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THE GATEWAY TO BASQUE CREATIVITY AND CULTURE

Europeans share a rich cultural heritage from centuries of trade and migration. Linguistic and cultural diversity is one of Europe’s main assets, each of us contributing with our uniqueness.
BASQUE. is a window into a land (the land of Basque or Euskara), a history, a way of seeing the world. It is the expression of a culture proud of its heritage, a people that have learned to embrace difference to create a new vision for tomorrow.
BASQUE. opens a new door to discovering Basque culture through music, dance, theatre, cinema, literature, art… And the Basque language. It is a place to share ideas, build bridges, spark new conversation, and foster dialogue between cultures.

BASQUE. IN 10 POINTS

Nº1
LAND

LAND OF THE BASQUE LANGUAGE

Euskal Herria, which means ‘land of the Basque language’, is located in southern Europe, west of the Pyrenees. It straddles both sides of the mountain range, stretching through valleys and plains down to the wild Cantabrian Sea. This ancient land boasts an extraordinary culture, and a language unlike any other in the world. The Basque Country, Euskadi or Euskal Herria, is inclusive and welcoming, and everything is within easy reach. Having adapted to change, this modern society leads the way in Europe in terms of quality of life and sustainable development.

Nº2
LANGUAGE

EUSKERA, AN ANCIENT LANGUAGE OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN

Euskera is the oldest living language in Europe. Its origin remains a mystery today: nobody knows where it came from and it bears no resemblance to any other family of languages. It has survived for centuries, and in so doing, the Basques have preserved a rich, unique culture. A case in point is the robust health enjoyed by the Basque art of improvised verse (bertsolaritza), a formidable force in Basque culture today. Currently, some 900,000 people speak Basque. The language also enjoys a strong presence in the educational, cultural, social and digital spheres.

Photo: National Bertsolaris Championship 2017, Ekaitz Zilarmendi

Nº3
TRADITIONS AND SOCIETY

A LAND WITH PERSONALITY

This is a land of deep roots and unique traditions, folklore, and mythology. Together with the language, they occupy a prominent place in the collective imagination. But more than as a means of interpreting the past, our heritage serves as a base on which to forge our future. Ours is a modern land where tradition and modernity live together in harmony.

Photo: Joaldunak, Ekaitz Zilarmendi

Nº4
FILM

THE GOLDEN AGE

The recent successes of Loreak, Amama and Handia have allowed Basque language film productions to flourish. Basque cinema has grown over the last fifty years, starting with Ama Lur, an ode to the Basque Country (N. Basterretxea and F. Larruquert, 1968) to the latest generation of film directors (Cobeaga, Garaño, Arregi, Vigalondo, Goenaga, Altuna, Esnal, etc.), the Kimuak short film programme, and acclaimed directors the likes of Medem and Alex de la Iglesia. With the San Sebastian Film Festival as its flagship, the Basque Country enjoys a rich cinematic culture.

Photo: Shooting of Oreina, Txintxua Films

Nº5
MUSIC

POWERFUL DRIVER OF CULTURE

Music is an important driver of Basque cultural life. Historically, this has always been the case. Prominent Basque figures in the music world include composer Maurice Ravel, violinist Pablo Sarasate and harpist Nicanor Zabaleta. Ainhoa Arteta is one of the greatest contemporary sopranos in the world today and the Basque National Orchestra and choirs enjoy an excellent reputation internationally. Nowadays, the country hosts a range of rock (Azkena Rock Festival and Bilbao BBK Live) and jazz (Vitoria-Gasteiz, Donostia-San Sebastián and Getxo) festivals. From the moving lyrics of folk artist Mikel Laboa to the pulsating rock of Berri Txarrak, and electronic wizardry of Belako, Basque music is making its mark.

Photo: Niña Coyote eta Chico Tornado, Josu Kaleko

Nº6
ART

UNIVERSAL ICONS

It would be impossible to understand Basque art without considering the vital legacy of Jorge Oteiza and Eduardo Chillida. Apart from the international dimension of their work, the two sculptors exerted an enormous influence on several generations of Basque artists (Txomin Badiola, Cristina Iglesias, Peio Irazu, Ángel Bados) and co-founded the artistic group Gaur (‘today’ in Basque) in the 1960s. Esther Ferrer is a pioneer and leading representative of performance art. The Basque Country also boasts numerous art museums and cultural centres (Guggenheim Bilbao Museum, Bilbao Museum of Fine Arts, Artium, Tabakalera…) and Basque art can be enjoyed around the world thanks to artists such as Itziar Okariz, Sergio Prego, Maider López, Asier Mendizabal and Jesús Mari Lazkano.

