Thursday, June 30, 2016

Jean Rameau

Laurent Labaigt, later changed to Jean Rameau (1858 – 1942) was a French novelist, poet and member of the literary club Hydropathes.
After completing his studies, he went to Paris and received his first laurels in literature. His poetry draws heavily on nature and his love for his native Landes.
In 1898, with his work in the capital turning out successful, Jean Rameau bought a farm in the municipality of Cauneille and transformed it gradually into a museum The house served as a “house of poetry” and was filled with art, both his own and by others.
In 1928, Rameau began to build his mausoleum, on a hill south of the property of Pourtaou. Rameau himself practiced his carving skills and shaped fourteen allegorical heads - seven sages and seven crazy -   topping each of the columns supporting the balcony encircling the third level. The building is ransacked by the Germans occupying the premises in 1941. 
Jean Rameau, who died in 1942, did not get buried in the Gazebo which was to be his tomb, but under a tombstone.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Félix Arnaudin

Simon Arnaudin, better known as Félix Arnaudin (1844 – 1921), born and deceased at Labouheyre, in the Landes département. Arnaudin was the first to observe Haute-Lande as a native people. He can be said to be at the same time linguist, folklorist, historian, ethnologist, photographer and writer. 
In Gascony, M. Arnaudin created his collection of tales by attending gatherings, as well as at marriages and at various agricultural festivals. He left 3,000 photos at the Musée d'Aquitaine in Bordeaux.

He became famous studying the folklore of the Landes of Gascony, at that time in full economical and social transition. His work is centered on recording Gascon language fairy tales and songs; on land, habitations, shepherd and peasants photography. 
He thus consecrated his life to save this heritage from fading into oblivion. His natal house became a photo exhibit managed by the Labouheyre commune.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Orris in Ariège

Grazing land in Ariège is insufficient at low and middle altitudes to support the herds of cows, sheep and horses for the entire year, so in late spring the farmer leads his livestock to the high mountain pastures where they will spend the summer and early autumn. This phenomenon is called the "transhumance."
In the distant past, the shepherd or cowherd who looked after the animals slept in a tiny, round hut made of stone called an orri, built by hand without mortar and sometimes topped with slate or tree branches. They measured no more than two by two and a half or three meters and were so low that standing upright was impossible. A wooden or stone shelf piled with leaves and pine needles served as a bed, which took up half the space.
In the Couserans and around Auzat the orris were sometimes grouped in little hamlets and each had a different function, notably cheese storage.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Montreur d'ours (Bear Showmen)

The "montreur d'ours" — literally, "displayer of bears", a man who trained a bear and took it from town to town, charging the public to see it perform tricks — was an occupation peculiar to the Alet and Garbet valleys of Ariège. As elsewhere in the Pyrenees, these two valleys were once highly populated. 
Around 1850 there were up to 10 000 inhabitants; today there are 1500. Living conditions were very difficult and traditionally a significant portion of the population, mainly men, would leave to work temporarily in other regions of France and in Spain. During the 18th century many became "colporteurs" --itinerant peddlers--returning to their villages in the spring to replenish their stocks.
It was in Ustou, at the end of the 18th century, that the first montreurs d'ours appeared in the Pyrenees. This practice originated with gypsies and bohemians in the Middle Ages throughout Europe. One probably gave the idea to an inhabitant of Ustou to train bear cubs captured in the surrounding mountains. Later this activity died out in Ustou but expanded greatly in the Garbet valley.
From the middle of the 19th century until World War I, more than 200 montreurs d'ours left the villages of Oust, Ercé and Aulus to travel the world. The first showed their bears in France and neighboring countries. Later, some traveled to the United Kingdom, then to Canada, the United States and throughout North and South America.
In the beginning the bear cubs were caught in the Pyrenees. However, because the mother bear was killed in order to get the cub, this activity decimated the bear population. Eventually montreurs d'ours had to travel to Marseille, where animal traders sold cubs from the Balkans.
By the early 20th century the number of montreurs d'ours began to diminish. World War I hastened the demise of this occupation in the Pyrenees, though it never completely disappeared among the Romany (Gypsies).
Needless to say, the training of bears happened with much pain and suffering and despite all romanticism, great to see the practice almost gone.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Distinctive Beret of the Commandos de Chasse

