Traç/zo 16 – an Iberian affair #3

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The sharp angles of the Forte da Graça create high contrast shadows and defined planes, excellent setting for beginner and intermediate sketchers that want to study shading in their work.

Os ângulos agudos do Forte da Graça criam sombras de alto contraste e planos definidos, um cenário excelente para desenhadores estreantes e intermédios que pretendam estudar sombras no seu trabalho.

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In fact, most of the town of Elvas is such a setting. The buildings are mostly utilitarian – grain mills, star forts and simple Alentejo popular architecture. The fort overlooks on the road that leads to the train station. Tractors still drive through it on their way to the fields. Meanwhile, on the moon of Endor, two scout troopers on speeder bikes patrol the sanctuary forests for rebel commandos.

Com efeito, muitos sítios em Elvas têm tal cenário. Muitos dos edifícios são predominantemente utilitários – moagens e armazenamento de cereais, fortificações em estrela e arquitectura vernácula Alentejana. O forte espreita ao longo da estrada que leva à estação de comboio. Ainda passam tractores nesta estrada, a caminho dos campos. Entretanto, na lua de Endor, dois scout troopers em speeder bikes patrulham as florestas do santuário procurando comandos rebeldes.

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Later in the day, after Traço ’16 was over, Miguel and I went for a short visit to the only disputed territory between Portugal and Spain: the border town of Olivenza/Olivença. The town, originally under Portuguese rule, came into the hands of the Spanish crown after the Napoleonic Wars. Different interpretations by the two countries of the Congress of Vienna (1814-15) gave rise to a dispute lasting to today. It is the only territorial dispute Portugal has in the CIA Factbook.

The street signs are bilingual, and some of the street names are entirely different. So if you live in Olivenza, you may end up with two different valid addresses.

Ao fim da tarde, quando o Traço ’16 já tinha terminado, o Miguel e eu fizemos uma visita rápida ao único território disputado entre Portugal e Espanha: a cidade fronteiriça de Olivenza/Olivença. A cidade, originalmente em território Português, caiu nas mãos dos Espanhóis depois das Invasões Napoleónicas. Interpretações diferentes dos resultados do Congresso de Vienna (1814-15) deram origem a uma disputa que ainda hoje se mantém. É a única disputa territorial Portuguesa registada no CIA Factbook.

As placas com os nomes de ruas são bilingues, e alguns dos nomes são inteiramente diferentes nas duas línguas. Vivendo em Olivença, podem ter-se duas moradas diferentes válidas.

Traç/zo 16 – an Iberian affair #2

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Traço ’16, Elvas drawing festival’s clever logo, designed by João Sequeira, manages to communicate both Portuguese and Spanish writing of the word traço (meaning line stroke, pronounced «trasso»), aiming for an Iberian audience. The four-day festival, that aims to become annual, successfully managed to gather sketchers, artists, illustrators, comic book authors, architects and designers, form both Portugal and Spain, in the picturesque UNESCO World Heritage site Forte da Graça.

O logótipo do Traço ’16, Festival de desenho de Elvas, criado por João Sequeira, consegue comunicar tanto a grafia Portuguesa como a Espanhola da palavra traço, apontando para uma plateia Ibérica. O festival de quatro dias, que ambiciona tornar-se anual, juntou desenhadores, artistas, ilustradores e autores de banda desenhada, arquitectos e designers, de ambos os países, no pitoresco Forte da Graça, património mundial da UNESCO.

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The final talk of the day was a conversation with Borja González, a Spanish illustrator, and Paulo Monteiro, the Portuguese director of the Bedeteca de Beja (Beja comic book library). There was a long discussion about the state of the comic book market in both countries, where Borja spoke of how comics are a very successful industry in Spain right now and Paulo had but dire news about the Portuguese editorial panorama – where many talented authors and many good-willed editors exist, but the market is just too small for critical mass to be achieved (as it already happened in Spain). The solution for the small market challenge might reside in a self-effort from the authors to export their own work.

A palestra final do sábado foi uma conversa entre Borja González, um ilustrador Espanhol, e Paulo Monteiro, director da Bedeteca de Beja. Gerou-se um longo debate sobre o estado do mercado de banda desenhada em ambos os países, no qual Borja conta como a banda desenhada se tornou num sector de sucesso nos últimos anos, todavia o Paulo trazia notícias mais negras sobre o panorama editorial Português – onde existem muitos autores talentosos e editores bem intencionados, mas o mercado é simplesmente demasiado pequeno para se atingir a massa crítica (como já sucedeu em Espanha). A solução para o desafio do mercado pequeno poderá residir num esforço dos próprios autores em exportarem directamente o seu trabalho.

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The Forte da Graça overlooks upon the north face of the fortified town of Elvas. As the sun goes down, the sharp northern slope gets darker and darker.

O Forte da Graça espreita de cima a face norte da cidade fortificada de Elvas. À medida que o sol se põe, a íngreme encosta norte adquire tons mais e mais escuros.

