Basque comic strips will once again be represented at the prestigious Brussels Comic Strip Festival Fête de la BD, with the participation of Basque illustrator Maite Gurrutxaga. Celebrated every year since 2010, this year’s event will maintain its characteristic high-octane style with a special program combining face-to-face and online activities, with measures in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The festival will once again offer numerous workshops, talks, presentations, round tables and exhibitions related to the world of comics. More than 100,000 visitors and 250 authors come to the Belgian capital every year, but this year, due to health measures, the international pavilion has been cancelled and only Belgian artists will attend the activities and exhibitions. The rest of the invited international artists will offer their talks, workshops or round tables online.
Following the trend of recent years, the participation of Basque culture will again be organized in collaboration with the Basque Delegation of the European Union and EUNIC (European Union National Institutes for Culture), a network of which the Etxepare Basque Institute has been a member since 2015. With the cancellation of the international pavilion, most of the activities organized by EUNIC will have an online format this year. However, this organization will promote various activities, including a virtual exhibition at the Comic Museum in Brussels, promotion online of the work by illustrators from partner countries and the aforementioned round table with Gurrutxaga.
The panel Women in Comics: a European perspective will be hosted tomorrow, September 10, via Zoom. This activity is part of the program running up to this Saturday’s official festival kickoff. In addition to the Etxepare Basque Institute, the Czech Institute of Culture, the Finnish Cultural Institute, the Camões Institute of Portugal and the Israeli Embassy will also take part.
The theme will revolve around issues such as how women work with comics in Europe, how they make their voice heard in the European market, what challenges they face and roles they play, and what reward do they receive. Joined by Gurrutxaga on the panel will be Finnish artist Kaisa Leka and Czech artist Stepanka Jislova. The round table will be moderated by Quebec cartoonist Maryse Dubuc. Dubuc has been specially selected, since not only is she an expert in European and, in particular, Belgian comics, but she will link this activity to the Quebec-Basque Country cultural project organized by the Etxepare Basque Institute in 2021.
Maite Gurrutxaga has been working for more than a decade in illustration for children, young people and adults. Over the years her work has been recognized with different awards, such as the Euskadi Prize for Illustration in a Literary Work for her comic book Habiak (Nests) in 2014; and the Lazarillo Prize for Illustrated Album for the project Martin, with text by Alaine Agirre, in 2015. Her work has also been selected numerous times to be shown at the Bratislava Illustration Biennial (2013, 2017 and 2019) and Illustrating Life in Beijing (2017 and 2019).
This year, the Fête de la BD will also feature specially adapted activities. Among them, a guided museum tour called Immersive Experience and the drive-in cinema built especially for the occasion, featuring comic-related screenings every day.
Since its incorporation as an associate member of EUNIC Brussels, the Etxepare Basque Institute, together with the Basque Delegation to the European Union, has worked intensely to promote cultural diversity and has actively participated in transnational projects such as the Brussels Comic Festival and the Transpoesie poetry festival, also held in Brussels later in the year.