Category: Zuberoa (page 1 of 2)

What’s in a Song? Agur Xiberoa

Agur Xiberoa (Farewell Xiberoa) is one of the canonical songs in the Basque songbook, simultaneously a lament to the impact of enforced displacement as well as a testament to the powerful connection between people and place.

It was written in 1946 by Pierre Bordazaharre, also known as Etxahun-Iruri (1908-1979), from Iruri in Xiberoa (today known as Zuberoa). During his compulsory schooling (through age 13) Etxahun-Iruri was a good student and displayed a special interest in literature, becoming an avid reader for the rest of his life. Opportunities for humble rural people, however, to develop such interests further beyond the end of their school years were few and far between at the time and having finished his formal education he carried on the family farming tradition.

This did not prevent him, though, from taking an active part in Basque culture: he was involved in both the maskaradak and pastoralak, two key expressions of Basque culture in Zuberoa. Additionally, he also authored and helped to revolutionize the pastorala in the twentieth century, introducing more specifically Basque themes into the art form; and he was an accomplished xirulari or pipe player, wrote poetry, and was a bertsolari or improvising oral poet.

Agur Xiberua is a lament, the story of the enforced displacement many inhabitants of the province were forced to undertake in search of work and better opportunities than their homeland could offer. It stands as a testament to the cultural importance of Basque exile more generally, although its cheery tune also serves to celebrate the memory of homeland, family, and friends.

The chorus captures all of this perfectly:

Agur Xiberoa                                                            Farewell Zuberoa,

bazter güzietako xokhorik eijerrena          the most beautiful place on earth;

agur sor lekhia                                                         farewell, native land,

zuri ditit ene ametsik goxuenak                    my sweetest dreams go to you

bihotzan erditik                                                      from the bottom of my heart;

bostetan elki deitadazüt hasperena          I have often heaved a sigh,

zü ützi geroztik                                                       since I left you;

bizi niz trixterik                                                       I live in sorrow,

abandonatürik                                                         abandoned,

ez beita herririk                                                      for there is no city,

Parisez besterik,                                                    except Paris,

zü bezalakorik.                                                       which is your equal.

Some of the themes mentioned here, such as the new emphasis on Basque instead of more generically religious or French themes in the cultural expression of the pastorala as well as the impact of emigration from Zuberoa, are discussed in detail by Igor Ahedo Gurrutxaga in The Transformation of National Identity in the Basque Country of France, 1789-2006.

*Information sourced for this post from Orhipean, The Country of Basque.

Great new video guide to Kakueta Gorge

There’s somewhat of an end-of-term feeling around here and our thoughts have turned to the approaching summer, travels, and of course the beautiful Basque Country. And once again we will shamelessly borrow a video from our good friends at About Basque Country, this time one that showcases the amazing Kakueta Gorge.

We did already write about this landmark site in a previous post but we also think it’s well worth revisiting one of the truly remarkable spots in the Basque Country, a little piece of Amazonia in Xiberoa/Zuberoa!

This also got us to thinking about other interesting or emblematic sites … especially those off the beaten track somewhat.  So if you have any suggestions why not let us know? We’d be happy to share your thoughts!

A video journey to the heart of the Basque Country

Check out these great introductory videos charting a recent journey to the heart of the Basque Country, Xiberoa, from our friends at About Basque Country:

According to the blog, this was in part a journey made by Basques from the South in order to connect with their cousins in the North, a trip through the Basque Country and the variety of cultures, dialects, and landscapes that make up these distinct parts of Euskal Herria.

 

James Beard Award goes to The Oxford Companion to Cheese

We are proud to announce that The Oxford Companion to Cheese has received the James Beard Award for “Reference and Scholarship” this year. You may ask, are Basques just that obsessed with cheese to write a post about it? Well yes, we are, and I  am definitely the definition of a cheese eater: “A person who eats cheese; a person who appreciates or routinely consumes cheese.” However, the reason we are sharing this news is because Professor Sandra Ott was among the 325 contributors to the book (a whopping 888 pages), hailing from over 35 countries! Zorionak Sandy!