Photo: Sanctuary of Arantzazu, Carlos Copertone

Nº7
LITERATURE

A LEGACY SET TO CONTINUE

Basque literature is fitter than ever. Many Basque novels are translated into other languages, some have won awards and others have been turned into films. Following the end of the Spanish dictatorship in 1975, there was a surge in number of publishing houses. Writers such as Bernardo Atxaga, Ramon Saizarbitoria and Arantxa Urretabizkaia are largely responsible for giving Basque language literature a well-deserved boost. Over the last few years, a group of upcoming writers, led by Eider Rodríguez, Kirmen Uribe and Harkaitz Cano, are poised to continue this legacy. Other local writers, including Ramiro Pinilla, Fernando Aramburu and Dolores Redondo have enjoyed success with works in Spanish over the last few decades.

Photo: Eider Rodriguez, Lander Garro

Nº8
PERFORMING ARTS

TRADITION AND THE AVANT-GARDE

From traditional dance to avant-garde theatre, the Basque world of performing arts offers a wide range of highly unique work. Despite profound social changes, traditional dance has survived in the Basque Country. Classical, traditional, theatrical and contemporary dance are often blended into fusion productions. Local ballet stars, Lucía Lacarra and Igor Yebra, currently belong to large international ballet companies. In addition to multiple independent venues, the Arriaga Theatre in Bilbao, the Victoria Eugenia in San Sebastián and the Principal in Vitoria-Gasteiz are responsible for keeping the acting flame alive.

Photo: Haatik, Iurre Aranburu

Nº9
FOOD

A WAY OF LIFE

For Basque people, gastronomy isn’t only about food. It’s a way of life. Pintxos, delicious mouthfuls of miniature cuisine enjoyed in a casual setting, have become one of the hallmarks of Basque food culture. The Basque Country is also home to hundreds of gastronomic societies, private clubs where friends get together to cook and socialize over a meal. Basque cuisine is a leading international force and has spearheaded several culinary revival movements. San Sebastian boasts more Michelin stars per capita than virtually any other city in the world.

Photo: Elkano, Mito studio

Nº10
PEOPLE

LAND OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP

The Basques are famous for their adventurous and innovative spirit. Prominent figures such as Juan Sebastián Elcano, the first man to circumnavigate the globe, or Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, have left their mark on the world. Universal Basques can be found in every corner of society: fashion couturiers Balenciaga and Paco Rabanne; writers Unamuno, Pío Baroja and Bernardo Atxaga; and sculptors Eduardo Chillida, Jorge Oteiza and Cristina Iglesias. In the business world, the modern, innovative Basque cooperative model has been the object of praise and study by world-renowned economists.

Photo: Balenciaga, Mito studio

Nº1
LAND

LAND OF THE BASQUE LANGUAGE

Euskal Herria, which means ‘land of the Basque language’, is located in southern Europe, west of the Pyrenees. It straddles both sides of the mountain range, stretching through valleys and plains down to the wild Cantabrian Sea. This ancient land boasts an extraordinary culture, and a language unlike any other in the world. The Basque Country, Euskadi or Euskal Herria, is inclusive and welcoming, and everything is within easy reach. Having adapted to change, this modern society leads the way in Europe in terms of quality of life and sustainable development.

Nº2
LANGUAGE

EUSKERA, AN ANCIENT LANGUAGE OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN

Euskera is the oldest living language in Europe. Its origin remains a mystery today: nobody knows where it came from and it bears no resemblance to any other family of languages. It has survived for centuries, and in so doing, the Basques have preserved a rich, unique culture. A case in point is the robust health enjoyed by the Basque art of improvised verse (bertsolaritza), a formidable force in Basque culture today. Currently, some 900,000 people speak Basque. The language also enjoys a strong presence in the educational, cultural, social and digital spheres.

