The Basque intangible heritage
The Basque intangible heritage treasures a wealth that, though it has many elements in common with other surrounding cultures and peoples, it also contains features that render it different, attractive and interesting. Those features are euskara, the Basque language, a non-indoeuropean language, and, despite its location, a higher resistance to Roman culture, unlike other territories conquered by Rome and therefore Romanized, where the previous substrate was wiped away.
Those features are especially present in oral literature and in bertsolaritza, improvised poetry. Bertsolaritza is the art of singing improvised rhymes on any topic. Bertsolaritza is one of the main cultural traditions of the country, as it is strongly settled and enjoys good health. Indeed, there are hundreds of bertsolaritza shows throughout the year across the whole Basque Country, performed by bertsolaris or improvising poets of all kinds and ages, children included. Some of these shows have become official, and they even have thousands of spectators. There are many bertsolari schools all over the Basque Country, as well as many events surrounding them.
Oral tradition has historically been much stronger than written literature. In fact, written literature started centuries later than in neighbouring languages. The wealth of this oral tradition has been alive until not long ago, and has been the subject for many studies and compilations since the 19th Century.
Regarding performing arts, many groups display Basque dances, either local or from other Basque areas. There are also professionals who revisit, adapt or merge these traditional dances to offer a contemporary version.
But festivities treasure the widest variety of artistic expressions. It's natural. As well as the Basque landscape — ranging from the Pyrenees to the low valleys, the coast, the plains and the inner mountains — leaves a hallmark on people; it also marks folklore, for instance, Carnival. Although each Carnival festivity is unique, they all share a common origin. So happens with performances at seaside festivities, related to fishing or the sea, or the inland festivities, linked to agriculture or wineries.
This and much more can be found within the universe of intangible Basque heritage, which sometimes offers tangible traces. These signs are compiled, set in their background and promoted in several museums. Some of them are general, and gather different aspects and traditions. Others are more specialized and show traditions and ways of living that were usual generations ago, and shed some light on what we are nowadays.
Written by Eurodesk Qualified Multiplier, Dirección de Juventud y Deporte – Dirección de Patrimonio Cultural del Gobierno Vasco