For those of you who are familiar with Dr. Ott’s work, you may not be surprised that she was asked by the editorial board member Heather Paxson, author of The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America and professor of anthropology at MIT, to contribute. Ott’s The Circle of Mountains: A Basque Shepherding Community, an ethnography of Santazi (Zuberoa) and its people, is a Basque Studies classic. Part Four of the book comprises three chapters on cheese and cheese-making: 1. The Olha: A Pastoral Institution; 2. Rotation and Serial Replacement in the Olha: Past and Present; 3. Shepherding and Cheese-making. Perhaps the most striking chapter, however, is Part Five: The Concept of Conception. After years living in Santazi, and now decades returning to do fieldwork and maintain lifelong friendships, Professor Ott participated in the town’s traditions and work. It was through this labor, as well as talking to residents, that Ott learned much about Santazi’s cheese-making, the significance of the olha (the sheepherding syndicate’s hut high in the mountains where cheese is made exclusively by men during summer transhumance), and finally the connections between human and cheese conception. Here are Ott’s own words:

Santazi, Zuberoa

These examples show the historical depth and spatial distribution of an analogy that is central to the Sainte-Engrâce notion of human conception–namely, that rennet : cheese : : semen : infant. The modern existence of the cheese analogy of conception in one French Basque community is itself an interesting phenomenon … an attempt by men … to fulfil symbolically the female procreative role and to re-enact symbolically the physical creation of children in a male domain from which women are excluded. In Sainte-Engrâce, this also involves a reversal of male and female sociological roles, i.e. the cheese-making shepherd performs the socio-domestic role of the female head of household and recreates the ideologically female domain of the house in the male domain of the mountain herding hut.

The Circle of Mountains, pg. 212

Professor Ott’s contribution to The Oxford Companion to Cheese deals with the significance of the olha and cultural theories of cheese curdling. Paxson also includes this anecdote in her own book:

When I first visited Major Farm and was explaining to David my early thoughts about an anthropological research project, he asked, “Oh, you mean like Sandra Ott?” and pulled down from a bookcase in the kitchen, shelved next to the Moosewood Cookbook, a copy of Ott’s ethnographic monograph, The Circle of Mountains.

The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America, pg. 52

Although Professor Ott’s new book Living with the Enemy (Cambridge University Press) is set to be released very soon, we can gather that her interests are wide in scope, and who wouldn’t love cheese! As a matter of fact, she has presented numerous times at the American Cheese Society Conference! She sets an example for students like myself in her ability to balance many topics in-depth, while still having time to think about gazta!

We leave you with a review, in case you want to know more. This is what The New York Times had  to say about this doorstopper:

For the Cheese Lover, the Ultimate Reference Book

This new guide to cheese from Oxford University Press is authoritative, but what is surprising is how local it gets. Calandra’s Cheese on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx is listed, along with such revered fromageries as Androuet in Paris. And just to show how American cheesemakers are at the forefront of the artisanal resurgence, the book was edited by Catherine Donnelly, a professor of nutrition and food science at the University of Vermont, with a foreword by Mateo Kehler, a founder of Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont. Hundreds of writers from 35 countries contributed to this 888-page doorstop of a reference book, with entries arranged alphabetically and covering topics like regulations, techniques, history, cuisines, types of rinds, Mexican cheeses (there are some 60 varieties), Chinese cheeses and cheese museums: “The Oxford Companion to Cheese,” edited by Catherine Donnelly (Oxford, $65).

The Maskarada: A Unique Basque Cultural Event

Zamalzain, the hobbyhorse/centaur, one of the striking characters in the masakarada performance. Photo by Oier Araolaza, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Yesterday, January 22, the annual maskarada begin its annual odyssey. Part drama, part dance, part poetic performance (both memorized and improvised),  and with more than a coincidental resemblance to the forthcoming carnival antics across the Basque Country, this is a cultural form unique to Xiberoa (or Zuberoa) in the far northeast of the Basque Country, in which a group of amateurs from the same area traditionally perform a form of transgressive, subversive, and parodic open-air popular theater with the declared aim of poking fun at those in authority. The traveling troupe always includes the same characters, a set group made up of ostensibly “good” and “bad” figures, although the lines do get blurred. At root, this is a tradition designed to cement community ties and one that celebrates both the Basque language and traditional music and dance. It has been practiced since at least the sixteenth century.