Photo: National Bertsolaris Championship 2017, Ekaitz Zilarmendi

Nº3
TRADITIONS AND SOCIETY

A LAND WITH PERSONALITY

This is a land of deep roots and unique traditions, folklore, and mythology. Together with the language, they occupy a prominent place in the collective imagination. But more than as a means of interpreting the past, our heritage serves as a base on which to forge our future. Ours is a modern land where tradition and modernity live together in harmony.

Photo: Joaldunak, Ekaitz Zilarmendi

Nº4
FILM

THE GOLDEN AGE

The recent successes of Loreak, Amama and Handia have allowed Basque language film productions to flourish. Basque cinema has grown over the last fifty years, starting with Ama Lur, an ode to the Basque Country (N. Basterretxea and F. Larruquert, 1968) to the latest generation of film directors (Cobeaga, Garaño, Arregi, Vigalondo, Goenaga, Altuna, Esnal, etc.), the Kimuak short film programme, and acclaimed directors the likes of Medem and Alex de la Iglesia. With the San Sebastian Film Festival as its flagship, the Basque Country enjoys a rich cinematic culture.

Photo: Shooting of Oreina, Txintxua Films

Nº5
MUSIC

POWERFUL DRIVER OF CULTURE

Music is an important driver of Basque cultural life. Historically, this has always been the case. Prominent Basque figures in the music world include composer Maurice Ravel, violinist Pablo Sarasate and harpist Nicanor Zabaleta. Ainhoa Arteta is one of the greatest contemporary sopranos in the world today and the Basque National Orchestra and choirs enjoy an excellent reputation internationally. Nowadays, the country hosts a range of rock (Azkena Rock Festival and Bilbao BBK Live) and jazz (Vitoria-Gasteiz, Donostia-San Sebastián and Getxo) festivals. From the moving lyrics of folk artist Mikel Laboa to the pulsating rock of Berri Txarrak, and electronic wizardry of Belako, Basque music is making its mark.

Photo: Niña Coyote eta Chico Tornado, Josu Kaleko

Nº6
ART

UNIVERSAL ICONS

It would be impossible to understand Basque art without considering the vital legacy of Jorge Oteiza and Eduardo Chillida. Apart from the international dimension of their work, the two sculptors exerted an enormous influence on several generations of Basque artists (Txomin Badiola, Cristina Iglesias, Peio Irazu, Ángel Bados) and co-founded the artistic group Gaur (‘today’ in Basque) in the 1960s. Esther Ferrer is a pioneer and leading representative of performance art. The Basque Country also boasts numerous art museums and cultural centres (Guggenheim Bilbao Museum, Bilbao Museum of Fine Arts, Artium, Tabakalera…) and Basque art can be enjoyed around the world thanks to artists such as Itziar Okariz, Sergio Prego, Maider López, Asier Mendizabal and Jesús Mari Lazkano.

Photo: Sanctuary of Arantzazu, Carlos Copertone

Nº7
LITERATURE

A LEGACY SET TO CONTINUE

Basque literature is fitter than ever. Many Basque novels are translated into other languages, some have won awards and others have been turned into films. Following the end of the Spanish dictatorship in 1975, there was a surge in number of publishing houses. Writers such as Bernardo Atxaga, Ramon Saizarbitoria and Arantxa Urretabizkaia are largely responsible for giving Basque language literature a well-deserved boost. Over the last few years, a group of upcoming writers, led by Eider Rodríguez, Kirmen Uribe and Harkaitz Cano, are poised to continue this legacy. Other local writers, including Ramiro Pinilla, Fernando Aramburu and Dolores Redondo have enjoyed success with works in Spanish over the last few decades.

Photo: Eider Rodriguez, Lander Garro

Nº8
PERFORMING ARTS

TRADITION AND THE AVANT-GARDE

From traditional dance to avant-garde theatre, the Basque world of performing arts offers a wide range of highly unique work. Despite profound social changes, traditional dance has survived in the Basque Country. Classical, traditional, theatrical and contemporary dance are often blended into fusion productions. Local ballet stars, Lucía Lacarra and Igor Yebra, currently belong to large international ballet companies. In addition to multiple independent venues, the Arriaga Theatre in Bilbao, the Victoria Eugenia in San Sebastián and the Principal in Vitoria-Gasteiz are responsible for keeping the acting flame alive.

