Month: January 2018

Women Bertsolari: From the First Attempts to the Current Achievements

The bertsolaritza or Basque improvised poetry is one of the most intimate practices of the Basque language, where poets improvise and sing a song around a concept provided by the audience, following a set of rules about rhyme, meter and melody. For this reason, bertsolaris are some of the greatest masters of the Basque language. Until recently, however, the bertsolaritza was a strictly male domain. The village frontons, squares, and the National Improvised Poetry Competition featured men only, until a few brave female pioneers emerged to reclaim the voices of women in traditional culture.

In traditional Basque society, the fronton or village square was the public stage for the inculcation of values, the performance of identities, the practice of social control, and the negotiation of power. The main protagonists of the fronton were men: men playing pelota, men singing bertsos.

“How do you remember your great jump into the town square?” one of those female pioneers, Maialen Lujanbio was asked in an interview in 2009 for the journal Oral Tradition, after she became the first ever female txapeldun or champion of improvised poetry. “I started to be known by everyone,” she answered. “Because they put us… where we didn’t`t belong.” Women’s great jump into the town square, into the public sphere of frontons, sport halls and stadiums, is a powerful metaphor for access in a society where such arenas had been reserved for men.

Maialen Lujanbio sings the winning bertso at the 2017 National Championship:

The CBS Seminar Series featured the bertsolari and PhD student Miren Artetxe Sarasola, who talked about the most important landmarks of this journey in her lecture titled “Women bertsolari: From the first attempts to the current achievements.” Miren defined those landmarks in terms of Pathfinders, i.e. the first women poets who affected a breakthrough in a male realm; Networks, or the organizations created by and for female performers; Theorization, or the academic study of this new cultural development within the broader currents of Basque feminism; and Spaces of Empowerment, where female bertsolaris may find encouragement and inspiration for singing bertsos. The main achievements of the past ten years, Miren argues, is that a different consciousness is emerging around bertsolaritza: new themes and contents emerge through women’s participation, creating a more inclusive cultural sphere that also features women’s worlds and experiences.

Following the lecture, three bertsolaris, Miren Artetxe Sarasola, Maialen Lujanbio and Jesus Goñi sang bertsos at the Center for Basque Studies before a crowd of faculty, students, friends and family. The performances were followed by a potluck snack at the CBS, and a poteo in Louis Basque Corner in downtown Reno.

                  

 

January 23, 1921: Birth of influential chemist Josefa Molero

On January 23, 1921 Maria Josefa Molero Mayo was born in Izaba, Navarre. She would go on to be an important figure in chemical kinetics and analytical techniques in gas chromatography as well as an important influence on scientific research in Spain.

Born in the picturesque village of Izaba, high in the Erronkari (Roncal) Valley of Navarre, Molero faced a number of hurdles early on in her career. As well as the inherent prejudice against women in professional positions that was a feature of the Franco dictatorship in Spain at that time, she was also from a family that had opposed Franco’s rebels during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) and had to live with that stigma and discrimination in the aftermath of the war. Despite all this, she graduated from the Central University of Madrid with excellent grades in 1942. When it came to starting her doctorate, after initially being rejected from joining a research institute in Madrid on the grounds that she was a woman, she was later offered a place at another research center in the city, obtaining her doctorate cum laude in 1948, earning a special award for her work on applications of mercury electrodes in the process.

She then secured a position at the prestigious Rocasolano Institute in Madrid, and from there managed to secure an important grants to go to Oxford, where she worked in the laboratory of Sir Cyril Norman Hinshelwood, who a few years later would go on to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1956 for his research into the mechanism of chemical reactions. On her return, she used that experience to create the first gas chromatograph in Spain as well as a whole new field of research at Spain’s Institute of Physical Chemistry: Pyrolysis and oxidation gas-phase reactions in organic compounds at low temperatures.  She also set up a department of Chemical Kinetics, which she headed until her retirement in 1986. In 1959 she was a visiting scholar at the University of Sheffield in England, where she worked with George Porter (who would go on to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1967) on light chemical reactions. On her return, she put a lot of this experience into practice, pioneering the study of chemical reactions produced by  chromatography in liquid gasses at the Spanish state level.

