Pitrau image_large

The annual pastorala, an epic play performed by a large number of amateurs all from the same locality and a unique cultural phenomenon particular to Zuberoa (or Xiberoa), took place last Sunday, July 24, in Atharratze-Sorholüze and will be repeated once more in the same location on August 7, with a third performance scheduled to take place in Otsagabia (Nafarroa) on August 15.

As noted, this year it is the turn of the people of Atharratze-Sorholüze to perform the pastorala, which celebrates the life of one of the town’s own charismatic historical figures: Jean Pitrau (1929-1975), who went by the nickname of “Erbin.” Pitrau was famed for defending farmers’ rights and the traditional way of life in rural communities. He was among the founders of the European rural labor movement.

The pastorala is a performance comprising the spoken word, song, and dance, which is made up of the rhythmic, almost hypnotic, repetition of ideas. It always celebrates a historical figure of some importance and invariably involves some element of tragedy. Every pastorala portrays a clear picture of good and evil, giving the performance its ancient epic quality. In many ways it is less about spectacle and more about community involvement, binding social ties, and reinforcing communal roots. This year’s pastorala was written by the renowned Basque musician and singer from Xiberoa, Pier Paul Berzaitz.

Check out this short film of the immediate build-up to Sunday’s performance by photographer Séverine Dabadie (and be sure to take a look at her YouTube site here for other great Basque-themed videos).

Follow the pastorala on facebook here. And a DVD of the event can be purchased here.

The wonderful Kanaldude, a local community TV station dedicated to representing the distinct culture and identity of inland Iparralde, has produced a series of reports focusing on the preparations for this year’s pastorala. These reports include interviews with the local people taking part, and show them in their everyday lives as well as rehearsing for the event. Check out these reports, from May 4, June 29, July 12, and July 20.