Award-winning Basque improvisational poets to perform Friday, January 26

Maialen Lujanbio Zugasti, Miren Artetxe Sarasola to lecture & and perform bertsolaritza in advance of 34th Annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nev.

A Basque Sheep Herder moves sheep across the Sierra Nevada

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1/24/2018 | By: Jill Stockton |

University Libraries at the University of Nevada, Reno invites members of the University and northern Nevada communities to experience two unique and intimate events showcasing Basque Improvised Poetry on Friday, Jan. 26 at the Jon Bilbao Basque Library and William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies. The events will take place inside the Basque Library located on the third floor of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center.

Basque poets (Bertsolariaks) participating include Maialen Lujanbio Zugasti (bertsolari and 2017 Basque national champion) and Miren Artetxe Sarasola (bertsolari and researcher at the University of the Basque Country).

Their visit to Reno presents a special opportunity for community members to interact with two accomplished Basque poets. Both poets will travel to Elko, Nev. to participate in the 34th Annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering taking place in Elko, Nev. Jan. 29 - Feb. 3. Both the Basque Library and Center for Basque Studies are co-sponsors of this year's gathering themed, "Basques and Buckaroos: Herding Cultures of Basin, Range and Beyond."

Orality has been the main means of transmission for the Basque language until recently and Bertsolaritza, a sung and improvised poem creation, is the most stunning Basque cultural activity. Bertsolariak, improvisational poets, sing at gatherings, sports matches, political meetings, and, every four years, they challenge each other at the national championship.

Miren Artetxe

Miren Artetxe Sarasola, bertsolari and researcher at the University of the Basque Country

At Noon on Friday, Jan. 26, Miren Artetxe Sarasola will give a lecture titled, "Women Bertsolari: From the first attempts to the current achievements." Her talk will address Basque improvised poetry (bertsolaritza). She will evaluate and analyze how Basque improvised poetry has changed over time due to more women practicing this Basque art form. During the last decade, the number of women bertsolaris has increased both in Basque squares and in the championship competition. But the change goes beyond participation. The practice of bertsolaritza has generated spaces to share the vision of bertsolaritza from the perspective of feminism.

Maialen Lujanbio Zugasti

Maialen Lujanbio Zugasti, bertsolari and 2017 Basque National Champion

The evening event (5 p.m. - 7 p.m.) will feature Artetxe and 2017 National Champion Maialen Lujanbio Zugasti showcasing Bertsolaritza (a sung and improvised Basque poem creation) performed by two competing Bertsolariaks.

More than 14,600 people gathered to watch Zugasti compete in this year's championship event in December, 2017. This is a rare opportunity to experience firsthand the art that is Bertsolaritza.

"Since I arrived in Reno in September 2015 to take the position of Basque Librarian at the University of Nevada, Reno University Libraries, one of my goals has been to spread the word about Basque Culture in Reno and beyond," said Iñaki Baro, Basque librarian. "The Jon Bilbao Basque Library has a special interest in raising awareness about Bertsolaritza, an activity that the Basque-Americans enjoy at all their festivals."

Additionally, The Jon Bilbao Basque Library and the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies was recently awarded the Euskara International Day Award by the Eusko Ikaskuntza-Basque Studies Society.

In their remarks, the jury stressed the hard work done by the Jon Bilbao Basque Library and Center for Basque Studies during the last 50 years to increase awareness of the Basque language and culture in the North American academia.

"The staff of the Center and the Basque Library would like to extend our gratitude to Eusko Ikaskuntza," Iñaki Arrieta Baro, Basque librarian said. "This award motivates us to continue our work for another 50 years and beyond."

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