She won numerous awards throughout her life and was an important figure in establishing important research in key fields of Chemistry in Spain. She died at age 90 in Madrid in 2011.  In May 2013, the city of Pamplona-Iruña designated a Josefa Molera Mayo Street.

P.S. It is interesting to note that the village of Izaba was also the birthplace of renowned Basque physicist Pedro Miguel Etxenike (b. 1950).

Information taken from Uxune Martinez, “Josefa Molero Mayo (1921-2011): Izabatik kimikaren historiara,” Zientzia Kaiera.

Maialen Lujanbio won for the second time the Txapela.

December 17th 2017, the BEC (Bilbao Exhibition Center) celebrated the Bertsolari Txapelketa Nagusia (The Great Bertsolari Championship) of the Basque Country. A championship that was lived with great intensity and that gathered almost 15,000 fans from all over the Basque Country.

It was a very special day as Maialen Lujanbio, the only female competitor, won for the second time the Txapela. The runner up was Aitor Mendiluze, and the third was Sustrai Colina. The rankings finished in the order of Amets Arzallus, Igor Elortza, Aitor Sarriegi, Beñat Gaztelumendi and Unai Agirre. It was a final of great quality, with a very dedicated and motivated audience.

Zorionak Maialen!

Bertsolari Txapelketa Nagusia is a championship among bertsolaris from all over the Basque Country and takes place every four years. It was first organized by Euzko-Gaztedi in 1935 and 1936. It was cancelled due to the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and its subsequent repression. It wasn’t until the 1960’s when the championship came back from the catacombs of oblivion when Euskaltzaindia (Basque Language Academy) brought back the competition during the 1960’s.  However the competition had to be stopped during the 1970’s. It wasn’t until 1980 when the championship came back and since 1986, the championship is held every four years.

1935eko Bertsolari Gudua

This Friday, January 26, the Center for Basque Studies and the Jon Bilbao Library will celebrate a special evening of Bertsolaritza with Maialen Lujanbio, Miren Artetxe, and Jesus Goñi .

We will love to invite you all to join us during such a beautiful event.

Please Join Us
For A Very Special Evening of Bertsolaritza
You are invited to attend a unique and intimate event showcasing Bertsolaritza, a sung and improvised Basque poem creation performed by two competing Bertsolariaks (Basque poets) Miren Artetxe (left) and Maialen Lujanbio Zugasti (right). 
Miren Artetxe and Maialen Lujanbio Zugasti
The 2017 national champion Maialen Lujanbio Zugasti will be in Reno showcasing her skill before participating in the 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nev. Jan. 29 – Feb. 3. More than 14,600 people gathered to watch Maialen compete in this year’s championship event in December, 2017. This is a rare opportunity to experience firsthand the art that is Bertsolaritza. 
DATE: Friday, Jan. 26
TIME: 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.
LOCATION: Jon Bilbao Basque Library and Center for Basque Studies , Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, third floor, north side of building. Guests must access this area by using the north elevator located next to Bytes Café on the second floor. 
For more information or if you have questions, please call (775) 682-5094.
Block N
FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY
1664 N. Virginia Street
Mail Stop 0332
University of Nevada
Reno, NV 89557

 

These Bertsolaris will be in Elko during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering with others from the Basque Country and the US.

 

If you want to know more about  Bertsolaritza you might like to read:  Voicing the Moment:Improvised Oral Poetry and Basque Tradition.

Basque couture designer Cristóbal Balenciaga inspires lush new psychosexual drama Phantom Thread

Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a renowned couturier of the 1950s, who designs clothes for the European aristocracy and socialite. Below and beyond the glamour of visiting dames and princesses, whose garderobe he designs from their first communion through first season as debutante to wedding gown, he lives a monkish life. His passion can only thrive in his dogged insistence on routine, whose disruption sends him into rants and rages. Unsurprisingly, women wither away into oblivion by his side, until he meets Alma (Vicky Krieps), a few decades his junior, who becomes his lover and muse. Phantom Thread is a luxurious, yet menacing story of two strong-willed personalities who find their own, predictably bizarre solution to how to maintain their relationship before the divisive and isolating tendencies of creativity.

