"SCULPTURE PROJECT “THE TRAIL OF THE
The Trail of the Megaliths, as its name would suggest, will be a walk or trail which we plan to be made up of at least six sites dotted about the village of Eslava. Each site will be different and independent. Once all of the sites are finished, each will be given a number and have a brief description of the idea behind it and what we wanted it to convey. The common theme running through all of the sites is the prehistoric stone monuments (menhirs, obelisks, trilithons, cromlechs, dolmens etc.) but also with an added significance related to enduring or historical local customs or the history of the village and the surrounding area.
The general idea for the project came from the visible remains of a widespread presence of people living in the area, going back to the Iron age and right up to the present day. Through the project, we would like to encourage visitors to think about our own lives as a continuation of this past which in many ways has influenced our present way of thinking and lifestyle. To see ourselves as one more link in a long chain of life which will carry on after we have gone, as a reminder that we have a duty towards future generations to leave behind a fairer, more compassionate society and a healthy and sustainable environment. We think that this long term view is particularly important in today’s society focused on immediacy and short termism.
The practical aim of our project, besides brightening up our village, is to bring some dynamism to Eslava and the surrounding area by boosting tourism. We think that Eslava, and the surrounding valley of Aibar-Oibar, has three main attractions for visitors: nature, with beautiful landscapes such as those to be discovered on a trip from Eslava or Lerga to Ujué or Gallipienzo; leisure activities such as walking cycling, horseriding, all on very good tracks and art and culture, especially local medieval buildings such as those in Aibar-Oibar, Gallipienzo, Ujué, the church and its porch in Lerga, and the ruined village of Abaiz as well as the impressive Roman site at Santa Criz.
We would like our sculpture project to become part of what attracts visitors to the
In addition, the area already has a wide range of facilities and services, both publicly run such the covered sports court (frontón) in Lerga, the open air swimming pool in Eslava and the covered pool in Sada and also privately run businesses such as bars, restaurants, top quality rural holiday homes and the outstanding country hotel in Gallipienzo, although some of these are underused and not making much money.
More specifically, we would like our project to be a homage to the recently opened Roman remains at Santa Criz, which add a whole different meaning to our Trail of the Megalithics. We would like a visit to Eslava and its surrounding area to be even more interesting, so that a visitor to Santa Criz doesn’t just go home the way they came, but takes the time to go into visit the village.
With the numbered sites and the accompanying explanation, we imagine taking the visitor by the hand around all the circuit and making their visit more complete and more enriching. The first three of the at least six planned sites have already been built, although the second and third sites still need some final details. Our aim is to finish off those sites in summer 2017 and build the fourth site. We estimate that the three remaining sites can be built over the next two or three summers.
Finally, we would like to stress that this has been a collective effort
carried out by volunteers (except when we needed heavy machinery – an HGV with a crane – and large quantities of material: cement etc.) and we trust that this will continue for the remaining
sites. In the momentum created by the project, an association “Amigos de Eslava” (Friends of Eslava) has been created and already has 140 members.
Site 1 Five Cypress trees
The first site started as a personal initiative and the initial idea was that there would be just one sculpture. We were inspired by the form and the energy of the cypress tree which we had planted there 46 years ago, which we wanted to copy. In the end, we made four representations of the cypress tree and prehistoric menhirs.
We wanted the sculptures to conjure up the traditional architecture of the round dry-stone huts which can still be found throughout the area. The oval shape is also reminiscent of a grain of cereal, acorns or eggs, all of which can be found locally.
We added holes into the two menhirs, where children, or grownups, can throw the pine cones found under the tree like the games we played when we were children.
By chance, once we had decided that this first site would have five
elements and had given it a name, we discovered that there was an Eastern tale called “The city of the five cypress trees”, so we wrote an updated version of it and included some of the values
that we hold dear and which motivated us to start the project.
Site 2 Needles
We decided that we had to build the second site in the middle of the village, so that the villagers could see that the project was for the whole village and not just a personal initiative. The idea was also to get as many people as possible involved and that they would feel part of the project. Since there was little available free space, we decide to build five inverted obelisks in the slope between the main street through the village and the road that goes up to the sports court (frontón).
The word obelisk comes from the Greek word for needle in the figurative sense. We wanted to take that meaning more literally and evoke the point of the needle stuck into the ground with the eye of the needle at the top. The needle is one of the oldest tools in the history of man, used long before its brother the nail, for instance. It is a modest and humble tool, both because of its small size and because it was used, mainly by women, to darn worn or broken clothes.
