April 30 saw the launch of the new online Basque archive, Bilketa (in Basque and French), with over 100, 000 documents, half of which are in Basque. This is the fruit of ten years of work and major collaboration among between both public and private institutions.

(Enmarcado en negro). Attelage Basque. V. P. Paris N. 35.

Portrait of a bygone age in the Northern Basque Country

The documents in the online archive range from books, newspapers, journals, and manuscripts to photographs and audiovisual sources, all stored physically in different libraries, multimedia libraries, and archives. They concern Iparralde or the Northern Basque Country, in France, and the collection also includes the personal library of Father Pierre Lafitte, one of the most important Basque cultural activists of the twentieth century.

Portrait_laffite

Father Pierre Laffite, from the Bilketa website

The website also includes news of current and forthcoming exhibitions (including online exhibits), talks, and so on, with special reference to the Northern Basque Country, and the option to sign up for a newsletter detailing new developments.

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“Eñaut Elizagarai” pastorala, Gamere-Zihigan (Camou-Cihigue, 2007). Photo courtesy of I. Bichenzo via Wikimedia Commons

The first online exhibition at Bilketa is about the pastorala of Zuberoa (or Xiberoa, Soule in French), a form of traditional participatory outdoor theater that is performed by an amateur cast made up of people from the same village or district. The pastorala is generally acknowledged to be one of the few existing remnants of the late medieval mystery plays, dating from the fifteenth century, which were once commonplace all over Europe.  The exhibition can be visited here.

The CBS welcomes this major initiative and its contribution to greater understanding about the Basque Country, the Basque language, and Basque culture in general.

Ongi jin!

If you’re interested in the Northern Basque Country in particular, check out The Transformation of National Identity in the Basque Country of France, 1789-2006, by Igor Ahedo Gurrutxaga, which examines how notions of national identity and belonging have evolved and changed in the region over the course of two centuries. Ahedo Gurrutxaga concludes his study by contending that we may be witnessing an especially transformative moment as regards how people define themselves in national terms in the Northern Basque Country.