Author: Iñaki Arrieta Baro

The Comforts of Home: A Basque Sheep Camp

The Basque Library has set up a new exhibit at the Sparks Museum and Cultural Center.

From June 20 to August 10, 2017, The Comforts of Home: A Basque Sheep Camp showcases Dominique Laxalt’s sheep camp from Marlette Lake. Dominique purchased over a hundred acres of grazing lands high in the Sierras in the early part of the twentieth century, two thousand feet above the eastern shores of Lake Tahoe. Dominique herded sheep in the mountains above Carson City, Nevada, for decades, operating out of his base camp at Marlette. He took his sons with him and this made an indelible impression especially on Robert Laxalt, who later wrote of those experiences in Sweet Promised Land.

The materials from the camp were boxed up and in storage for decades. Upon the closing of the offices they were stored in, these items were found and donated to the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies and the Jon Bilbao Basque Library.

Preparing a camp for themselves, the sheepherder had to be a jack-of-all-trades. Setting up the tent, hunting and fishing for food, cooking, and keeping track of supplies were the domestic side of their time outside tending the flock. All they had to survive on for many weeks at a time were the supplies they carried with them. Pack mules or horses carried the building blocks of creature comforts. As time went on, they would be resupplied by the ranch managers or owners. Early on this would be with other pack animals, then wagons, and finally trucks. Improvised fishing poles from branches, pot racks from belts, and improvised gadgets were all pressed into service. Not just double duty, many of the materials they carried had to be multifunctional.

Alone for weeks at a time, Basque sheepherders sometimes only had their horses, dogs, and sheep to talk and took to leaving tree carvings to express themselves. Aspen trees scarred up beautifully to leave a lingering glimpse into their thoughts. Women, animals, home, their names, and dates, all feature as themes in the carvings. This art emerged from solitude is wonderfully showcased by the Mountain Picasso: Basque Arborglyphs of the Great Basin exhibit, also at the Sparks Museum. Sponsored by the Nevada Arts Commission and the Nevada Historical Society, this exhibit is curated by Jean and Phillip Earl, a couple that has been collecting tree carvings for 50 years.

On June 30,  the museum is holding a reception for the Basque exhibits on display. You are all invited to enjoy refreshments from 4 to 6 p.m.

Post by Shannon Sisco and Iñaki Arrieta Baro.

Gernika: voices after the bombs

Gernika exhibit posterThe bombing of cities and civilians during wartime has been a constant in history almost since planes became war guns. On April 26, 1937, Gernika, the sacred city of the Basque people, was brutally attacked and destroyed by the Nazi Luftwaffe and the Italian Air Force, acting under the command of the Spanish General Francisco Franco.  More than 2,000 people were killed.

The bombing of Gernika was one of the first actions of the Condor Legion, a real-life training ground for the Nazi’s Blitzkrieg warfare. The methods developed by this unit served as a model for the bombings by the Luftwaffe during World War II.

Eighty years after this event, with the screaming and cries of those being bombed all around the world on television and social media, the voices of those who witnessed the destruction of Gernika remind us that suffering is real.

The Jon Bilbao Basque Library is opening the exhibit Gernika: Voices after the Bombs. Its goal is precisely to give voice to whose who suffered the bombing and its aftermath. The exhibit comprises a selection of six witnesses testimonials about the pain experienced by Gernika’s inhabitants. These testimonials have been translated into English, audio-recorded, and complemented with a mural of pictures of the ruins of Gernika.

Gernika exhibit photograph wall

The exhibit has been developed by Xabier Irujo, from the Center for Basque Studies, and Iñaki Arrieta Baro and Shannon Sisco, both from the Basque Library. They had the support of Mikel Amuriza, Edurne Arostegui, Daniel Fergus, Jill Stockton, Kathleen Szawiola, Irati Urkitza-Ansoleaga, Kyle Weerheim, and Joseba Zulaika in translations, marketing, and multimedia development.

Opening today, you can visit Gernika: Voices after the Bombs until the end of October at the window exhibit case at the Jon Bilbao Basque Library.

New exhibit at the Basque Library

The Jon Bilbao Basque Library now has a new window exhibit!

Basque Culture has been  characterized as an oral culture for a long time, in which orality plays a strong role in cultural transmission. The best known oral cultural activity is Bertsolaritza or Basque improvised poetry.

Bertsolaritza is a form of sung improvised poetry and an important cultural expression for the Basque people. Improvisers (Bertsolari in Basque) are well known by the population and they often perform at all kinds of festivities. Bertsolaritza is the Basque contribution to improvised poetries around the world. Basques have been able to preserve, modernize, and publicize bertsolaritza worldwide.

The exhibit includes explanatory texts, a shortened version of the documentary Bertsolari by the well know Basque director Asier Altuna, photographs of Bertsolariak in the Basque Country and the US, and a selection of our books about Bertsolaritza.

