We first met Chichiko when we went down to film in September-October 2015. He was a couple of months old then and Tania was very happy to show him around to the tourists roaming in the park of the Primate Institute. Chichiko was probably the 12th or 13th monkey that Tania has raised at home, one of those abandoned kids refused by their mothers and endangered by their violent fathers. When I first visited the Institute, in 2011, Tania had Agasha on her shoulder. Afonea, the previous baby, was already mature and sat in a cage. Then there was Mitea – a hyperactive boy, Mila – a crazy girl and finally Gosha – the little baboon that she raises as I write these lines. Gosha came along with Tania when we screened the film for the protagonists in Sukhum (check this here).
They are all characters, but for some reason, Chichiko was the strongest and most attaching. His name is Georgian, which is also a rarity nowadays in Abkhazia (but this was Tania’s impudent choice:). Chichiko was playful and intelligent, climbing on our camera or stealing money from Tania. You can see him in Tarzan’s Testicles, in Tania’s home, hanging on her leg as she moves around in the kitchen. We also shot another scene that was finally cut out from the editing, with Tania and Chichiko buying cookies in the corner shop. He was a regular customer there… When we came back in the spring of 2016, Chichiko was almost an adult, still playful but more violent. He (slightly) attacked a girl as her mother was taking pictures of them.
And then, in August last year, he wasn’t there anymore. Tania was melancholic. Chichiko had been taken by a photographer to another city on the seaside, to serve as an exotic photo-accessory for the tourists. You can often see this on the seashore in Abkhazia and in the Russian resort of Sochi. I tried to film such a photographer with his monkey during our last shoot. But as soon as we pulled our camera he ran away, together with his African dancer and the other accessories. Was Chichiko picked up for the job because he’s such a superstar? And what is his life over there? How will he adapt to a cage when he eventually returns to Sukhum, because he gets too old and not so cute anymore? I always wondered, I’ll never know.