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Past merges with present

By Nutsa Eristavi
Friday, June 6
It has almost been a year since Caucasus Nature Jewels (CNJ) has opened its first gallery in the heart of the old city, within one of the most beautiful historical buildings, Qarvasla Museum. CNJ is the place where you can see unique art works such as crafts, jewelry and textiles collected from all over Georgia and the Caucasus. The founders of the gallery are specifically working with artists and craftsmen from remote areas of the country who use traditional techniques to create their pieces.

“The Caucasus has a very ancient and rich craftsmanship tradition which we try to present in our gallery,” said one of the members of CNJ.

The idea of opening the gallery is inspired by American business and financial lawyer, David Morrison. In 2007, Mr. Morrison retired after a28 year career and in 2008 he became the founding Executive Director of the Caucasus Nature Fund (CNF), a newly created NGO that partners with the governments of Georgia and Armenia to support nature protection in the richly bio-diverse region of the Caucasus.

Here is what Morrison says about his mission and the CNF:

“I came to the work of conserving nature in the South Caucasus — as with most things in my life — through a combination of the forces of circumstance, curiosity and calling. Circumstance saw my life move eastward over a long journey from its middle-west/western American beginnings. Curiosity and calling, I think, were rooted in my first experiences as a teenager in America’s great national parks, of which I had visited more than a dozen by the age of twenty-one.

“When I was ready to embark on a second career, and was presented with the prospect of supporting national parks in the Caucasus, something clicked. Within a few weeks on the job I saw firsthand that, unbeknownst to me — and to most of us — a wilderness as magnificent and diverse as America’s West exists on Europe’s Eastern rim.

“The Caucasus wilderness is surrounded by a myriad of fascinating and ancient cultures. As struggling, newly independent states in the post-Soviet space, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia each have a unique story and is worthy of support and encouragement. And while the region’s politics are complex, the environment is a rare field of nascent cooperation.

“As we have built our organization over more than five years now, we have taken important first steps to support the preservation — and as appropriate, the development — of this magnificent wilderness. You will glean from these pages, however, that most of the work is still in front of us.

“Fortunately, the combination of circumstance, curiosity and calling that led me here has long since bloomed into passion. I look forward to continuing to address the challenges for the benefit of the region and its future, but also for the rest of Europe, Central Asia and beyond. Please accept my personal welcome to the wild and wonderful world of Caucasus nature! “

The CNF and CNJ have an amazing partnership which results in great work, supporting people and nature in the Caucasus.

In addition to supporting local artists, CNJ contributes to preserving nature in the region. The gallery donates part of its income to the CNF which is non-profit organization established to safeguard in the Caucasus eco-region by protecting and strengthening the network of national parks and nature reserves in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia - so that the regions and people and species all thrive.

In the gallery of Qarvasla Museum really talented artists Nino Tsalkalamanidze and Maka Tabatadze work as hostesses and presenters of Georgian handmade crafts and artworks. They are meeting many people from a variety of countries every day, and telling them exotic stories about the artwork and their techniques; guests are falling in love with Georgian culture and art even more. By looking at this ancient pieces you can travel to the past, imagine who was wearing the ring with the sign of infinite and who used their hands coloring natural wool with herbs.

After buying a piece from the gallery, hosts are always informing the foreign guests about the CNF and about their kind work which makes them more happy, knowing that 3% of the entire sale price on CNJ products goes directly to the CNF, providing long-term support and management assistance for the protected areas of the Caucasus seeking to conserve one of the most biologically rich and culturally diverse eco-regions.

After great success and receiving many satisfied customers at Qarvasla Museum, the founders decided to open another gallery at Radisson Blu - Iveria, which is a little smaller than Qarvasla but still very cozy with walls full of beautiful drawings, shelves full of interesting handmade boxes with natural stones, cufflinks, silk scarves and many other items of interest. In the hotel guests understand that the products are pure, unique, natural, ecologically friendly and safe for them.

“If you are looking for something unique and memorable to take back from your unforgettable trip to Georgia, the CNJ gallery is exactly the right place,” said an American soldier from Iraq while looking for presents for his wife and daughter.

The CNF with the CNJ support parks in: Borjomi-Kharagauli, Lagodekhi, Vashlovani, Tusheti, Mtirala and Javakheti. By 2020, the CNF is planning to extend its support to the Kazbegi, Algeti, Pshav-Khevsuteri and Kintrishi regions.