The movie`s Reynolds Woodcock is

“a control freak with a monomaniacal zeal for dressmaking largely based on the real-life fashion forefather Cristóbal Balenciaga,”

the The New York Times writes. Director Paul Thomas Anderson was searching for the most cinematographic artist type for his main character when, debating between writer and painter, he picked up a biography of Balenciaga at an airport. “I generally didn’t have that much knowledge or interest in the fashion world until I started finding out a little bit about a guy named Cristóbal Balenciaga,” Anderson said. “He led a very monastic life, completely consumed with his work — sometimes at the expense of other things in his life. Our characters become something very different. Our story focuses on if you have a character like that, what would it take to disrupt his life. Usually, it’s love that does that.”

Balenciaga in 1950, and a cocktail dress designed in 1951.

Phantom Thread indeed diverges liberally from Balenciaga`s life in some ways (for one, Balenciaga was homosexual), but it keeps some of the core elements of the Basque designer`s personality, lifestyle and art. Known as “the King” in the fashion world in general, Christian Dior called Balenciaga “the master of us all,” and Coco Chanel once said he was “the only couturier in the truest sense of the word.” The formal purity, sobriety and sculptural design of his work reflected Balenciaga`s aversion to extravagance. He was reclusive, and prayed daily in a nearby church. He was a true misfit in his environment; as Joseba Zulaika quotes Roland Barthes, “the idea of fashion is antithetic to the idea of sainthood” (That Old Bilbao Moon, 184). In the only interview he ever granted, in his characteristic spirit of brooding melancholy Balenciaga said this about the most opulent of professions:

“Nobody knows what a hard métier it is, how killing is the work. Under all this luxury and glamour. Now c`est la vie d`un chien [it`s a dog`s life].”

Balenciaga was born in Getaria in 1895, and before he designed for the world`s elite, he would first dress Neguri`s and San Sebastian`s upper class through his exhibitions in Bilbao. His designs incorporated elements of Basque traditional costumes. The 1949 December issue of Harper`s Bazaar featured on its cover a Balenciaga dress inspired by the azpiko gona, a long gathered wool underskirt, generally red, decorated with horizontal bands. “Much of Balenciaga`s creation was nourished by the tension between Spanish and Basque traditional designs and European high modernism,” Zulaika writes in his Old Bilbao Moon (185).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Balenciaga dress inspired by the azpiko gona, 1949.

 

The Balenciaga Museum in Getaria.

 

 

 

 

The movie received 6 Academy Award nominations for 2018. For an article about Balenciaga`s person behind the movie in Spanish, see the review in El País: https://elpais.com/elpais/2018/01/23/estilo/1516726594_429501.html

For Phantom Thread, see the trailer here:

 

Urte berri on! The CBS is back for Spring 2018

After taking a few weeks off during the holiday season, the Center for Basque Studies Blog is back, and so are the faculty, staff, and students at UNR. It is bound to be a busy semester, as usual, but we’ll be here to provide you with unique stories on Basque culture and news from around the world.

When it comes to the CBS, Dr. Vaczi will be teaching “Basque Culture” while I will be embarking on my first teaching experience at UNR, trying to live up to Dr. Ott’s “War, Judgment, and Memory in the Basque Borderlands” course.  And, of course, Kate Camino will continue teaching Basque language courses. Horohito Norhatan will also be teaching, but in the Political Science department. Sorte on to us all!

In grad student news, Horohito and Ziortza Gandarias will be defending their dissertations in just a few months. Time does fly! Kerri Lesh is back from her year of field work, and Marsha Hunter continues in her second semester at the Center.

In the following weeks, we will hear more from all of us at the CBS, and look forward to the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko in just a few weeks. Stay tuned!