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Nestor Basterretxea

El escultor vasco, Nestor Basterretxea. |E.M.

Nestor Basterretxea Arzadun (6 May 1924 – 12 July 2014) was a Basque artist, born in Bermeo, Biscay.[1] In the 1950s and '60s, he spearheaded along with other artists such as Jorge Oteiza, Remigio Mendiburu, or Eduardo Chillida, an avant-garde artistic movement concerned with the crisis of Basque identity, and formally a special focus on large volumes and the concept of emptiness.

In the 1952 Basterretxea was commissioned along with other Basque artists the reconstruction of the Franciscan Sanctuary of Arantzazu. He was assigned the works to design the paintings covering the crypt. After an year-long period and halfway to completion, the paintings were held to be controversial by Church officials and works were suspended sine die. Despite their completion in 1984, the paintings were publicly unveiled and put on show only in September 2009, after an agreement was finally reached with the veteran artist.[2] The Arantzazu reconstruction project paved the way to the establishment of the influential artistic group Gaur ('today') in the 1960s.

In 1973, he presented in Bilbao's Museo de Bellas Artes (Bilbao Fine Arts Museum) his work Serie Cosmogonica Vasca (Basque Cosmogonic Series), which included some 19 works made in wood depicting Basque Mythology motifs. In 2008, Nestor donated this series to the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum.[3]

In the 1980s Basterretxea became Culture Councillor for the Basque Government for two years. In 1982, he created the seven branched tree that heads the Basque Parliament.[3] Towards the end of that decade, he created two of his best known works: La Paloma de Paz (Peace Dove), initially installed at the Zurriola seafront, Donostia (San Sebastian), later on moved to a roundabout outside the Anoeta Stadium of the same city, and back to the same location somewhat later. In 1989, the Memorial to the Basque Shepherd was installed in Reno, Nevada.[3] When Basterretxea entered his seventh decade of life, he started to reflect the Basque conflict in his work.

Basterretxea also engaged in film making, with short films such as Operación H (1963), Pelotari (1964), as well as Alquézar, retablo de pasión (1965), as well as several other documentaries.[3] In 1968, he came back onto the spotlight with the and the full feature documentary Ama Lur - Tierra Madre ('mother earth'), co-directed with Fernando Larruquert. Despite the documentary's countless difficulties with Franco's regime's censorship, it ultimately made it through to the San Sebastián International Film Festival, to public and critical acclaim.[4]

Basterretxea died at his home in Hondarribia in the morning of 12 July 2014, at the age of 90.[5]


AKELARRE and AKER BELTZ (Black billy goat)

Meadow where wizards met on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights to worship Aker Beltz, a spirit which took the shape of a billy goat and protected the livestock. Pagan tradition.


2. AKER BELTZ (Black billy goat)

3. EIZTARIA (The hunter)

Legend has it that a hunter, punished for his excessive love of hunting, wanders ceaselessly over the mountains with his dogs.

4. GAUEKO (He who stalks the night)

Spirit of the night in the shape of a cow or a monster; his presence is marked by gusts of wind.

5. IDITTU (Night spirit)

Night spirit with the form of an animal; his presence is marked by a flame.

6. ILLARGI AMANDRE (Godmother Moon)
A divinity associated with fertility.

7. INTXIXU (Wild demon)

Legendary spirit haunting caves and deserted areas.

8. AMALAU ZANKO (The ghost of the fourteen stilts)

A strange malignant being.

9. ARGIZAIOLA eta ARGIZAIOLA ZUTA (Light of the dead)

Tablets in remembrance of the departed; the wax scroll symbolizes the fire in the hearth that lives on in the temple.



11. BOST HAIZEAK (The five winds)

Natural phenomenon. The lauburu (four heads) is a pre-Christian symbol, used from the 16th and 17th centuries in funeral steles, on houses fronts or as an amulet or charm.

12. EATE (The harvest destroyer)

Spirit of storms, fire, floods, lightning and hurricanes.

13. MAIRUAK (The cromlech builders)

Pagan builders of dolmens and cromlechs.

14. OSTADAR (Rainbow)

Natural phenomenon considered to be magical in the ancient world.

15. TRIKU HARRI (Stone of the hedgehog. Homage to the dolmen)

Name of a dolmen, a prehistoric monument widely found in the Basque Country.

16. MAJUE (Subterranean spirit)

Pernicious underground spirit; with his wife Mari he conjures up hailstorms.

17. MARI (Main goddess of Basque Mythology)

Female spirit living in caverns. Legend has it that her cave is one of the faces of Mount Amboto, in the Duranguesado area.

18. TORTO (Malign one-eyed spirit)

Malignant, man-eating spirit with one eye.