This year’s event is being performed by  a group of young people aged 15 to 24 from the villages of Ezpeize-Ündüreine, Ürrüstoi-Larrabile, Ainharbe, Sarrikotapea, Onizepea, and Mitikile in the Pettarra region of northern Xiberoa, and kicked off in Ezpeize itself. The maskarada is returning to this region 100 years after it was last performed here. In the video above you can see the introductory dance following the so-called fall of the first barricade.

One of the most spectacular moments in the maskarada is the godaleta(a) dantza (dance of the glass of wine), in which dancers attempt to momentarily hop on and off a glass of wine. Check out this video of dancers attempting the feat at a separate event in Donibane Lohizune, Lapurdi:

Check out, too, “The Folk Arts of the Maskarada Performance” by Kepa Fernández de Larrinoa in Voicing the Moment: Improvised Oral Poetry and Basque Tradition, edited by Samuel G. Armistead and Joseba Zulaika. In his article, Fernández de Larrinoa explains who the characters are in this performance as well as the set pattern of scenes they perform, and what all of this means within the wider context of the culture of Xiberoa.

This book is available free to download here.

 

2016 pastorala celebrates life of Jean Pitrau

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.

Katalina de Erauso pastorala premieres in Baiona

Sunday, June 5, saw the premiere of the new pastorala, “Katalina de Erauso,” in Baiona.  The pastorala is a traditional form of outdoor theater in Zuberoa performed by amateurs, usually from the same town or area, in which the action is played out in repetitive sung verse. It harks back to the mystery and morality plays of the medieval era and frequently involves a tragic theme. Some modern interpretations of the pastorala, such as “Katalina de Erauso,” are also performed in theaters and outside Zuberoa.

The eponymously titled “Katalina de Erauso” tells the dashing story of the famed Lieutenant Nun, a women who fled a convent life in Donostia, Gipuzkoa, to embark on a series of swashbuckling adventures in the guise of a man in the Americas.

For more details about this spectacle, check out its website (in Basque, French, and Spanish) here.

If you’re interested in this major figure in Basque history, we cannot recommend highly enough the enthralling account of her life in Eva Mendieta’s In Search of Catalina de Erauso, which we discussed in detail in a previous post. What’s more, if you’re interested in different aspects of traditional Basque performance, check out Voicing the Moment, edited by Samuel G. Armistead and Joseba Zulaika. This book is available free to download here

How two Basque sportswomen balance their professional and sporting lives: Maider Unda and Patricia Carricaburu

Today we’re going to take a look at how two Basque sportswomen at the top of their game balance their commitments both inside and outside the sporting arena. In both cases, they take part in their respective sports for the love of playing rather than for any major financial remuneration. And both women demonstrate a strong connection to the land of their birth.

Born in 1977, Maider Unda is one of the top Basque sportswomen today. She is from the Atxeta baserri in Oleta, a neighborhood of Aramaio, Araba, where she still lives, herding sheep and producing the renowned Idiazabal cheese in partnership with her sister. She is a successful freestyle wrestler who, in the 72 kg category, finished in fifth place at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and won the bronze medal at the 2012 Games in London. In the same category she has also won a bronze medal at the World Championships (2009), a bronze at the European Games (2015), and a silver (2013) and two bronzes (2010, 2012) at the European Championships. She is currently attempting to qualify for this year’s Summer Olympics, to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in August.

In the following report (in Spanish) she discusses her professional and sporting life, including how she took over the family farm after her parents retired:

Check out Maider’s personal website here.

Born in 1988, Patricia Carricaburu, from Altzürükü, Zuberoa, is a French international rugby player who plays in the prop forward position, in which Basques have a long and noble tradition of playing. She was part of the French team that won this year’s 6 Nations Tournament, the premier championship in European rugby. At the club level, she made her debut for local team US Menditte, nicknamed the “Neska Gaitz” or “Bad Girls,” in Mendikota, Zuberoa, before moving to the RC Lons team, near Pau in Béarn.

