When we talk about Basque people no single viewpoint is valid since there are too many different arguments on what being Basque means. It can be defined in terms of aesthetics, linguistic, territory, thematic or waves of cultural artists. In addition to it, according to Rob Stone and Pilar Rodriguez, there have been “too many jump cuts into its narrative of nationhood and too many competing versions of Basque identity playing in local, regional, national and transnational contexts” (Stone and Rodriguez, 2015:1). However, it is also believed the original language reflects a significant part of the identity and ethics of a country as well as its citizens (Agirre Dorronsoro, 2011).
Between France and Spain
The Basque Country is the territory comprising seven provinces divided between the French State and the Spanish State. The Southern Basque Country is made up of two autonomous Basque communities located within the Spanish State; namely, the Basque Autonomous Community (BAC) and the Chartered Community of Navarre. And the Northern Basque Country comprises the three provinces in the Department of the Pyrénées Atlantiques, in France: Lapurdi (Labourd), Nafarroa Beherea (Lower Navarre), and Zuberoa (Soule).
Historically, this has been the territory of the Basque-language and is the geographical region in which Basque is spoken today. However, the administrative division of the Basque Country limits the geographical sphere of its development. Two Governments administer the Basque Country: the Spanish Government and the French Government. Therefore, the use and situation of the language is very different between one side of the frontier and the other.
Image 1. Administrative division of the Basque CountryThe Southern Basque Country gained the power to develop autonomously after the Statute of Gernika (1979) and the Privileges of Navarre (1981) were approved. So over the last 37 years Basque has been a co-official language in this area and these two regional governments (The BAC Government and the Government of Navarre) have been able to develop an autonomous culture policy. In Navarre, however, the official status of Basque is partial and it is only spoken in the “Basque territory” - Basque is spoken in 63 towns where 9% of the Navarre population lives in - (Basque Regional Law, 1986). On the contrary, Basque has no official status in the Northern Basque Country; indeed, the French constitution only acknowledges French.
Cultural development in Basque language
As a result of this administrative division, the development of Basque-language culture has taken place on different levels in each area. On the one hand, in the Northern Basque Country there are cultural productions and events in Basque-language along with a potential audience to attend them (for instance, this is reflected on the successful Zinegin Basque film-feature and documentary festival). Nevertheless, the limited number of exhibitions and the lack of official recognition of the language have hampered reflection and regulation on the Basque-language cultural sector.
Image 2. Zinegin Festibala film festival in Hazparne, France
In the Southern Basque Country, on the other hand, there are two different realities. That of the Chartered Community of Navarre and that of the BAC, where two languages are used: Spanish and Basque. But the Government of Navarre has not developed any specific culture policy that provides for healthy production in Basque. So the sector's base lacks any strong foundation. By contrast, in the BAC a specific protection policy and funding system to support cultural production have been in place since the beginning of the 80s. What is more, special attention has been devoted to production in Basque-language.
For that reason, the BAC is the geographical area in which the Basque cultural sector has developed the most, has the highest number of productions and is the territory in which the productions in this language have been able to develop from production to commercialization.