A good exhibition makes you question your concept of the world. That happened to me some days ago at the opening of “the Festivity Monster Animals of Europe (Bestiari Festiu d'Europa) 1870-1970” (at La Sala, here in Vilanova), so I warmly recommend it.
The evening started with a short discussion between Jan Grau (department de cultura de la Generalitat) and Ramon Saumell (local folk culture expert), where we learnt that these monsters are symbols of the evil and that what unities the traditions linked to the them is that man is on top of what scares him. It was also pointed out that while dragons seem to exist all around Europe, some countries have local favourites, eg. camels in Italy and horses in England.
'England?', I was thinking while walked up the stairs to the exhibiton hall and almost we before we reached it, did Carles Borell (Canal Blau – Gaudeix la Festa) say that we Swedes do not seem very cultural. And what could I say – judging from what we had in front of us he was totally right: pictures from monster parades from all around (Western) Europe, except for the Nordic countries.
The monster tradition which I until now have described as typically Catalan turned out to be almost Pan-European. How could I have missed this? I, who consider myself educated. I knew that I would have difficulties to sleep. My world was shaking.
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Do I know any Catalans how have not seen a dragon? No! Do I know any Englishman who has seen the horn dance? No! Something was wrong here. Back home, my good friends Google and Wikipedia brought back order to my life. After some searching I found traces of the English beast parades, namely the Abbots Bromley horn dance. The fact that I did not find more underlines the difference. The Catalan tradition to parade dragons and monster animals is very much alive - that does, indeed, make it unique.
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By the way, you easily find national folklore or popular culture if you make a Wikipedia search (in English) on Catalonia or Belgium, but not if you try England, France, Italy or Spain. One day I will try to find out why we value this so differently. Those who present Sweden at Wikipedia, certainly do not have anything to say about folklore, but that does not surprise us any longer, or does it?
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Entry to the exhibition Bestiari Festiu d’Europa is free of charge and it will be open until August 9.
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Technorati tags: Catalonia, Festa Major, Penedès, Vilanova