I took a trip to Catalonia, in Northern Spain, to learn a little about the subversive, independent creativity of the Catalonians. And stayed in a castle, Cardona castle. A medieval castle now a hotel.

My room was high up, a room with a view, or what?

The morning sun on honey biscuit stone, from my window in the castle. I’m gazing down on the town of Cardona, and the day is just beginning. I loved my room with a view, so here’s another view, at night-time.

So what do I know about Catalonia, since I’ve come here ? That Catalonians are known for their feisty independence and creativity. That George Orwell wrote a book called ‘Homage to Catalonia’, about the Spanish Civil War. That Franco repressed all Catalonian expressions of independence and banned any Catalan cultural events. That Catalonia banned bull-fighting in defiance of the rest of Spain. Picasso, Jean Miro…oh and Gaudi of course are Catalonians.

On a visit to nearby Solsona, I went to see a collection of local folk carnival figures, handed down by each generation. Made of wood, giant people and zany faced animals, brought out once a year to celebrate folk battles and past events. I found the animals grotesque and captivating. Anarchic somehow. I was told that the stories enacted by this strange collection of creatures requires many fireworks. Local men spend winter months muscle building. They need to, for the privilege of climbing inside each very heavy creature, to bring them alive. I think this is a chance to display of heroism and pride.

Aren’t these bears wonderful ? Emoji’s of their day ? I think the bear top left is saying : ‘You are revolting ! -‘ and next bear is saying : ‘Hah hah hah, I rule the world!’

I sense an energy, a wildness in these characters – larger than life, with magical powers. They have piercing eyes, don’t you think ? Eyes that follow you around the room…

Not surprising then that  Franco’s regime completely banned their use. Standing alongside these characters, there is a blurring of borders between  history, rural life and magical realism. Woven together folk stories,  of heroic farmers, tyrannical lords, a Christian princess locked in a tower by her father severed from her lover the Muslim prince. Theatrical re-enactments to celebrate the fiery Catalan spirit.

 

 

 

The cockerel character is carved so that its great

weight is finely balanced. This is so that the man carrying it on his own, can perform the ritual of bowing down in front of the Solsona people gathered around.

 

 

King Cockerel

 

 

and finally

a gentler character, with kind eyes.

 

 

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