Rita Khachaturyan – “Batonebi” (“Lords”)

Poster_Rita Khachaturian

Gallery “Vanda” presents Rita Khachaturyan’s Solo Show “Batonebi” (“Lords”). The Exhibition will last till May 30th.

 “Once as a child, when I was strolling through the village forest, I came across a raspberry bush covered in red ribbons, upon which was set a table full of toys and sweets. Grandma explained to me that this was the “lord’s tree”.

According to folklore, the “lords” were supernatural creatures from ancient Georgian myths. They were children of Nana, the goddess of fertility; they were the spirits of unborn babies and childless families – little creatures with red ribbons woven in their hair, who would roam the land and cause illness in the homes they would temporarily reside in.

According to the old ones, the “lords” enjoyed their whims fulfilled without question, they loved sweets, songs, merriment and colorful flowers, and if the host family would provide it all, then they would leave satisfied, without causing any trouble.

According to one other tradition, those who would host the “lords”, had to perform a ritual to appease their capricious guests. The afflicted family would decorate a “lord’s tree” with colorful ribbons, set a table with sweets and toys and sing a hymn called “Batonebo” (an ancient polyphonic song dating to pagan era, which roughly translated means: “oh, lords!”) while playing on Phanduri (national string instrument). For the healing to occur, the hymn had to also be heard by those who were ill, and thus the ritual was called “passing on the lords”.

I’ve heard that, as a child, I too have been afflicted by the “lords”. It was, of course, just a regular infectious disease, devoid of any supernatural context. However, people to this day are reluctant to abandon this myth, which is not surprising since, the flow of ages does not change the human fear of inevitable death and the yearning to paint the unfortunate realities of life in magical fairytale colors. 

The “Lords” tradition is a playful game with death, a myth of an unending match between the creation and its creator, wherein there can be only one winner. As for me, seeing one of these decorated “lord’s trees” just a year ago has transported me to my childhood, to my first encounter with wonder. I was surprised at how, throughout all this time, the tradition has remained unchanged.”