The Commandos de Chasse were a French Commando force raised for the Algerian war in 1959.
First these troops were issued black berets with the embroidered exploding grenade (the badge of the Gendarmerie Nationale); later the Commandos got to wear the distinctive bi-colour berets in the colours of the Gendarmerie Nationale.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Jacques de Thézac

The man behind the Abri du marin project was Jacques de Thézac, a good beret wearer himself. Here we see him at the helm of his own yacht:
This photo shows  Jacques de Thézac in his car, appropriately built in the shape of a fishing boat. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Les Abris du marin (2)

Following yesterday's post on the abris du marin, here a video with some beautiful photographic material.
It gives a great picture of what the shelters were like, the men who made use of them and the economic environment they were living in. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Abris du marin (Shelters of the Mariners)

The abris du marin (shelters of the mariners) are accommodations created by philanthropist Jacques de Thézac, early 20th century in the ports of Bretagne (Brittany).
Learning of the life of the Breton fishermen, including their alcohol problems, unemployment, low wages and overcrowded houses, Jacques de Thézac created the abris du marin. His goal was to build residential institutions for the fishermen.
Jacques de Thézac decided to offer local fishermen healthy, heated, comfortably furnished meeting rooms and education: the abris du marin, inspired by the sailor's homes in the UK. These houses, located on the harbour were (and are) painted in pink. From 1900 to 1933, eleven "sailor shelters" were located in the ports of Finistère and the Morbihan. Some others were built later. Fifteen shelters all were built between 1900 and 1952.
In addition to a reading room for lectures, refresher courses in navigation or screenings, the abris du marin included a library, a health center, rooms for passing sailors, workshops and a gym. Outside, swimming contests and singing events were organized.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

EITB in the Wild West

EITB (Basque Television) has a knack of creating superb spots to promote itself.
This is the latest one I found, featuring a good bereted Basque on a humble donkey in the American Wild West.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Berets, Table Gongs, Souvenirs & Art

One strong memory of my childhood holidays (always to the Belgian Ardennes, 2 weeks in Hotel de la Lesse at Houyet) was the enormous attraction of souvenir shops.
The Belgian and French souvenir shops stocked a variety of shining and bright coloured knickknacks that was much disliked by my parents, but held an incredible attraction for me.
I can't recall having ever seen "bereted gentlemen on table gongs", but these are definitely the sort of thing I would have loved. When searching the internet, there are many to be found for a couple of dollars. The postage cost usually triples the cost of the object... 
I finally got myself a few, some 45 years later, and use them for bits of 'artwork' in the garden and along our driveway. Certainly, the postie and courier have no trouble finding the way to the front door of South Pacific Berets! 
The top picture is the gong embedded in an old totara (native timber) fence post, and above another sample cemented to what once was a boundary post between the neighbours and me. Not art with a capital A, but it's little projects like these that keep me sane. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Elle boit pas, elle fume pas, elle drague pas mais... elle cause!

