An dàrna latha san Dùthaich nam Bascach...
I travelled along the coast to Orio, a small fishing town south of Donostia, to go the concert of renowned Basque singer Benito Lertxundi. Now in his mid 70s, Benito has played a significant role in the promotion of the Basque language by composing and performing songs in Euskara as part of a cultural movement of the 1960s and 70s. He was influential as a member of Ez Dok Amairu - a group of artists who actively sought to revitalise the Basque culture and oppose the anti-Euskara laws.
During the Franco dictatorship Basque language and culture were banned and Castilian Spanish was imposed in all schools and public institutions. As a result of these laws there was a feeling of inferiority amongst Basque people due to the repression of their language and culture and the political ideologies which enforced Spanish as a superior language. To a certain extent parallels may be drawn with the Gaelic language in Scotland. My great-grandfather’s first language was Gàidhlig and this was the language spoken at home. However, when he went to school it was forbidden to speak Gaelic, the classes were through English and he would be belted across the hand for speaking Gaelic in the playground. This wasn’t for any reason as extreme as a political system which made the language illegal, but it was a result of The Education (Scotland) Act 1872 which introduced compulsory schooling for children across Scotland, whilst actively discouraging Gaelic. Gaelic was the language at home and on the croft, whereas English was the language of learning and officialdom. Another similarity between the Gaels and Euskaldunak is that the older generation switch to English/Spanish for counting and scientific or technical terminology as a result of having been through schooling in these languages rather than their first language. Over the last decades both languages have seen a revitalisation which has gone hand in hand with government support for Gaelic/Basque language schools, growing cultural confidence, political nationalism and a revival in the folk arts through grassroots initiatives.
Benito Lertxundi Ofiziala and other Basque singers who were also part of Ez Dok Amairu such Mikel Laboa and Ruper Ordorika played an important part in reaffirming the Basque sense of identity and community. The concert I went to in Benito’s home town of Orio had a packed out audience of 1000 people in a sports hall. The room was filled with a resounding sense of admiration for the singer, and the songs seemed to rouse up feelings of pride and perhaps patriotism. Particularly the last song of the evening which seemed to be a call to action to come together in peace: “Gure asmoak, esperantzak, herria, askatasuna, justizia, pakea, egia, maitasuna… mitoak, hitz utsak?”
This mural is on a wall just near my apartment in Errenteria. It is an image of singer Mikel Laboa who passed away a few years ago. I think this tribute shows just how important these cultural figures are to people living in the Basque Country today.
#DSS2016 #Donostia2016 Tosta 2016 #Gàidhlig #Euskara
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.