Photo: Haatik, Iurre Aranburu

Nº9
FOOD

A WAY OF LIFE

For Basque people, gastronomy isn’t only about food. It’s a way of life. Pintxos, delicious mouthfuls of miniature cuisine enjoyed in a casual setting, have become one of the hallmarks of Basque food culture. The Basque Country is also home to hundreds of gastronomic societies, private clubs where friends get together to cook and socialize over a meal. Basque cuisine is a leading international force and has spearheaded several culinary revival movements. San Sebastian boasts more Michelin stars per capita than virtually any other city in the world.

Photo: Elkano, Mito studio

Nº10
PEOPLE

LAND OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP

The Basques are famous for their adventurous and innovative spirit. Prominent figures such as Juan Sebastián Elcano, the first man to circumnavigate the globe, or Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, have left their mark on the world. Universal Basques can be found in every corner of society: fashion couturiers Balenciaga and Paco Rabanne; writers Unamuno, Pío Baroja and Bernardo Atxaga; and sculptors Eduardo Chillida, Jorge Oteiza and Cristina Iglesias. In the business world, the modern, innovative Basque cooperative model has been the object of praise and study by world-renowned economists.

Photo: Balenciaga, Mito studio

In recent years, the Basque audiovisual sector has received a boost thanks to the creation and consolidation of film-related entities and the success of local film productions. 

Zineuskadi: Zineuskadi is a non-profit association involved in promoting the strategic development and expansion of the Basque audiovisual sector.

  zineuskadi.eu

Eiken: is a cluster of content production, distribution and exhibition companies whose aim is to promote development and competitiveness within the sector.

eikencluster.com

Kimuak: makes an annual selection of Basque short films for promotion and distribution around the world.

kimuak.com

Euskadiko Filmategia: Created to satisfy the need to preserve and disseminate the audiovisual heritage of the Basque Country, the film institute is located in San Sebastian’s Tabakalera Contemporary Culture Centre.

filmotecavasca.com

There is a series of associations within the Basque music sector whose mission it is to support all kinds of Basque music, from classical to modern, and protect the interests of Basque musicians and composers.

Musika Bulegoa: was created to support creative musical talent and producers in the Basque Country. Musika Bulegoa is an open forum where different actors in the music business can meet and collaborate.

  musikabulegoa.eus

Musikene: The Musikene Higher School of Music of the Basque Country was founded by the Basque Government in the 2001-2002 academic year in order to provide third-level musical studies.

musikene.eus

Euskadiko Orkestra: The Basque National Orchestra is a world-class symphony orchestra with 7,000 subscribers and an average annual audience of 150,000.

euskadikoorkestra.eus

Eresbil: is involved in the research, compilation, conservation and dissemination of musical heritage and, in particular, the work of Basque composers.

eresbil.com

Different entities and associations are involved in promoting the performing arts in the Basque Country. Their main objectives include the promotion, development and consolidation of dance and theatre.

Artekale: Artekale promotes and showcases street performance in the Basque Country and provides a forum for the artists, festivals and distributors in the sector to meet.

  artekale.org

Euskal Dantzarien Biltzarra: is the Basque federation of Basque dancing associations.

dantzagune.eus

ADDE: works to promote dance, coordinate the sector, and improve the work conditions of dance professionals in the sector.

addedantza.org

Topic: is one of the most important puppeteering centres in Europe.

topictolosa.com

Eskena: is the Basque association of stage production companies and is responsible for facilitating the publicity, stability and development of the sector.

eskena.org

The book sector encompasses the two official languages of the Basque Country and works to defend the interests of writers, publishers and bookstores, as well as promote and disseminate Basque literature and reading.

