Tamada

  I A G O   K A C H K A C H I S H V I L I

31 Iago Kachkachishvili        31 Tamada

My basic university education goes back to Philosophy and my first PhD thesis (‘Peculiarities of Intuitive Knowledge’, 1991) was based on Philosophy of Life theories. Due to practical reasons (getting a job!) I started my first job at the Department of Sociology of Tbilisi State University. Accordingly, I was ‘forced’ to switch to the study of social problems and different social theoretical paradigms. At the beginning, such a shift seemed to my philosophical reason (mind) as kind of dehumanisation, though very soon I discovered that with sociology and study of social problems I became closer to everyday life of different social groups in society and to myself … Then our Department started developing social work programmes (with support of EU) and my interest has been distributed to narrower problems related to various vulnerable groups. And It became clear to me that these two disciplines – sociology and social work – can go together very well in terms of sharing methodological instruments and analytical frameworks. Hence, for around 10 years I am facing the charm of this collaboration.

 

I chose Tamada because …

… in many respects, it reminds me of a person having status of social worker.

Who is ‘Tamada’? He is a person who leads the so-called ‘Supra’ – a formalised festive meal (banquet). ‘Supra’ is an essential part of Georgian tradition, always accompanied by the ritual of making toasts by a toastmaster, who is the ‘Tamada’. Such festive meals can be organised around weddings, birthdays, funerals, certain anniversaries, etc. Toasts are a kind of structural unit of ‘Supra’, and ‘Tamada’ serves as the driving force of this living structure. It can be said that ‘Tamada’ is an informal profession and repeated practices (performances) of toast-making for different occasions have established the institution of ‘toastmastering’.

According to the nature of specific events (for instance, wedding, funerals, etc.), ‘Tamada’ has to follow a more or less rigid order of toasts: some topics are obligatory (like a toast to the parents or those who passed away in the family), and some toasts cannot be performed prior to others. As a rule, the initiator of the toasts is ‘Tamada’ and each toast should be shared and expanded by other members of ‘Supra’. In this ritual it is not accepted to drink alcohol without relating it to a toast, i.e. to the particular topic directed by ‘Tamada’. It should be mentioned also that particular artefacts such as drinking-horns and other ritual drinking-vessels are used.

Features of ‘Tamada’ which make him similar to social worker:

  • ‘Tamada’ is not a pure ruler (dictator); he is rather a moderator, making initiatives (‘toasts’), preventing tension and conflicts, addressing issues from one participant to another, etc.
  • ‘Tamada’ intervenes in cases where a conflict emerges among participants.
  • ‘Tamada’ is a leader, whose obligation is to give the right (positive) direction to an event; he becomes a kind of a pattern, which is considered valuable enough to be followed.
  • ‘Tamada’ should be a qualified, skilful person (he has to be a charismatic personality, communicative, expressing himself in a convincing way, be logical and creative, accomplish a therapy function to those who are alienated and feel like strangers).
  • ‘Tamada’ has to be a dilettante (in a positive way); that means that he has to have certain knowledge in different directions (history, poetry, literature, etc.), like social worker who should be a bit of everything – psychologist, lawyer, physician, sociologist, etc.
  • ‘Tamada’ should follow the event (case) up to the end, he does not have a right to escape.

Features of ‘Tamada’ which make him different to social worker:

  • ‘Tamada’ is an exclusively male profession (with some rare exceptions)
  • ‘Tamada’ performs with everybody and does not focus on vulnerable people.
  • ‘Tamada’ is an actor who can play (accomplish) a role, without ‘living’ in this role, whereas social worker should not become an ‘outsider’ of what he/she does. (Simply saying: a bad person can be a good ‘Tamada’, though never a good social worker).

 

 

One thought on “Tamada”

  1. I like the Tamada ‘profession’, or role, quite a lot. It would be great to observe Tamada(s) during various ceremonies (weddings, funerals, baptism, etc). In Romanian there is a similar word, but with a different meaning. ‘A tamadui’ (verb) means to heal, but through the intercession of the divine, or magic. Whenever a doctor, a psychologist or a social worker heal the body, the mind, or the soul, through their own professional and personal skills, knowledge and powers, we use a different word to name this process. ‘A vindeca’ is a more mundane, down to earth intervention, which can still impact on all levels: physical, emotional, cognitive. The language shows that magical properties can also be attached to the natural and animal world (e.g. our folkloric tradition has ‘ape tamaduitoare’ – healing waters- and magic birds and horses, and much more, that’s for certain). Perhaps in the ancient Georgian tradition, Tamada was not only a charismatic dilettante with leadership skills and an interesting, attractive personality. Tamada may have also been invested through the collective imagination, with magical/mystical qualities (or people believed that Tamada(s) had something which the majority didn’t possess, and these qualities didn’t relate to morality or social status, achievements). Probably it didn’t matter if you were good or bad as a person. At a funeral ‘Supra’, Tamada’s toast could be imagined to act as an intercession between the living and the dead ancestors. His words and the way he deals with the whole situation, with the grief and the complex feelings of the family members and the community – whenever these come to the surface, generating ‘risks’ and ‘turbulences’ in the group’s dynamics -, could demonstrate this unique charisma, even if it’s just for a day, or only on those specific occasions and even if with his own family and for his own personal development, he doesn’t apply the same skills. And perhaps Tamada switches on, there and then, to a deeper and wider understanding of life and humanity, which he then loses, once he steps out of the role. A sort of ex-stasis (out of himself, in harmony with a larger entity) and an en-stasis (back to himself). I guess, even a modern Tamada, could plant a healing ‘seed’ – willingly or without even knowing- in some people present at a ceremony. I imagine this role to bring great satisfactions, meaning in Tamada’s life and a lot of passion, to an existence which otherwise follows/creates its path: good or bad, or both (most of the cases). Extrapolating to the good social workers: they are not good in all circumstances of their lives. At times they make bad personal decisions themselves, they can hurt other people, even if only in love, or they may not have the ‘chance’ to encounter the people and the situations good for them, despite all their efforts and good deeds. Social workers and Tamada’s are both great professions.

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