Irakli Kakabadze

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Irakli Kakabadze is a Georgian writer, performance artist, peace and human rights activist.[1] In 2009, he was awarded the Oxfam/Novib PEN Freedom of Expression Prize.[2] Kakabadze's articles and stories have been published in Georgian, Russian, and English newspapers and magazines. In 2007 he received the Lilian Hellman/Hammett grant from Human Rights Watch.[3] From 2008 to 2012, Kakabadze was based in Ithaca, NY,[4] where he developed a new method of integrating performing arts and social sciences, called "Rethinking Tragedy" or "Transformative Performance."[5] Kakabadze has also pioneered a multi-lingual and multi-narrative performing style, called Polyphonic Discourse.[6] Irakli Kakabadze's work as an artist-activist is subject of a verite documentary At the Top of My Voice.


In his early youth (1987–1990) Irakli Kakabadze was actively involved in the anti-Soviet dissident movement and participated in the National Liberation movement of Georgia. By 1989 he was the youngest member of the National Liberation Committee formed by the first President of Georgia, Zviad Gamsakhurdia. In 1990, at the age of 21 he was elected to the National Forum of Georgia, which included the nine strongest political parties there. Kakabadze was not eligible to run due to his age, but he helped the liberation movement to win October 1990 elections by a wide margin. After the election of Zviad Gamsakhurdia as Georgia's President, Kakabadze quit his political activities and dedicated himself to literature and arts. He moved to the United States in 1990 and then adopted a bilingual writing style. Kakabadze also works in the field of peace studies and conflict resolution. He has been a practitioner of nonviolent social change and conflict resolution for nearly two decades. He was an active participant of two peaceful revolutions in 1989 (as one of the leaders of student movement) and in 2003 (as one of the leaders of civil disobedience committee).

During his work as peace and human rights activist in 1988-2010, Kakabadze was arrested and assaulted a number of times by the Soviet and Georgian police.

Literary career[edit]

Irakli Kakabadze has published more than fifty short stories and essays in Georgian and English newspapers and magazines.[7] His novel, Allegro or The Chronicle of One Year received the 1990 Best Literary Creation Award from the Georgian magazine Tsiskari. His play “Candidate Jokola” was controversial in Georgia, as it was about a love story between a Georgian presidential candidate and an Abkhaz woman.

SHMAZI Transformative Performance style[edit]

The word Shmazi was born in the mid-1990s while Kakabadze was studying at George Mason University in Virginia, USA. Kakabadze integrated performance and conflict resolution sessions in 1997 together with Daniel McFarland and KP-Funk Band. “Shmazi” style of performing art combines performance with facilitated problem-solving workshops. In 1998-99 he took part in Shmazi performances together with American authors, including Yana Djin, Quique Aviles, singer Luci Murphy and musicians Allison Wolfe, and Natalie Avery. Initially, Shmazi events were directed mostly against the bourgeois gentrification policies in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, DC. Shmazi became synonymous with political performing arts, challenging the economic order of class domination. But at the same time Kakabadze and his colleagues were facilitating conflict transformation through artistic performances.

After returning to Georgia Kakabadze started to collaborate with one of the leading composers of electronic music Gogi Dzodzuashvili. Dzodzuashvili and Kakabadze created the well-known electronic song “Postindustrial Boys” - one of the popular songs in Europe.[8] Kakabadze developed Polyphonic Discourse that included differing narratives in the same artistic piece. “Tbilisi at the End of 20th” century was one of the first Shmazi performances, featuring multiple narratives. In 2003 Kakabadze together with Giorgi Sikharulidze created “Theater for Change” based on Augusto Boal’s facilitation technique. This time the goal was to contribute to social change through artistic action. The work of this theater under the leadership of Giorgi Sikharulidze and Irakli Kakabadze contributed significantly to the non-violent “Rose Revolution’ in November, 2003. Kakabadze has taught this method for years in different universities, including at Cornell University.

Polyphonic Discourse[edit]

Irakli Kakabadze was an Editor-in-Chief of the bi-lingual (Georgian-English) literary-social science magazine “Peace Times” in 2001-2004 in Tbilisi, Georgia.[9] This is where he started to explore multi-lingual and multi-discourse style of writing. The magazine combined the discourse of creative multi-media art with multi-disciplinary peace science. It was at this journal that Kakabadze started to publish Georgian, Russian, English and German texts. Polyphonic discourse as a method originates from traditional Georgian folk music and from the writings of Russian literary scientist Mikhail Bakhtin. Together with his colleague Zurab Rtveliashvili, Kakabadze has used this technique to bring it to writing and performance – articulating different narratives at the same time. In their joint works “The Georgian Humanist Manifesto of 21st Century” (2005) and “Contemporary Dada Manifesto” (2009) they have shown two distinctly different narratives coexisting in the same performance while not breaking up it harmony. A decentralized style of performance and artistic delivery became a signature style of these artists. Many critics connected these polyphonic performances with the advance of multicultural postmodern narrative in the West – but according to authors, this concept has its roots far deeper than simple trend on early 21st century.

In May 2008 Kakabadze shared a stage at PEN World Voices Festival in New York with György Dragomán, Hasan Elahi, Asli Erdogan, Péter Esterházy, Chenjerai Hove, Jenny Marketou, Ivy Meeropol, Francine Prose, and Ingo Schulze, at the Writers and Artists Against the Surveillance State.[20] In November 2008 at the Miami Book Fair Kakabadze shared a stage with Sarah Mkhonza, Russell Banks and Derek Walcott to perform another piece of Polyphonic Blues.[21]

Kakabadze has performed his polyphonic style of poetry at the Frankfurt Book Fair (2009)[10] and “Free the Word” in London (2010) (23). At the 2010 “PEN World Voices” Festival in New York Kakabadze performed Polyphonic Discourse at the Cabaret Show that featured the author with Natalie Merchant, Ben Okri and Ariel Dorfman.[11]


  • Times Square - Circle of the Time (1998, Publishing house "Azri") – in Georgian
  • Allegro or the Chronicle of One Year - (2002, "Azri") – in Georgian
  • Compassionata - (2004, "Siesta") – in Georgian
  • Candidate Jokola - (2005, "Siesta") in Georgian & (2010, Vista-Periodista) in English
  • Land of Flowers – Liberation Theology – (2010, Vista-Periodista) in English & Georgian


  1. ^ PEN American Center - Authors. Retrieved on 2009-02-05.
  2. ^ Kakabadze among the recipients of Oxfam/Novib Pen Freedom of Expression Prize
  3. ^ Banned, Censored, Harassed and Jailed | Human Rights Watch. (2007-02-05). Retrieved on 2009-02-05.
  4. ^ 94. "Cornell Alumni Magazine - Writing for Your Life". Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  5. ^ "Rethinking Tragedy: Creative Solutions to Conflict in the Caucasus". Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  6. ^ Miami a natural haven for persecuted writers - Miami Book Fair International Retrieved on 2009-02-05
  7. ^ Writers At Cornell: Interview: Irakli Kakabadze. Retrieved on 2009-02-05.
  8. ^ "Post Industrial Boys - Post Industrial Boys". Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  9. ^ "Irakli Kakabadze, fiction writer - CornellCast". Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  10. ^ Guidry, Marianne. "Der Blog". Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  11. ^ PEN America (24 May 2010). "Irakli Kakabadze Performs a Polyphonic Discourse". Retrieved 10 September 2016 – via YouTube.