Manual Work – Green Bazaar (Kutaisi, Georgia)

The picture series „Manual Work“ deals with social spaces and people who spend a lot of their time making things or making them available for others. They often take things into their hands in different states of processing, workmanship or production. They are connected to things through eyes and hands in doing. Via the things and their doing they are connected to their working world, which usually fills their whole life world.

For more detailled information about the Kutaisi Bazaar, its structure and its importance for the people of Kutaisi, follow my #GeorgianPerspectives

„Knowing who you are means knowing the moral space that surrounds you. In such a space questions arise about what is good and bad, about what is worth doing and what is not; and about what makes sense and is important to someone and what seems trivial and unimportant to him..“

(Taylor 1996, 56)

The „Green Bazaar“ is located in the centre of Kutaisi. It is the main supply centre for the population living in the city and the surrounding area. At the same time, it is an excellent example of the high esteem in the Georgian culture for the value of food and drink. Despite the simplicity of many stalls, the traders and the thoughtful design of the stalls radiate a great deal of joie de vivre.

What is going on in this world? How do things relate to each other? What is important? What is the meaning of things, especially the opportunities for being and acting? According to Taylor (2009, 59), we assume „the basic premise that an active individual exists in a universe full of questions, questions to which our framing definitions provide answers, which form the horizon in the light of which we know where we stand and what the implications of things are.

The largest sections of the Kutaisi bazaar still follow the principle of division into branches or products such as dairy products, vegetables and fruit, clothing, household goods, etc. Competition between individual suppliers is thus largely ruled out since all of them offer the same products in the immediate neighbourhood. The prices for all goods are very low compared to European prices for food, and so are the profit margins for the traders. Nevertheless, it is the case that the slowly rising prices are a major concern for most Georgians because only a few have a permanent job and earn money regulary.

Going through the bazaar of Kutaisi has something of a walk through a labyrinth. Only little by little you orientate yourself, find your way.

The bazaar consists of different elements of buildings and has been undergoing constant alterations for many years, whereby the halls dating from the Soviet era have been preserved until now. It is one of the largest covered markets in all of Georgia.

A large number of the people who work at the ‚Green Bazaar‘ have long since reached retirement age.

Background information: The circumstances of life in Georgia are highly dependent on chance and tend to be outside individual control. The economic and social crisis which rocked the country brought with it a decline in skills which the poor state of the country’s education systems exacerbated. Poverty perpetuates itself down generations. In accordance with these difficult circumstances, labour migration, trade in home-grown produce at small-scale markets, and family and clan networks continue to be mainstays of economic survival in Georgia (cf. Gugushvili 2011, 16-18). The ‘Caucasus Barometer’ for 2019 reported that 15 per cent of the population found themselves with insufficient funds to feed themselves and their families daily in the course of a month, while 34 per cent, although they had enough money for food, could not afford clothing. The proportion of those dependent on the proceeds from selling the produce of small-scale subsistence farming stood at 28 per cent, and only 40 per cent received a more or less regular wage. Of those deemed low earners, 26 per cent reported needing a minimum of about 250 US dollars per month to cover necessary household expenses for themselves and their families and live ‘normal lives’; less than half (52 per cent) of the population have household incomes of 50-250 US dollars, and the average monthly old age pension stood at 50 US dollars (cf. Caucasus Barometer 2019). Pensions are crucial to supporting households within extended families among 59 per cent of the population. For some years, reports have been emerging of increasing levels of household debt in Georgia, accrued in what are usually futile attempts by families to lift themselves out of the poverty trap (cf. Lomsadze 2018).

Text: © Stefan Applis (2020)

Photography: © Stefan Applis (2019, 2018, 2017)


Caucasus Research Resource Centers. 2019. Caucasus Barometer. Tbilisi. (Date: 10 Juli 2020)

Gugushvili, A. (2011): Understanding poverty in Geor­gia. In: Caucasus Analytical Digest 34, 16–18. http://­Digest34.pdf (Date: 10 Juli 2020)

Lomsadze, G. (2018): Georgia’s predatory lenders are punishing the poor. Georgian indebtedness has reached crisis proportions. And lenders take scant look at customers’ creditworthiness. Eurasianet. (Date: 10 Juli 2020)

Taylor, C. (2016). Quellen des Selbst. Die Entstehung der neuzeitlichen Identität. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp. [Modern Social Imaginaries. Duke University Press.]

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