The Dutch city of Leeuwarden will host a week dedicated to the Basque language as part of an extensive programme of activities within the framework of the 2018 European capital of culture. Thanks to the collaboration between Afuk (organization set up to promote the Friesian language and culture), Euskaltzaleen Topagunea and the Etxepare Basque Institute, the Basque language will take front stage from July 1 to 8 in the Language Pavilion, a project which aims to showcase and strengthen bonds between the rich diversity of Europe´s minority languages, as well as raising awareness around multilingualism.
The Language Pavilion is a wooden structure located in Prinsentuin, a park in the city centre. It is an open space where the public makes contact with various language communities in Europe through musical performances, theatre, poetry, talks, lectures, gastronomy, presentations and other cultural events. Each week between March and October one of the more than 50 minority language communities on the continent shares their language and culture with the public.
The programme will begin with the regional languages and dialects of Holland, followed by other minority languages such as Gaelic and Sorbian. The Basque language will have its turn the first week of July with a series of talks, workshops and concerts revolving around oral literature, traditional singing and bertsolaritza, with the help of bertsolari Xabi Paya and musician Joxan Goikoetxea
The Basque week will kick off on Sunday, July 1, with joint performances by the Sorbians (guest culture the previous week) and the Basques.
On July 4, Xabi Paya and Joxan Goikoetxea will offer a small concert based on traditional Basque songs as part of the ‘Language Café’, a weekly activity within the Language Pavilion.
The main event, consisting of two parts, will take place on Thursday, July 5. First, Friesian performers will liven up the afternoon with their songs. Afterward, the Basque performers will present Bost hitz (Five words), a concert which offers a vision of Basque culture through the history and evolution of five words: tree, war, train, woman and language.
These words symbolize a unique legacy of Basque culture, and through them, the performers hope to shed light on the development of the Basque Country. For example, the word "tree" will take listeners to Gernika to discuss subjects ranging from the semi-democratic feudal system that once existed in Bizkaia, to the bombing of the town depicted in the painting by Picasso. The same word will also serve to travel to Argentina, using the verses of the bertsolari Pedro Mari Otaño, who emigrated to that country and sang to the ombú tree (common to northeast Argentina) in front of his house in Rosario.
On Friday, July 6, Xabi Paya and Joxan Goikoetxea will lead five activities, all linked to bertsolaritza, traditional singing and oral literature. The first one will revolve around the first recorded bertsos in 1926, and the importance of this material for understanding Basque oral literature. In another workshop they will explain the creative process in which the famous sonnets of Shakespeare were first translated into Basque, and later made into lyrics of modern-day songs.
Based on Joxan Goikoetxea’s experience and the Friesians’ interest in Basque oral improvisation, Paya and Goikoetxea will also give a workshop on how to compose melodies for bertsos, explaining what must be taken into account when creating an improvised melody, and another workshop on the secrets of Basque oral improvisation in which attendees will create a bertso in their own language.
Finally, the two will give a workshop showing how bertsolaris have expressed the idea of the Basque nation through their improvisations, and how certain elements have taken on greater importance through history in terms of Basque identity.
The week of Euskara will end on July 8, when the Basque language will pass the torch on to Gaelic Manx (Celtic language spoken on the Isle of Man), which will be followed by other languages including as Maltese, Cornish, Galician and Asturian.