So it has been my first full day here in the Basque Country and my introduction to the Basque language and people is going well... I have managed to successfully order a round of beer in Euskara (Basque)! I’m staying in Errenteria which is close to the town of Donostia (or San Sabestián as it is called in Spanish). Although I am here as artist in residence in my capacity as a dancer, the TOSTA project is about linking cultures of minority languages and therefor the language, how it is used and how it relates to people’s sense of community, identity and culture is relevant to the exchange. For most Basque people Euskara it is most natural to them but in some instances they are also making political and cultural assertion by choosing Basque over Spanish.
Comparable to how everyone in Scotland who speaks Gaelic also speaks English, it is the same here with Basque and Spanish. Everyone understands Spanish although not necessarily everyone understands Basque but from what I have been told it is a conscious decision for Basque people to speak their native language in shops and bars and then if someone does not follow they go into Spanish instead. There is also a lot of switching between the two languages and although the languages are quite different, the cadences and intonation is often the same which sometimes makes it difficult to spot if both are foreign to you.
Since I have arrived I have met with some of the team from Euskaltzaleen Topagunea and Tosta 2016 who have been absolutely wonderful at introducing me to people, showing me around town and teaching me bits of Euskara. The TOSTA project is part of a big operation for a year of culture Donostia / San Sebastián 2016 Europe. I visited their head quarters which is an old fire station converted into offices - there is a cool vibe about the place and the offices are ver busy with lots of vibrant and enthusiastic people working on various cultural projects as part of #Donostia2016.
One of the events happening today in the town was theatre performances by groups from Frisian in the Netherlands. Frysk (Frisian) is one of the minority languages which make up the project along with Cymraeg (Welsh), Euskara (Basque), Gàidhlig (Scottish), Gaeilge (Irish), Kernewek (Cornish) and O Galego (Galician).
My hosts have lots lined up for me over the next few days and on Sunday I’m heading to the north Basque Country for the festival Herri Urrats. It is a festival basque culture in Iparralde which is in France although Basque people don't make this distinguish and instead reference the areas as north or south Basque country.
My Basque vocabulary so far:
garagardoa = leann (beer)
mesedez = mas e do thoil e (please)
eskerrik asko = tapadh leat (thank you)
Bat, bi, hiru, lau = aon, dà, trì, ceithir (one, two, three, four)
Kaixo = hello
Agur = goodbye
(Tosta is a collaboration project between cultural agents in several minority language communities of Europe’s Atlantic coast, which will also serve as one of the travelling embassies of Donostia / San Sebastian 2016 European Capital of Culture. The project combines the promotion of artistic creation, the celebration of linguistic and cultural diversity and the balanced management of local languages in an international project.)
Gaelic Artist in Residence as part of the Tosta collaboration project between cultural agents in several minority language communities of Europe’s Atlantic coast. The project combines the promotion of artistic creation, the celebration of linguistic and cultural diversity and the balanced management of local languages in an international project.