• The work offers a comparative anthropological journey through two metaphorical universes of popular culture
  • It is the first of the Centauro Collection for research projects


Crónlech vasco y zorro japonés. De Jorge Oteiza a Akira Kurosawa

Published by Fundación Museo Jorge Oteiza in collaboration with Obra Social de Kutxa.

Centauro Collection. Volume 1

Authors: Juan Antonio Urbeltz and Mikel Urbeltz Navarro

350 pages. €18.

In his many essays, Jorge Oteiza reflected on the spatial and symbolic meaning of the Pyrenean cromlech, also referred to in Basque as mairu-baratz. In his film Konna yume wo mita (Such Dreams I Have Dreamed, 1990), Akira Kurosawa brought into cinematographic language a popular meteorological allegory whereby foxes get married when it rains and the sun shines. These two apparently unconnected references are the starting point for the analysis made by Juan A. Urbeltz and Mikel Urbeltz Arregi in the work  Crónlech vasco y zorro japonés. De Jorge Oteiza a Akira Kurosawa, which offers a suggestive and revealing journey, laden with anthropological references, through the metaphorical universes of popular culture, discovering surprisingly common symbolic references.

            This publication, which is the first of the Centauro Collection and involves the collaboration of Obra Social de Kutxa, includes a double essay that summarises numerous interconnected investigations. The first focuses on the cromlech, or mairu-baratz, referred to by Jorge Oteiza. The second looks at the first of eight stories in the film by Kurosawa, Such Dreams I Have Dreamed, used for the opening scenes of this film based on the Japanese saying kitsuné no yome-iri, whose equivalence in Basque, eseguzkia ta euria, axeri boda, says that foxes get married when it rains and the sun shines.

        The detailed examination of these subjects is an exercise in exploring fields that have hardly been touched. Both the Basque mairu and the Japanese and Basque sayings hide images that delve deep into a hugely interesting civilisation. Where the mairuis a mental representation alien to the Moor born with Islam, albeit confused with him, it is not true of the foxes that “get married” when it rains and the sun shines. Both references constitute a substitution that is as mysterious as it is revealing and make up a metaphorical and allegorical symbolism that represents, by way of transfer, one of the main enemies of mankind: mosquitoes.

            The persistence of the metaphorical images analysed here is based on the fact that, according to the authors in this work, “When any part of reality is declared taboo, the substitution that is made has to be discovered, which is an extremely difficult task. Thus, hidden behind the fox or the Moor (mairu) of folklore, the mosquito is the confusing cover that disturbs all and stands as a good expression of the idea put forward by Ernest Jones whereby only what is rejected is symbolised”.

            The unusual case here suggests that such a transfer has to come from very archaic periods of civilisation. Although it has not been demonstrated, it is reasonable to suppose that in ill-fated situations, the powerful clouds of mosquitoes were considered the devil’s work and the mosquito as the devil in person. Based on that, the fear of mentioning it comes from long ago. It has always been important to be careful, since if the devil or the mosquito is named, there is a serious risk of them appearing or if a curse is made in their name, of it coming true”, they point out. “Everything comes from an atavistic circumstance according to which, for primitive humanity, the name is the same as the thing that is named. Consequently, the substitution had no choice but to open up to the metaphor”. This circumstance enables the inspiration of the same saying at both ends of the Eurasia.

            The Centauro Collection is dedicated to research and begins with this work. It will include the next edition of the publications Oteiza y Unamuno: dos tragedias epigonales de la modernidad (Oteiza and Unamuno: two epigonal tragedies of modernity), by Juan Arana Cobos, and Oteiza y los nuevos paradigmas científicos (Oteiza and the new paradigms of science), by Ignacio Sánchez Simón.

Juan A. Urbeltz (Iruñea-Pamplona, 1940), an academic of traditional Basque dancing, his work spans across more than fifty years. He integrated the Basque dance group Argia in the Escuela Vasca de Arte Contemporáneo (Basque School of Contemporary Art) and has also given numerous conferences and courses. Urbeltz has published more than a dozen records, books and monographs, including Dantzak. Notas sobre las danzas tradicionales de los vascos (Dantzak: Notes on the Traditional Dances of the Basque People) (Caja Laboral, 1978), Música militar en el País Vasco (Military Music in the Basque Country). El problema del zortziko (The Problem with the Zortziko) (Pamiela, 1989), Alardeak (Gipuzkoako Foru Aldundia, 1995), Los bailes de espadas y sus símbolos (Sword Dances and their Symbols) . Ciénagas, insectos y «moros» (Marshes, Insects and “Moors”) (Pamiela, 2000), Danza vasca. Aproximación a los símbolos (Basque Dancing. An Examination of the Symbols) (Etor-Ostoa, 2001); Euskal Herria eta Festa (Elkar, 2004), Danzas morris. Origen y metáfora (Morris Dances. Origin and Metaphor) (Pamiela 2007), Gipuzkoa mairu-lur / Gipuzkoa tierra de «moros» (Gipuzkoa Land of “Moors”)(Elkar-Diputación Foral de Gipuzkoa 2009). Juan A. Urbeltz is a patron of Fundación Museo Jorge Oteiza Fundazio Museoa.

 Mikel Urbeltz Arregi (Donostia 1969), a graduate in Basque Philology, EHU (University of the Basque Country), he is a member of the Ikerfolk Association and director of the Udazkenean Folk Festival (1995-2005). In 1995, he published the record Berrizko Itsuari, where he uses a new style of traditional violin based on the sound of the alboka.  He also collaborated on the record Bedaxagar, published by Ikerfolk and Fonti Musicali, and with various groups and soloists both on stage and in the studio: Anje Duhalde, Mikel Udangarin, L.T., Txuma Murugarren. With the group Argia, he has taken part in shows that include Zortziko, Muriska, Alakiketan, and the more recent Axeri boda and Aunitz urtez. He has also participated in various works of popular theatre in the Suletino dialect of Basque (Pastoralak), including Sabin Arana Goiri, Atharratze Jauregian and Iparragirre. He has given courses and conferences on various areas of folklore and traditional music and has done radio programmes, such as Baskistan on Bilbo Hiria Irratia, and collaborated with folk clubs that include Dantza Ganbara in Bilbao. He is a current member of the Zenbat Gara Association and sits on the management team of Kafe Antzokia.