The Basque Library at the University of Nevada, Reno is now part of Kulturartea, a network of academic organizations working together in the field of improvised poetry including Basque Bertsolaritza and other similar activities around the world. This exhibit is our first visible effort to increase awareness about Bertsolaritza in Nevada and beyond.

Bertsolaritza exhibit at the Jon Bilbao Basque Library

The Center for Basque Studies will kindly provide all of our visitors with complimentary copies of the work Voicing the Moment: Improvised Oral Poetry and Basque Tradition. This volume brings together contributions by leading scholars in the field of orally improvised poetry. It includes, on the one hand, essays on improvised poetry and, on the other, essays in which leading practitioners of bertsolaritza study their own poetic art and its techniques.

The exhibit was designed by Iñaki Arrieta Baro and Shannon Sisco, and put in place by Shannon and our student workers Vivian Lewis and Annabel Gordon. It will be on display until April 2017.

Ran roberran

During the 1960s, when the first ikastolak (Basque language schools) subsequent to the Spanish Civil War were created after a long ban by the Francoist regime, some key people were essential to their success.

Imanol Urbieta was one of these pioneers. Ikastolak were in need of almost everything: a proper legal framework, economic support, and pedagogical materials in the Basque language. Parents navigated the legal system to make ikastolak legal, or at least to avoid being prosecuted; all kinds of organizations provided premises in which children would be comfortable; and teachers created materials to teach Basque and other topics.

Imanol Urbieta (c) during a popular tribute in 2014. Behind him, his spouse Kontxi Aizarna, who collaborated with Imanol. Picture CC-BY-ND by Urola Kostako Hitza

Imanol Urbieta (c) during a popular tribute in 2014. Behind him, his spouse Kontxi Aizarna, who collaborated with Imanol. Picture CC-BY-ND by Urola Kostako Hitza

Imanol, one of the first teachers at the Salbatore Mitxelena Ikastola in Zarautz, Gipuzkoa, did some wonderful work in renewing the pedagogy and in the use of an innovative teaching tool: music and songs. Imanol’s songs (Ran Roberran, John Brown, Txiki txiki txikia, and so on) are part of the soundtrack of our generation’s lives. And of our children’s lives too, not only because we as parents sing them to our sons and daughters, but also because Pirritx, Porrotx eta Marimotots, the most renowned Basque clowns, sing them prolifically.

Imanol Urbieta died in Zarautz on September 28th, 2016 at age 83.

 

Ni ez naiz hemengoa

When my grandmother started losing her memory due to Alzheimer disease, she first forgot where her keys were, then the path to home or even where her home was. Later, she forgot that she lived in Hernani, the Basque town where she had been living since leaving her hometown in Spain sixty years ago. In the end, she thought that my siblings and I were her sisters and brothers, and she started talking more and more about her parents, who were, in her mind, waiting for her at home. This is exactly what happened to Josebe.

Josebe left her hometown of Errenteria, Gipuzkoa, in the Basque Country for Chile. There she married, had children, and lived a fulfilling life. But then Alzheimer’s disease started erasing all these memories, bringing her back to her childhood.

I’m not from here is a documentary by Maite Alberdi and Giedre Zickyte, published by The New York Times. It tells the story of Josebe living in a retirement home in Chile. A story of thousands, it is a touching reflection on migration and identity, memory and disease.

For the full article, please visit:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/13/opinion/im-not-from-here.html?_r=0

Pyrenayca, 90 years old

This months marks the 90th anniversary of the journal Anales de la Federación Vasco-Navarra de Alpinismo or, more easily, Pyrenaica. It’s the journal of the Basque Mountaineering Federation (originally the Basque-Navarrese Mountaineering Federation), an organization founded in Elgeta. Gipuzkoa, in 1924. Given the tremendous interest in all forms of hiking, climbing, mountaineering, and other outdoor pursuits in the Basque Country, this is still an important organization today.

First number of <em>Pyrenaica</em>.

First edition of Pyrenaica.

At the time of the journal’s inception, the Basque Country was experiencing a cultural renaissance: Eusko Ikaskuntza, the Society of Basque Studies, had been founded in 1918, followed by the creation of Euskaltzaindia, the Royal Academy of the Basque Language, a year later in 1919. Despite the fact that the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera was ruling Spain at the time (1923-1930), this was an era of fervent Basque cultural activity, and Pyrenaica was part of this flourishing movement, demonstrating the key symbolic importance of mountains and mountaineering in Basque culture and to Basque identity as a whole.

During its long history, the journal has changed with the social transformations going on around it. To see these changes as reflected in the pages of the journal, check out the different editions of this valuable sociocultural historical resource over time here.

 

 

Danborrada!