Traç/zo 16 – an Iberian affair #1

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The Graça Fort is a unique military architecture structure, built in the second half of the 18th century, under the Count of Lippe, as a means to secure the highest ground in the region, just north of the town. The strategic relevance of the Graça hill, where the fort was built, became evident about a century before, during the Restoration War, when the Spanish army bombarded the town of Elvas from the vantage point, some 60 meters above the town’s castle. Its ramparts, moats and bastions are organized according to the star fort dutch model.

Forte da Graça é uma peça de arquitectura militar única, construida na segunda metade do séc. XVIII, sob as ordens do Conde de Lippe, por necessidade de segurar o ponto mais alto da região, a norte da cidade. A importância estratégica do Monte da Graça, onde foi construido o Forte, tornou-se clara cerca de um século antes, durante a Guerra da Restauração, quando o exército Espanhol, a partir deste ponto sobranceiro, bombardeou a cidade de Elvas, cujo castelo se encontra a cerca de 60 metros abaixo do topo do monte. As suas muralhas, fossos e baluartes estão organizados de acordo com o modelo holandês de fortificação em estrela.

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This was the setting for Traço ’16 – Elvas Drawing Festival, which during four days liven up the old fortress with exhibitions by illustrators and comic book artists from both sides of the Iberian border, drawing workshops, lectures, a theatrical performance and a national Urban Sketchers meeting.

Este foi o cenário do Traço ’16 – Festival de Desenho de Elvas, que durante quatro dias animou a velha fortaleza com exposições de ilustradores e autores de banda desenhada de ambos os lados da fronteira Ibérica, oficinas de desenho, palestras, uma performance teatral e um encontro nacional de Urban Sketchers.

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Mushrooms on Österlen

Pizza making

Österlen’s coastal landscape is beautiful indeed. But it looks even better after a nice dinner with friends and a good night’s sleep.

Pizza at Kivik

The picturesque crooked roads that lead from Lund to Kivik opened our appetites to the home-made pizza that our swedish-spanish hosts had prepared for us. Champagne and good wines flowed, mouldy cheeses and spicy olives were devoured, the drums rolled.

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Board games were set, pseudo-punk spanish kids TV-show music chimed in, bringing in weird childhood memories for those who hailed from those parts. Even a sketching workshop for children was going on, until it was way past bedtime.

Landscape at Vitemölla

The morning after, all residues of the tiniest hangover vanished at the sight and smells of Skåne’s east coast. In Vitemölla Strandbackar nature reserve, just north of Kivik, the calm waters of the Baltic touch the dunes of sand, the dirt of land and the trunks of pine trees, simultaneously. Something didn’t add up, and yet, it was very pleasant to walk around, up and down from the field to the forest and back to the beach in less than a kilometre. It’s as if three different landscapes came together in the very same spot, like three different sentences that don’t belong to the same paragraph, punctuated regularly by the pre-emptive concrete bunkers of the WWII-era. Later, I learned that this type of landscape is known as sand-steppe – something very particular to this area of the Baltic sea, and that the pine forest is actually planted. Our hosts explained that this area generates some discussion because it seems that the pine forest is conflicting with the native sand-steppe landscape.

Cooking fresh mushrooms

Oblivious to these reflections on the conflicting landscapes, Jesus picked mushrooms for lunch. And they were slimy-licous fried in garlic and coriander!

Travels in UNESCO lands

Deep inside the Iberian Peninsula lay the great plains of Extremadura, a region with tight connections to the Portuguese Alentejo. Besides the land border – now virtually nonexistent due to the Schengen Area – there are deep cultural bounds that go way back to the time of Roman occupation, when the province of Lusitania was formed.

Cáceres sights

The walled city of Cáceres is a UNESCO world heritage site, with much cultural and historical overlapping between Moorish and Roman urban design and Gothic and Renaissance architecture. Most paths are an intertwining of small squares between wealthy manors and churches, in the way of the fora in Rome. Even the private outdoor space is fashioned in such manner. The two patios featured in the 15th century Palacio de Carvajal are connected by a small passage and, while one of them is a place of meeting where all compartments of the palace converge, the other is a place of reflection and meditation, a cool breeze in a dry desert

Plaza Mayor

Even the Plaza Mayor has a hierarchy of different public squares, some more exposed, some more secluded, some are noisier, some are quieter. And the space beneath the dozens of parasols in front of the coffee has a different atmosphere still. The only place bearable under the Iberian sun is the shade, where the view between the tables and chairs and the thick canvas was minimal.

Mor Karbasi concert

A friend of mine has the theory that the region could benefit if Mértola, Marvão, Cáceres and Elvas joined efforts, because between them they share traces of the most important heritages of the Peninsula: the Roman, the Moorish, the Medieval, the Renaissance and the Baroque periods.

Late at night, back in Elvas, Mor Karbasi, a Sevilla-based israeli singer seemed to tie this theory together. She was singing in spanish, portuguese, hebrew and ladino, the jewish language of the Peninsula.