Euskal Idazleen Elkartea: is the association of Basque language writers whose aim it is to defend their rights and promote Basque literature in the Basque Country and around the world.

  idazleak.eus

Euskal Editoreen Elkartea: brings together publishers that print material in the Basque language. The main aim of the association is to promote and protect Basque publications.

editoreak.eus

Euskal Irudigileak: The Professional Association of Basque Illustrators was set up in 2003 by a group of professionals to defend their rights. The aim of the association is to represent, manage, promote and defend their common interests.

  euskalirudigileak.com

Euskadiko Idazleen Elkartea: This association aims to bring together as many Basque writers as possible, irrespective of the language they write in. Their job is to pool resources and know-how, and forge collaborations aimed at assisting in the publication and promotion of literary works.

  escritoresdeeuskadi.com

Gremio de Editores de Euskadi: The aim of the publishers’ guild is to promote literature and defend the professional interests of publishers in the Basque Country.

editores-euskadi.net

EIZIE: is the association of professional Basque-language translators, interpreters and proof-readers.

eizie.eus

Galtzagorri Elkartea: The Galtzagorri association has two main objectives: to encourage reading among children and young adults and to promote and disseminate children’s and young adult literature in the Basque language.

galtzagorri.eus

Cámara del Libro de Euskadi: Euskadiko Liburu Ganbara is an association of bookstores, distributors, publishers and illustration companies.

camaralibro.es

Venerated museums like the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, contemporary art and cultural centres, and the iconic Guggenheim Bilbao are just some of the extensive range of exhibition centres in the Basque Country.

Tabakalera: Since its inauguration in 2015, the Tabakalera International Centre of Contemporary Culture has hosted and inspired a range of cultural projects and institutions and has become a cultural melting pot for San Sebastian.

  tabakalera.eu

Guggenheim Bilbao: is a modern art museum designed by Canadian architect Frank O. Gehry in 1997. It is an architectural icon and cultural symbol of 21st-century Bilbao. With over one million visits per year, it is the most popular museum in the Basque Country and the most well-known internationally.

guggenheim-bilbao.eus

Azkuna Zentroa: is a contemporary culture and social centre in Bilbao.

  azkunazentroa.eus

Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa: The Bilbao Fine Arts Museum is over one hundred years old and is one of the most important custodians of Basque art. It is known for the variety of the artwork in the collection and for implementing a development and expansion plan which was jointly defined by the public institutions, the local art community and the public.

museobilbao.com

Artium: is the Basque Museum-Centre of Contemporary Art, located in Vitoria-Gasteiz.

artium.org

Chillida-Leku: is an outdoor sculpture park in Hernani (Gipuzkoa), where some of artist Eduardo Chillida’s most important work is on display.

chillidaleku.com

The Basque Country has successfully managed to preserve and share the rich cultural legacy passed down from previous generations. This cultural heritage, which is cherished by the Basque people and enriches Basque society, finds many expressions in daily life, both in terms of tangible (e.g. architecture, archaeology, cultural landscapes,) and intangible heritage (such as traditional dance, rural sports and cuisine). It is these expressions that have played an active role in shaping the Basque identity.

A focus on language:  Basque is the language of the Basque people and the cultural banner of Euskal Herria. The normalization and teaching of Basque, and the promotion of Basque culture within and beyond our borders are the aims of these organizations.

The Etxepare Basque Institute:
is the Basque government agency responsible for promoting Basque art, culture and language worldwide.
  etxepare.eus

Euskaltzaindia: Founded in 1918, Euskaltzaindia is the official academy in charge of protecting the Basque language. Its mission is to study and formulate grammatical rules, promote its use and protect its rights, among other aims.

euskaltzaindia.eus

Department of Culture and Language Policy: Is the Basque Government department in charge of normalizing the use of the Basque language and of promoting and publicizing cultural and artistic activities.

  euskadi.eus/gobierno-vasco/cultura

Mintzola: Using the Basque tradition of improvised verse (bertsolaritza) as a cornerstone, the aim of Mintzola is to open a debate on the oral tradition and to encourage interaction between other associated disciplines.

mintzola.eus

Kulturklik: is an open-source platform used by Basque cultural organizations to advertise their activities and read all the latest cultural news.

kulturklik.euskadi.eus

Kontseilua: is the platform that brings together several associations that promote the full development of the Basque language.

kontseilua.eus

Topagunea: is a movement that brings together Basque language associations and local media in order to encourage and increase the use of Basque in everyday life.

topagunea.eus

Other prominent cultural entities:

EKE (Basque Cultural Institute): is an institution based in the northern part of the Basque Country whose mission it is to support the development and promotion of Basque culture.

eke.eus

Institución Príncipe de Viana: is the Navarra Provincial Government institute responsible for conserving and promoting the region’s cultural heritage, and for developing cultural events and supporting artists.

culturanavarra.es