January 20th is a special day for every citizen of Donostia. It’s San Sebastian Day, the festival where thousand of people, from kids to adults, take their drums to the streets to play Raimundo Sarriegi’s compositions. You can hear some of the compositions, including Donostiako Martxa, the unofficial hymn of Donostia, in Eresbil’s webpage.

Wearing all kind of fake military uniforms, cook costumes, and traditional Basque costumes, each of the danborrada (tamborrada in Spanish), a group of drum players representing schools, associations, and gastronomic clubs, walk the streets of the Old City, the downtown and the outskirts of Donostia.

Kids playing drums during the 2010 Danborrada, by Donostia-San Sebastian 2016.

Kids playing drums during the 2010 Danborrada, by Donostia-San Sebastian 2016.

The festival has it roots in the Napoleonic invasion of the city, when young people will make fun of the soldiers and their parades. In the late 19th century, the danborrada was one of the various carnival activities. In the 20th century, San Sebastian day grown to become the mayor festival in the city. During the last years, the main change has been the more and more active participation of women, which are now more visible.

In 2016, San Sebastian Day is even more special, because it’s the starting point of Donostia’s year as European Capital of Culture.

Joan Mari Torrealdai awarded Manuel Lekuona prize

Eusko Ikaskuntza, the Basque Studies Society, has awarded Joan Mari Torrealdai the Manuel Lekuona Prize 2015.

Joan Mari is a researcher, bibliographer, and, above all, an euskaltzale, a promoter of the Basque language and culture.

Joan Mari Torrealdai (L) and Iñaki Dorronsoro, president of Eusko Ikaskuntza.

Joan Mari Torrealdai (R) and Iñaki Dorronsoro, president of Eusko Ikaskuntza.

Unfortunately, some of these activities took him to prison. In 2003 the Spanish National court closed Egunkaria, the only daily newspaper in the Basque language at the time, linking it to ETA. Joan Mari, as chairman of the board of Egunkaria and one of its first sponsors, was arrested with nine other people. When in 2010 all of them were absolved, it was too late for the newspaper.

Joan Mari has been the director of Jakin, one of the main publications about Basque culture, on two occasions: 1967-1969 (when the Spaniard government closed the journal) and 1977-2014.

In Jakin and since 1977, Torrealdai publishes “Euskal liburugintza” (Basque book publishing), an annual analytic report about publishing in the Basque Country. In addition to bibliography, other topics in his research are the everyday use of the Basque language and the censorship suffered under Franco.

Nowadays, Joan Mari Torrealdai is an euskaltzain (an academician of the Basque language) and head librarian at Euskaltzaindia, the Academy of the Basque language.

For more on the Basque language, see the following CBS publications:

The Challenge of a Bilingual Society in the Basque Country

The Dialects of Basque

Basque Sociolinguistics: Language, Society, and Culture

Linguae Vasconum Primitiae, now in Japanese

The first book ever printed in the Basque language is now available in Japanese. Linguae Vasconum Primitiae, written by Bernard Etxepare and published in Bordeaux (France) in 1545, marks a milestone for Basque culture. Printed almost a century later than the Gutenberg Bible, this collection of religious, autobiographical, and amorous poetry opened the doors of printing houses to a language that some thought was not writable.

The title page of Linguae Vasconum Primitiae. (BNF/Gallica)

The title page of Linguae Vasconum Primitiae (BNF/Gallica)

The book has been translated, especially into Romance and other European languages. Now it is also available for Japanese readers thanks to the work of Sho Hagio and Hiromi Yoshida, two Japanese euskaldunak (Basque speakers) who learned Euskara in Japan. The book is published by the Basque Government and the Etxepare Basque Institute.

You can obtain a copy of the English translation of Linguae Vasconum Primitiae in the Center for Basque Studies bookstore or check out it from the Basque Library of the UNR.

What’s more, you can read a digital edition of the original text by Josu Lavin and take a look at a facsimile edition by Gallica, the French national digital library.

Tabakalera, a space for creation

Friday was a great day for Donostia-San Sebastián as a city and for Basque culture as a whole. September 11, 2015, was the day Tabakalera, the factory of creation, was open to the public for the first time.

The first steps toward establishing this cultural center where taken in 2001, when the Basque Government, the Gipuzkoa Provincial Council, and the City Council of Donostia-San Sebastián signed an agreement to create it.

Terrace of Tabakalera. CC by Tabakalera.eu.

During the past fourteen years, there have been many controversies around defining the project, around the people leading it, and even around the reform of the building in which the center is based, an old tobacco factory.

But today all of this seems distant. Because from now on, the public will be able to use this infrastructure as a space to develop their cultural curiosity and as a space to create, too. Those are the two main objectives of Tabakalera: to offer a space for producing contemporary culture and a program of public activities.

If you want to know more about Tabakalera, you can go to its great web space or, you can visit the factory itself in Donostia-San Sebastián.