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Bianka Shigurova by George Nebieridze
Bianka ShigurovaPhotography George Nebieridze

Paying tribute to trans actress and model, Bianka Shigurova

Earlier this month the 22-year old Georgian actress was found dead in her apartment – here her dear friend remembers her

In recent weeks, we’ve been speaking with photographer George Nebieridze about a series of – as yet unpublished on Dazed – images he took of Berlin’s party scene. While we were preparing the article, Nebieridze received the tragic news that his friend, actress and model, 22-year-old Bianka Shigurova, had been found dead in her apartment in her hometown of Tbilisi, Georgia. While investigations surrounding the circumstances of her death are ongoing, in honour of Shigurova’s memory, the photographer shares some of his favourite images of her, captured while they were shooting a film together, alongside this touching written tribute to their friendship.

Even before meeting her I had seen videos from the movie audition we took part in. I come from the country she lived in and I understand how it was to be like her – I understand, but honestly, I would never be brave enough to picture myself in her shoes.

We starred in a film (Les évangile d'anarysma – in English, Gospel of Anasyrma, directed by Elene Naveriani) as lovers who were trapped in a country full of ignorant hate and violence against beauty. During the preparation for the part we had to get closer to get into our characters. It was really hard, considering we were from two very unusual worlds and our understanding of things were radically different. At the shoot, various things or people easily distracted me from exploring her real sentiments, but it was still very hard to ignore her presence from the moment I met her. She was a young, innocent, extremely emotional and sensitive individual who often wasn’t aware of the real danger facing her – living among cruelty and misunderstanding.

“She was a young, innocent, extremely emotional and sensitive individual who often wasn’t aware of the real danger facing her – living among cruelty and misunderstanding” – George Nebieridze

I took most of the photographs of her during and between filming the movie. She liked being in front of the camera and at the centre of attention, dreaming of becoming a popular model and an actress. She actually was one; there is hardly a television show in Georgia that didn’t have her as a main character. I remember once, she was preparing for an interview to talk about her family. She was so excited that she ordered a brand new dress, made exclusively for the occasion. These kinds of things were enough to make her remarkably happy.

Her background and life story had countless sad moments – she grew up in a little village far from the city and had a hard time finding peace of mind. It took her family years to finally accept her the way she was but things eventually got better and the people around her saw the real Bianka – a person who would never harm anyone and was full of kindness.

Bianka was a human rights activist and was involved in organisations speaking out against racism, homophobia and domestic violence. These kinds of NGOs are under heavy pressure in Georgia, a country where about 90 per cent of the population is fanatically religious and conservative. ­­On February 4th 2016, at the age of 22, she was found dead in her apartment. Officials say the death was caused by the leak of gas from the heater. It is hard to believe that it was an accident or a suicide. People who knew her would agree she would never let this happen. She was a happy human being in her nature and her life was taking an optimistic direction lately. Note that, Bianka’s close friend, Sabi, who was also a transgender, was found dead in similar circumstances about a year ago in Tbilisi.