The Irantzu Lekue collaborative mural addresses the role of women in mythology “as the creators of agriculture, language or art” and in the conveyance of traditions or beliefs. “That is the reason why women have been persecuted. That is why she is the innocent victim of the obsessive and misogynist imagination of the religious and civil powers,” explains the author who worked side by side with the Alava writer Toti Martínez de Lezea on its production. There are several associations that participated in the creation of this new mural that extends for 65 metres.
GASTEIZ Judimendi Park is a place full of history and symbolism. The Jewish cemetery of the community that settled in Gasteiz in the the fifteenth century. It is also the place where the city celebrates the summer solstice, fire and magic. On one of the large black walls in Federico Baraibar Street, the Basque artist Irantzu Lekue created “a mural committed to integrating a part of history that has been forgotten, denied and persecuted”-. On this occasion, Lekue places the woman as the centre piece and portrays her as the conveyor of life, beliefs, and wisdom.
A participatory mural and a social innovation project inspired by the work of authors such as Jose Miguel de Barandiaran, Rosa Iziz, Félix Placer, Ana Iziz and, above all, from the texts and conversations between Lekue and the Alava writer Toti Martinez de Lezea in addition to the visits that the artist made to places like Ekain, Zugarramurdi, Baltzola or Mairulegorreta, which have also been a source of inspiration for the achievement of this huge mural located in the until now dark and abandoned wall of Federíco Baraibar Street
“At first I wanted to work on the subject of witchcraft,” Lekue explains. Witches, those dark, evil, terrifying beings, who have been passed to the popular mind as a symbol of evil, of the Devil’s worship, of black masses; able to conjure up spells, cause storms, ruin crops, pump water wells, poison honest people, kill children, fly on brooms to hold an akelarre …, “intended to claim what they really represent: innocent victims of obsessive imagination and misogynist ideas of the religious and civil powers. ” “Following conversations with Toti, we understood that it might not be appropriate to address the issue in this way, since, depending on how we designed it, we might just be justifying the inquisition.”
A persecution, a tragedy that lasted about three centuries in Europe, where 100,000 people were charged and more than 50,000 executed at the stake and by hanging. “This great injustice, for which no one has asked for forgiveness, left in the collective subconscious, a memory buried in the past and folklore of today,” explains Toti Martinez de Lezea. “Neither the Church, nor the State, nor the Inquisition propagated the belief in witchcraft, but they did propagate a control over their subjects, impose their criteria and eliminate old beliefs and traditions, religious opponents, heterodox, sceptical, political dissidents or simple rebels. They were responsible for the killings by allowing the interpretation of the Christian doctrine and civil laws in the hands of criminals. These individuals, whose perversity and sadism are beyond doubt what controlled people’s private lives, annihilated freedom of expression and creeds, prevented the free movement of ideas and trodding on the weakest social layers and, therefore, , those with fewer resources to defend themselves, ”she says.
The evolution of the project finally turned “towards the positive” and opted to make women more visible “as it really has been in the History of mankind” against concepts or visions that have been incorporated into the popular imaginary, but which do not correspond to reality. The image of the “magician of the tribe”, for example, is one of those that is deeply rooted in our mental iconography. However, Martínez de Lezea explains, “the first shamans could only have been women, maternity one of the great mysteries and it’s women who give life, it is logical to think that it was other women who took care of the rites of child birth and, therefore, of the invocations of that Mother-Goddess. ” The same goes for agriculture. The word “culture” comes from Latin and means “cultivation.” Cultivation of the land, as it is shown that, once nomads settled, the first farmers were women, it was the woman who cared for the children, the elderly and the sick, while the men were engaged in hunting and the heaviest jobs (such as felling trees).
“We wanted to make optimum use of the stone and integrate it into the mural; turn it, by means of a trapntojo, into part of a cave and thus create a different sensation for the people who pass through here, an artistic experience that we have created in auzolan, in participatory mode ”, explains Lekue.
Like religion, when we think of cave painters, the image of a male artist comes to mind. However, it was women who discovered and developed the first mineral and vegetable dyes used for hides and wool, Martínez de Lezea explains. “It is logical to think that they were also the first to “paint” the caves. Anything easier than leaving a handprint on a rock? Women discovered clay to make recipients for cooking and storing and, why not, modelling.
There were still temples dedicated to the Mother Goddesses in some parts of Europe in the second century. In Euskal Herria there were never temples, since the belief of our ancestors was basically naturists. The Goddess AMARI, ama-ari-da “the one who is a mother”. Mari means nothing in Euskara, ” figurative language, so it is very strange that the only important deity in our culture is called that.” If you take away the “A”, what remains is “Mari”, very similar to Maria, a way to Christianize the Basque goddess, explains Martinez de Lezea
The transition from a matriarchal society to a patriarchal one has a lot to do with the settlement of nomadic tribes, which brought with it, ownership, the CONQUEST, the economic and military power. The woman, responsible for the continuity of the human race, for the offspring, became a value to preserve to guarantee the continuation of the male lineage. “She was not allowed to make decisions, to have possessions, study or be free. However, history shows us that women who studied, wrote, taught, painted, despite the regrets, and passed it on to their daughters no matter how little or how much they knew. In Euskal Herria the role of the transmission of traditions, beliefs and language has been the work of women,” she says.
Thus, Lekue’s mural incorporates various female figures throughout history. As the goddess of fertility or deity of creation, along with samples of local traditions or rites, such as a discoverer of pigments and cave painting. “I also wanted to incorporate a river. Judimendi has several rivers and while researching for the mural I learnt of some traditions linked to the summer solstice. In Araba some of these customs were, for example, bathing in the rivers to strengthen the body, washing their hair in the fountains to strengthen and thicken it, rolling in the dewy grass to avoid skin diseases, throwing tools, hoes, knives, axes into the river or to the source so that the moonlight sharpens them, collecting healing plants, because it was believed that at the dawn of the summer solstice they acquired special properties or lighting bonfires to encourage the sun to keep shining”.
Date: April 13, 2020