So, with this site, we wanted to pay a tribute to all the women who have spent so many hours, often with poor light, which was bad for their eyesight, carrying out work which, as with many jobs carried out by women, was considered menial as it didn’t bring in money to the family.
But other meanings could be given to the five needles positioned like the fingers of an open hand such as the rays of the rising or the setting sun, the classical symbol of the cycle of life, the five Aristotelian powers of the soul traditionally represented in different religions as five rays which extend up to the tower of the church if you look from the street; or the Big Bang explosion...
All that is left to finish this site is to cover the cement base of the sculpture with stone slabs and plant a hedge on both sides and some ivy to cover the bottom wall with greenery and then carve the name in Basque and Spanish as well as the year.
Site 3 The courting couples’ view point
This site is situated by the sharp bend in the road as it enters Eslava coming from Tafalla, from where there is a magnificent view of the village as well as over the south east part of the valley and right up to the Pyrenees. There had always been two large stones which had been used as seats by local people. This spot has also long been a place for lovers to meet, as the name suggests, and to watch shooting stars in August.
Working from this idea, we decided to create a site infused with peace and quiet which invites the passerby to stop, look at the view, ponder, meditate… So we have built an arch or trilithon reminiscent of pre-historic observatories of the heavens. The arch will also frame the view and make the site stand out, as if forming a welcoming door to the village. To the side, we’ve placed a stone bench set into one of the vertical stones of the arch to make it part of the whole structure. We completed the site by making steps to be able to access the slope just beneath the arch. We also widened and cleared the space to uncover some large stones which were put there when the new wáter pipeline from the Yesa dam was put in, so creating a second place to sit and rest, more sheltered from the north wind which sometimes blows down from the Pyrenees, giving the whole site a more monumental and spectacular aspect.
All that is left to do on this site is to cover the stone slabs underneath
the arch and next to the bench, put gravel on the path leading from the road and, as for the second site, carve the name etc.
Site 4 Walker
We couldn’t imagine our group of sculptures without a representation of a human figure and our plan for the fourth site is to build a giant walking figure around five metres tall made up of five or six stones (two for the legs, two or three for the body and one for the head. The projected site for this structure is by the village cooperative bakery, which for years was the place where villagers would meet on their way to buy the most basic of foods, their daily bread.
We also wanted to conjure up all of the people who have lived and walked throughout history in the area. From his high vantage point, the giant will be able to contemplate all the past, present and future inhabitants of the village and remind us that we are all just walking through this world while we live.
The artistic challenge of this figure will be to give a human form and
impression of movement despite the great size of the structure built from unhewn stones.
Site 5 Korrontxos (Hoops)
The reference to pre-historical structures of this site are the circles of menhirs also known as cromlech. The name Korrontxo has two meanings in Eslava and the surrounding villages. One is the metal hoops around the wooden barrels used to transport the grapes which children used to roll along the ground pushing with a metal pole. The second meaning is a dancing game where children formed a circle holding hands.
Our project for this site is to use these elements in a structure made up of three concentric circles. The outside circle will be made of a low wall, which can be used as a bench, with three gaps to be able to get in to the inside circles. We will use thin, flat stones held with cement on the inside of the wall, but which will look like dry-stone walls from the outside.
The middle circle will be made of stone slabs about 40cm wide, which can be
found all over the local area. They will be fixed to the ground with cement. Finally, the inside circle will be made up of five vertical stones with as little work as possible done to them, which
will represent five people dancing around in a circle.
This site will also have the practical function or being a place to rest and for children to play.
Site 6 Riddle
There is a place in the village which we felt had to be part of the project and that is the Plaza del Patxape as it has always been known, or, officially the Plaza de la Constitución, since it is probably the prettiest and most emblematic place in the village. This is where, for instance, the midsummer bonfires of Saint John are lit, and where the traditional communal dinner organised by the local council during the fiestas takes place.
The problem is that there is no available space in this square. So, inspired by pre-historic cave carvings, we have decided to carve a riddle (although well known to all of the villagers in Eslava) in the stone wall of one of the houses in the square. It will be a riddle for the visitor to solve and guess who the author might be. They will have to ask someone in the village and so visitors and villagers will meet and talk together.
We also plan to add some more activities to the other sites, like getting children to find a different animal carved and “hidden” in each place; find and show with a photo the latin inscription “unde venis”, meaning where do you come from? which can be seen on the wall of a house in the middle of the village and which has been copied in site number 3. The prize for anyone who finds these could be a free drink in the bar, a typical delicacy of the region and/or a copy of the tale “The city of the five cypress trees”.
We hope that, with these games and the ones in the first site, the visit will be fun and interactive between the visitors, the sites and the inhabitants of Eslava.