Want to discover more about Georgia? Then let’s start by taking a look at its unusual (but beautiful) alphabet!
Georgian is written from left to right, its alphabet is made up of 33 letters, and it has no upper case. It is one among the world’s 14 original writing systems. Among the languages of the globe, it is part of the special ‘Kartvelian Group’ and has a linguistic system with a unique structure. The Georgian alphabet represents one of the most ancient, exceptional and valuable heritages of Georgia and was added to the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2016.
The Georgian written language has gone through a long and interesting path of evolution, in three stages: the Asomtavruli alphabet, Nuskhuri and Mkhedruli. The oldest known traces of Georgian script date back to the 5th century. The script you see on the street signs and menus around you today is Mkhedruli and it dates back to the 10th century. Asomtavruli and Nushkhuri, are used particularly for ecclesiastical writings and you can see examples on the walls and icons within the churches you visit.
The alphabets coexist thanks to their different cultural and social functions, reflecting an aspect of Georgia’s diversity and identity.
Along with its historical meaning for the nation as a symbol of the country’s eternal essence, today, the ‘modern life’ of the Georgian alphabet is also an interesting theme to discuss, as it if often found in both fashion and art.
Georgian letters are being placed on a wide-range of clothes and accessories created by Georgian designers. Interestingly, ‘wearing the script’ is as popular abroad as it is locally.
World-renowned Georgian fashion designer Demna Gvasalia, the Creative Director of Balenciaga and Head Designer of Vetments, was also inspired by the Georgian alphabet and used it in his previous collections.
Shota Saganelidze, a Georgian calligraphy artist, creates stunning pieces of jewelry and other accessories using the Georgian alphabet.
The Georgian alphabet has also become a constituent of street art and was used to decorate a wall at the Street Art Festival in Kharkov.
‘Georgia Made by Characters’ was a major project launched in 2017, which saw the introduction of the long history and unique features of the country through the 33 characters of the alphabet. The initiative was hugely successful, shining some well-deserved light on this small, little-known country. ‘Georgia Made by Characters’ was also the main concept for the country when it presented itself as Guest of Honor at the 2018 Frankfurt Book Fair.
And, while exploring the Georgian alphabet, it is vital to mention an initiative commenced by TBC Bank in 2015 called #წერექართულად - ‘Write in Georgian’. The desire to preserve and promote the Georgian script and language was the main catalyst of the given project, as with the accelerated trend of globalization, language also experiences changes. To combat the widespread use of writing Georgian words in the Latin script rather than in its own alphabet, the #წერექართულად campaign has become one of the most successful projects in recent times, appealing to the pride of the Georgian nation in is history and unity.
By Ketevan Kvaratskheliya