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May 10, 2018

The phenomenon of bertsolaritza in Frisia

Having become fascinated and enthused by bertsolaritza, five Frisians want to try and let the age old Basque bertsolaritza flourish on Frisian soil. The first seed will be planted on Friday, 18th of May, presenting the "Bartelje!" project and with the premiere of a Frisian documentary about the Basque bertsolaritza.

Can a hugely popular, old poetic performance art from the Basque Country be a success abroad? Five enthusiasts from the Dutch province of Fryslân think it can and as a result they will carry out an initiative, the Bartelje! project. It will be unveiled on the 18th of May, in the language pavillion MeM in Leeuwarden, Fryslân, in the Netherlands. The night will also feature the exclusive premier of The success story of a minority language, a Frisian documentary about the Basque bertsolaritza phenomenon, which follows the first steps of the above-mentioned Frisian promotors trying to introduce the art form to their hometown.

United in the group name Barteliers, Bart Kingma, Gerard de Jong, Elmar Kuiper, Mirjam Vellinga and Syds Wiersma are the initiators of this project who are trying to introduce the Basque performance art in Fryslân. Three of them were present at the previous Bertsolari Txapelketa Nagusia, in December of 2017; Vellinga, Kingma and Kuiper witnessed the event from Mintzola Terraza and were enthralled. Their experience was captured on camera for the documentary which will be premiered on the 18th of May at a festive night in pavilion MeM. After the documentary has been shown on the night in the pavilion, and the rules of what a bertso is have been explained, anyone can practice and try it out for themselves. What’s key in the Frisian version of bertsolaritza is that the performance art can only be acted out in a minority language, just like Basque. That means people can bartelje using the Frisian language, or another language or dialect from the province, such as Bildts, Franekers, Stellingwarfs etc.The initiators have invited some 150 odd poets, writers, slam poetry performers, entertainers and minority language enthusiast for this special night.

Then, the documentary will be broadcast both on Frisian and nationwide Dutch television on the 19th and 20th of May - on the 19th at 15:30 on NPO2 channel; and on the 20th, at 13:00 on NPO2 and at 17:00 on Omrop Fryslân -.

First live show for the newborn bartelje

For a Frisian name for bertsolaritza, the initiators settled on bartelje. Bart and bert are similar, and the word bartelje both nods to the Frisian boartsje (to play) and is also akin to battle, expressing the element of competition.

Hopefully, the first high point of barteljen has to take place in the week of the 1st to the 8th of July. That week, the Basque language will take over the MeM language pavilion to present itself to the world, with a program put together by Etxepare Basque Institute. The week will also see a joint Basque/Frisian bertsolaritza competition. These activities will take place within the programme Leeuwarden-Fryslân 2018 Cultural Capital of Europe, following Donostia’s footsteps of 2016.

More updated information about Bartelje! project in its Facebook profile: