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Eleketa programme: collecting oral heritage

Immaterial heritage makes up the basis of the "Eleketa" programme started by the Basque Cultural Institute and whose objective is to collect, archive and disseminate oral memory in the Basque language (life accounts, know-how, song and legends ...).

Johañe Etchebarne
Johañe Etchebarne, witness to the collection in Soule
On the proposal of the institutions of Upper Navarre (Public University of Navarre, private Euskokultur foundation) and with the financial partnership of the Lower NAVARRE PCD, the General Council and the Regional Council of Aquitaine, the collective memory started being collected in Lower Navarre in 2007 with the intention of extending the project to the entire Northern Basque Country.

From 2007 onwards the Basque Cultural Institute implemented a collection and archiving method whose first action was to bring together a steering committee in each district to identify the participants and subjects to be dealt with.

Since 2009 the Atlantic Pyrenees General Council has been responsible for this operation which the Basque Cultural Institute has managed.

The accounts collected are digitized, cut into sequences and processed so as to be archived namely at Bayonne's Archives.

To share them the Basque Cultural Institute also carries out actions with both schoolchildren and adults, and advertises them as widely as possible.

History of the collection

2007 - The collection in the Mixe district (Amikuze)

The Basque Cultural Institute began to collect the collective memory in Amikuze (Saint-Palais, Mixe districts).

Eight people from Saint-Palais (Marie Oxarango, Kattin Harisgarat, Kattina Etcheverry, Ttotte Ainciboure), Gabat (Alexandre and Pantxika Bordagaray, Albert Dubois), Garris (Isidora Claveranne) and Masparraute (Léon Tissier) were filmed between August and December 2007.

The same year two accounts of shepherds who had emigrated to America were collected, outside Amikuze: Jean-Pierre Erreca (Urepel) and Louis Biscaichipy (Estérençuby), the latter has a hut in Iraty.

The collected material was digitized, cut into sequences, processed, then sent to the Euskokultur foundation which included it in its database and sent it to the Public University of Navarre for its navarchivo website. The finalised files will be kept on hard disk at Aldudarrak Bideo (operation's technical partner) and the Basque Cultural Institute.
Furthermore, in late 2007 the local archives asked for the fruit of this collection to be added to their audiovisual collection in Bayonne's Archives.

Thanks to Amikuze's pilot experience, the Basque Cultural Institute has been able to implement a collection, digitizing and archiving method which can be applied in the future to all of Lower Navarre and the Northern Basque Country.

2008 - Collecting in the Mixe, Garazi & Baigorri districts

Nineteen surveys were carried out in the districts of Saint-Palais, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and Saint-Etienne-de-Baigorry:

    • Saint-Palais district: Michel Mendibil (Gabat), Noël & Kattalin Lacoste (Ilharre), Jeanne Alchourroun, Georgette Errecart (Arberats), Marie-Jeanne Auchoberry & Jeanne Doxaran (Saint-Palais), Jeanne Arcondéguy (Lohitzun-Oyhercq), Dominique Etchegaray (Domezain), Gérard Sabarots (Orègue), Jean-Marie Larroque (Arbouet-Sussaute) & Joana Davant (Arrast-Larrebieu).


    • Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port district:Guillaume Irigaray (Ahaxe), Michel Curutchet & Michel Tihista (Estérençuby), Beñat Urruty (Mendive), Jean-Baptiste Barberena (Çaro), Flontxa Harispe & Beñardo Indart (Uhart-Cize).


  • Saint-Etienne-de-Baigorry district: Marie-Jeanne Minaberry (from Banca).

NB. The main aim was to finish collecting in Amikuze in 2008. However, the BCI, the Euskokultur foundation and Aldudarrak Bideo (collection partners) were asked in 2008 by the Commission Syndicale du Pays de Cize and the Junta de Aezkoa (Leader project) to collect the collective memory on cross-border relations in the Cize and Aezkoa valleys and create a film. This is why 6 video recordings were made in the districts of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. The recording made in the district of Baigorri also corresponds to another specific project.

Digitization & montage:

This was carried out at Aldudarrak Bideo in Saint-Martin-d'Arrossa.

Entering the documents and archiving:

    • For the local archives: Data linked to sequences (code, title and summary), as well as general data linked to the interview (grouped together in a technical data sheet filled in by the interviewer) are entered using Arkhéïa (archive management software).


  • For the Euskokultur Foundation: The data described above (linked to sequences and also the interview in general) is sent after being entered in an Excel file.

Educational value

A project entitled "Budding Ethnologists" began in 2008 with primary schools and the private high-school in Saint-Palais to initiate children to collecting work based on the subject of celebrations. This work was completed in June 2009.

2009 - Collecting in Lower Navarre, Soule & Labourd

Taking advantages of new opportunities, the Basque Cultural Institute went beyond the boundaries of the province of Lower Navarre and extended the collection to the entire Northern Basque Country, including accounts from Soule and Labourd.

    • District of Saint-Palais:
      Collecting in Amikuze finished with the recording of 11 people: Jean-Pierre Lapouble (Arbérats-Sillègue), André Narbaits (Arraute-Charritte), Maddi Auvray, Odette & Katti Lucu (Beyrie-sur-Joyeuse), Jean-Claude Mailharin (Amendeuix-Oneix), Jean Urruspil & Dorothée Mailharin (Saint-Palais), Pascal Biscay, Pettan & Germaine Dufau (Béguios), Xeñan Belleau (Garris) & Frantxoa Belleau (Amorots-Succos).


    • District of Iholdy:
      Thanks to the local steering committee (Pierre Laco, Mañex Molimos, Lucien Ruspil & Mañex Olçomendi), the BCI obtained the contact details of several participants. Two people were recorded: Pierre Salles (Ostabat) & Piarre Petoteguy (Juxue).
      Furthermore,Irissarry Town Council provided the Basque Cultural Institute with a list of people in the municipality. Six people were filmed in 2009: Beñat Etcheverry "Fitero", Marie-Jeanne Otharan, Aña Idieder, Henri & Mathilde Haran, Jeanne Etchegoinberry & Marie Dagorret. Collecting in Irissarry will continue in 2010.


    • Districts of Garazi-Baigorri
      The BCI also began recording here: Bettiri Argain & Antoinette Lekumberry (Ossès), Fanny Arrabit (Bidarray) & Martial Inchauspé (Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port).


    • Soule:
      On the advice of the Souletin Philippe Etchegoyhen, the shepherd Johañe Etchebarne was filmed and recorded in his hut in Iraty.


  • Labourd:
    The BCI was interested in the accounts that the scientist Xabier Itçaina from the CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific Research) collected (with Aldudarrak Bideo), on the request of Itxassou town council. These recordings were edited and processed (by the BCI) so as to be included in the collection's database. The ten interviewees were: Dominika Aguerre, Mayi Poulou, Pascal Paris, Dominica Heguy, Janette Elissetche, Simone Larronde, Jeanne & Manex Olhagaray, Gratien Larronde, Paul Harispourou & Norberto Aguerre.

Within the framework of Ahetze's wash house renovation project in which the Basque Cultural Institute takes parts, Terexa Lekumberri collected the accounts of Germaine Pouyal and Kattin Miranda.

In 2009 the Basque Cultural Institute collected 36 accounts, ie. 65 people since 2007.

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