Nativism, the Avant-garde, and the Aesthetics of Decolonisation in Nikoloz Shengelaia’s “Eliso”


  • Dušan Radunović Durham University



Nikoloz Shengelaia, Georgia, decolonisation, ethnographic representation, film, vernacular, fact, purpose


The paper evaluates the reappraisal of nineteenth-century imperial discourses about Georgia and the Caucasus at large in the early Soviet context. The dual figuration of the national idea in the nineteenth century is laid out in view of the colonial status of Georgia and in the context of the gradual modernisation of Georgian society in the late imperial years. The key aspects of the rhetoric of national identity at the time are introduced in their complex figuration – the initial appropriation of the image of the Caucasus and Georgia shaped by colonial imagination, and the emancipation from that rhetoric with the second wave of national intelligentsia. The central part of the paper is dedicated to Nikoloz Shengelaia’s 1928 film Eliso, in which the Georgian poet-turned-filmmaker, in association with the screenwriter Sergei Tret´iakov, transformed the representational language of 1920s Georgian cinema, facilitated its emancipation from ethnographic tropes and transitioned towards an original vernacular aesthetics. To expand on the intellectual roots of this intervention, this discussion highlights the importance of Tret´iakov’s concepts of “fact”, “production” [proizvodstvo], and “purpose” [naznachenie], which enabled Shengelaia to immerse his characters into their concrete socio-historical circumstances and avoid the pitfalls of ‘popular’ ethnographic representation. The article argues that the political emancipation of the colonial self was inseparable from the emancipation of the strategies of representation. The discussion concludes, if conditionally and with caveats necessitated by the status of Georgia in the Soviet project following the country’s violent annexation by the Soviet army in 1921, that a developed form of an emancipated representational language can be found in Eliso




How to Cite

Radunović, Dušan. 2024. “Nativism, the Avant-Garde, and the Aesthetics of Decolonisation in Nikoloz Shengelaia’s ‘Eliso’”. Apparatus. Film, Media and Digital Cultures of Central and Eastern Europe, no. 18 (March).

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