Check out this report on Patricia (in French), which as well as including some glowing comments about her by the coach of the French national team and fellow Basque, Jean-Michel Gonzalez, also shows her in her day job as an accountant in an automobile repair shop in Maule, and includes her singing traditional Basque songs–another personal passion inherited from her family–toward the end of the clip (at approx. 2m 30s). Indeed, she also sings in the Bedatse Liliak (Spring flowers) group, with friends from her home village:

Women, and gender issues more generally, in sport is one of the principal themes running through Playing Fields: Power, Practice, and Passion in Sport, edited by Mariann Vaczi.

Dr. Sandra Ott’s Presentation of Living with the Enemy at University of San Francisco

Wednesday, March 23rd, Professor Sandra Ott from the  Center will be presenting her new book Living with the Enemy, from 2:00-4:00 pm in McLaren Conference Center at the University of San Francisco.  Professor Ott has spent significant time in Pau, France, performing research and as one of her students, I have learned much more about the Nazi occupation of France during World War II and the various roles that the Basques performed during this time period.

enemy (1)

We congratulate Sandy on her publication and all the work that goes into it! So please attend if in the area, enjoy some refreshments, and enjoy learning about this particular time in Basque history.

 

 

 

Maskarada season begins in Zuberoa

The Maskarada–wild carnivalesque outdoor public theater combining song and dance and performed by regular people all from the same community–kicked off on Sunday, January 10 in the Basque province of Zuberoa (also known as Xiberoa).  This year, residents of the village of Sohüta-Hoki (Chéraute-Hoquy) will be performing the Maskarada all over Zuberoa, over a series of Sundays, between January 10 and April 10.

The Maskarada performance follows an established pattern, with performers representing different characters that are defined as either “Reds” or “Blacks.” The Reds include characters like zamaltzaina (the hobbyhorse) and the marexalak (blacksmiths) while the Blacks include buhame jauna (the gypsy king) and pitxu (the fox). The Reds are well behaved, formal, and elegant, performing specific dances and songs, but the Blacks move in a wilder, untamed, and more spontaneous way, grunting and shouting in joyful abandon. The Reds, then, support the central narrative of the performance; they give meaning to the story, while the Blacks attempt to subvert and undermine that meaning. The video below, shot in Atharratze (Tardets) in 2013, shows the introductory sequence of the Maskarada: the breaking of the barrikada (barricade) and introduction of the principal characters, with the Reds first and then the Blacks.

The following video, meanwhile, also shot in Atharratze (though this time in 2014), shows several sequences and demonstrates just how much this performance is rooted in these local communities. Note how close audience and performers are, the very public outdoor setting, and the unaffected nature of the performance (as well as the famous godalet dantza, the wine glass dance, from approximately 9m 25s onward).

This is not for the faint hearted! It involves bawdy renditions and representations, most of which are intended to cast a critical eye on anyone with pretenses to “authority.”  It is, without doubt, one of the most unique and beguiling events on the Basque cultural calendar, as well as being a living, breathing testament to the persistence of strong community values in the culturally rich province of Zuberoa. The Maskarada is folk theater in its most popular form, with people spending months rehearsing and performing as a means of cementing community ties and maintaining their language and culture.

For general information from the Basque Cultural Institute on the Maskarada click here.

If you’re interested in this topic, check out “The Folk Arts of the Maskarada Performance” by Kepa Fernandez de Larrinoa, a chapter in Voicing the Moment: Improvised Oral Poetry and Basque Tradition, edited by Samuel G. Armistead and Joseba Zulaika.

For Fernandez de Larrinoa, the Maskarada represents much more than just a “dance-event”–the term most commonly used to describe this performance in most studies of the phenomenon that tend to focus on its dance aspects. He sees it as more a kind of “storytelling-event” more broadly speaking, interpreting the Maskarada in the wider terms of a folk performance combining music, dance, song, spoken word, free movement, carnivalesque performance, playfulness, subversion, and so on.

Shop for the book here or download it for free here.

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