Elle boit pas, elle fume pas, elle drague pas mais... elle cause! (She Does Not Drink, Smoke or Flirt, But She Talks),  is a 1970 French comedy.
This offbeat satirical comedy finds a beautiful and talkative housekeeper (Annie Girardot) working for several colorful employers. One is a former prostitute living with a prominent politician. Also included is a ribald bank teller and a strange man who helps out at a church for wayward boys and sings at a homosexual nightclub. 
The housekeeper's verbose nature leads to blackmail for her clients, with the two men meeting their deaths and the ex-prostitute wedding plans put in jeopardy.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

A Bucket of Blood

A Bucket of Blood is a 1959 American black comedy horror film directed by Roger Corman. It starred Dick Miller and was set in beatnik culture.
The film, produced on a $50,000 budget, was shot in five days and shares many of the low-budget filmmaking aesthetics commonly associated with Corman's work. The film is a dark comic satire about a dimwitted, impressionable young busboy at a Bohemian café who is acclaimed as a brilliant sculptor when he accidentally kills his landlady's cat and covers its body in clay to hide the evidence. When he is pressured to create similar work, he becomes murderous.

A Bucket of Blood was the first of three collaborations between Corman and Griffith in the comedy genre, followed by The Little Shop of Horrors (which was shot on the same sets as A Bucket of Blood) and Creature from the Haunted Sea.
The film is noted as well in many circles as an honest, undiscriminating portrayal of the many facets of beatnik culture, including art, dance, style of living and berets. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Ibarrola's Sculpture Garden in Reinosa

Ibarrola pays homage to generations of metalworkers in Reinosa
Twelve large silhouettes made of steel, designed by the Basque sculptor Agustín Ibarrola and made by iron forgings plant Gerdau, commemorate today generations of steelworkers who have built the past and present of the Cantabrian town of Reinosa on the Ebro.
The sculptures have been erected in a new park next to the river, a meeting between the two banks of the Ebro, between the old part of Reinosa and its industrial zone, between its past and present.
Ibarrola has been commissioned to choose where he wanted to see his work.
Ibarrola has followed step by step the whole process of forging his twelve metal workers, weighing 3 tons each at 2.5 – 3 meters tall.
For President of Cantabria Diego, Ibarrola is synonymous with "commitment"; a person and an artist of "deep convictions" that led him to always act "in a straight, clear line, despite the difficulties."
He also stressed the commitment and effort of Gerdau workers and company, who have managed to overcome a difficult period together to move forward, looking ahead. Gerdau CEO is confident that the smelters have been able to capture on metal Ibarrola ideas, which resulted in his view, "a good synthesis of art and industrial effort".

Friday, June 17, 2016

Naked London

Nakedme is an artistic collaboration by Australian partners Sam Hatfield and Fiona Skelton. They work across a range of formats including video, illustration, music, spoken word, installation, live performance art and public interactive performance. 
I came across Nakedme on a Dutch political web site, hassling Facebook, Paypal and other US companies for their moral puritan stances laid on to people across the globe (no bare breasts on Facebook, no transactions on anything that can be associated with sex, etc). 
From interested I turned delighted to see Fiona wearing a beautiful Hispano Basque beret in naturel (and not much else).
Follow the eccentric duo's morning routine as they prepare to go bare rollin' across London. The crusaders without clothes dance in the raw at Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, the Tate Modern and Abbey Road.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bleu de Travail

Bleu de Travail translates as ‘working blues’ and is a catch all for the indigo-dyed cotton workwear popularised by French factory workers from the late 1800s. Bleu de Travail stands for jackets, shirts, or trousers, but when we talk about the Bleu de Travail today, it’s usually just the jacket. Simple, distinctive and hard-wearing; denim’s/jeans’ ancestor. 
The distinctive colour of the bleu de travail was not only an affordable dye, but also acted as a signifier to differentiate French workers from their foremen or managers, who wore typically black or white.
Bleu de Travail has become very fashionable over the last 10 years; hip NYC and London fashion stores charging up to $200.00 for a jacket. 
South Pacific Berets stocks these jackets at a much more reasonable price and our Réal Aiglons are made by one of France’s oldest manufacturers, Le Laboureur (“The Ploughman”) from the Saône-et-Loire department in the region of Bourgogne. Heavy weight (700grams) cotton; 3 outside and one inside pocket (all large enough to fit a well sized beret).
Presently only in size 5 (L/XL), soon to be extended with a full range of sizes.