Portrait of Georgia at The Smithsonian

Editorial credit: Caroline Coppel

Georgia – the country, not the state – threw itself an elegant birthday bash last Tuesday, commemorating its 20 years of independence from Russia.

“Portrait of Georgia,” held at the Smithsonian’s Kogod Courtyard, was equal parts staid cultural event and jovial soiree. At the start of the party, men in traditional garb strolled around the bright, airy venue, or quietly listened to a set by Georgian musical group The Shin. Young couples in varying forms of eveningwear stood in long, loosely defined lines waiting for access to the open bars, paying only slight attention to the batik wall hangings on display. Both groups were skirting the courtyard’s two large, flat fountains, unsure of whether to walk around or through them.

The food was served in the form of a Supra, a traditional Georgian feast. Guests circled the two long tables laden with dishes, eyeing their exotic descriptions – trout in pomegranate juice, melted cheese with mint – and taking pictures with their phones. They could only look, however; as part of a Supra, eating begins after a toast, and waiters stationed by both tables made sure this custom was upheld. They pushed people’s eager hands away, politely but firmly telling them to wait “just a few more minutes.”

After Georgian Ambassador Temuri Yakobashvili completed his toast, the crowd descended upon the buffet with almost no restraint. Waitstaff struggled to replenish the stacks of plates as people cut in and out of line, stocking up on potatoes and barbecued veal sticks. By the time the night ended, both tables were picked completely clean.

There was also a performance by Sukhishvili, Georgia’s national ballet company, and Batumi singing and dancing. Overall, it was a great party: let’s hope it doesn’t take the Embassy of Georgia 20 years to throw another one.

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