From ARTIФ to Queer.ge – a story of Nino Bolkvadze

Nino Bolkvadze is a human rights defender, lawyer and LGBTQI rights activist from Tbilisi. In 2020, Nino became one of the participants in the ARTIФ workshop, where, together with the artist Koka Kitiashvili, she created the project “A Postcard for a Parliamentarian”. Nino told us about her path to art in activism, participation in ARTIФ, and how the acquaintance with the artist gave inspiration to create a new large-scale project.

“A Postcard for a Parliamentarian”, Nino Bolkvadze, Koka Kitiashvili, 2020

At the age of 16, I faced the difficult dilemma of enrolling in the Academy of Arts or the Faculty of Law. On the one hand, I was attracted to the idea of becoming an artist, a free artist, and on the other hand, I could not help but try myself as a lawyer, a human rights activist. Despite the fact that I chose to work in the field of human rights and for the last 10 years I have provided Pro Bono legal assistance to those who most needed it, in the depths of my heart I still had a dream to express myself through art.
ARTIФ turned out to be an excellent opportunity in this regard – it enabled me to speak loudly about very important things – about the change in the course of my country from Western to pro- Russian, about lawlessness, corruption, monopoly in the field of medical services, social inequality, weakening state institutions and other problems, but the process itself was completely unusual and exciting.
In addition, I met Koka Kitiashvili, an absolutely amazing artist who can convey any idea in the most unusual, unexpected and, of course, interesting way. Koka drew caricature postcards, I wrote texts with “congratulations” to members of the Georgian parliament with a failure in one area or another. The initiative attracted interest from both members of the parliament, human rights activists and civil activists. People wanted to see our postcards and even have copies of them.
We had a lot of fun and pleasure when making this project. For me personally, it is obvious that our combined efforts provide much more opportunities and make our activities more productive.

“A Postcard for a Parliamentarian”, Nino Bolkvadze, Koka Kitiashvili, 2020

In fact, the protection of human rights is the promotion of ideas on how we can treat each other better. And what is art – it means understanding the world around us, conveying ideas about it in an efficient form.
I think art makes the most complex ideas and emotions visible and memorable. For example, performance art is present in all rituals and ceremonies. For social groups whose representatives live a difficult life, art can help overcome difficulties, give motivation, help to find friends, fill them with positive emotions, teach them how to find solutions, and so much more.
Sometimes one drawing can turn the vision of a particular situation upside down, give
confidence that one is right, courage to change, and so on. Therefore, I think art can be
everywhere where we need to remind ourselves that we are people and that we need to treat ourselves and others in a humane way.

“A Postcard for a Parliamentarian”, Nino Bolkvadze, Koka Kitiashvili, 2020

Our acquaintance with Koka very quickly grew into friendship and further cooperation. But besides that, something like an insight happened to me meanwhile, and I’m not afraid of this loud word. One day, I just saw an online magazine that would reflect the life of the LGBTIQ community in Georgia. I think working with the artist gave me confidence that it is possible for even the most unbearable reality to inspire and give strength – it all depends on the art of presenting it.
We started with small steps, the online magazine Queer.ge was launched on May 17, 2021 on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. After that, only 9 months have passed, and the project has grown from 25 publications to more than 500 in three languages ​​- Georgian, English and Russian. About 50,000 unique readers during this time, mainly from Georgia, but also from the USA, Germany, Italy, France, Sweden, Belgium, Spain, Great Britain, Kenya, Russia, Greece, Turkey, Poland, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, India and from many other countries.

Our publications are regularly read by LGBTIQ people from 98 countries!
We, the LGBTIQ community from Georgia, have a lot to say, really. For those who have been silent for so long.
And of course, many thanks to the creators of the ARTIФ project for their work, faith in humanity and art.
You can check out the Queer.ge project via the link https://queer.ge/
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