Ia lives in Azerbaijan, a mere twenty-five kilometers from the border of Georgia. Ia’s village of Kotoklo is inhabited by Georgians and is referred to as an Ingilo1 village. She grew up singing and learning songs from her older sister Tsitsino, who taught panduri2 locally. During Ia's childhood, when Georgia and Azerbaijan were states within the Soviet Union, it was easy to travel back and forth for festivities or studies. Since the mid 1990's however, with new borders drawn and visas mandatory, traveling has become harder.
Today, Ia has two young children and a beautiful backyard full of flowers.
1A territory in western Azerbaijan, historically linked to Georgia by way of politics and culture. The territory was disputed between 1918-1920, when both Azerbaijan and Georgia claimed it. Under Soviet rule the territory was allocated to Azerbaijan, but as borders were fluid, travel and cultural exchange were possible. Since the mid 1990’s, many points along the border have closed and passing across has become much more difficult. The district of K’akh which borders Georgia has a rich Christian inheritance from the Middle Ages. Today there are many people, like Ia in Saingilo, who identify with Georgia culturally and religiously.
2A three-stringed, fretted lute common in all regions of northeastern Georgia. The instrument is most frequently used to accompany ballad singing. Read more about the panduri here.