This article looks at Haize Berri, a cultural association active in the rural French Basque Country from the 1980s to 2009, to reflect on the different understandings of art and culture and their political implications in the particular context of the Basque Country. Haize Berri, which in the Basque language means ‘New Wind’, a name chosen to evoke the coming of a new era, had the ambition of bringing cultural life to the rural inland of the French Basque Country. With the participation of public figures from the Basque art world, Haize Berri was at the heart of a cultural renaissance in the region. But locally, it was a source of political controversy. While the mission of Haize Berri was not publicly stated as political, many of those behind it saw culture as part of politics, and, in the context of its actions, Haize Berri was taken to be political. This article uses Haize Berri as a lens through which to explore the politics of culture and art as an element in collective identity boundary-drawing.

About the Author

Zoe Bray is an artist and social anthropologist. She holds an MA in Social Anthropology and Development Studies from Edinburgh University, Scotland, and a PhD in Social and Political Science from the European University Institute, Italy. Zoe trained as a portrait painter in Florence, Italy, and briefly in Spain with international realist painters Antonio Lopez García and Guillermo Muñoz Vera. After several years of working as an independent researcher and artist in Florence, the Basque Country, Paris, London and Berlin, she is, since July 2011, Assistant Professor at the Center for Basque Studies, University of Nevada Reno (USA). She researches and teaches on the topic of art and identity. Bray’s grandmother was French Basque, from the small village of Ahatxe. Her great grandfather emigrated to the American West as a sheepherder and returned to the Basque Country to marry his sweetheart with one eye missing, having been kicked in the face by a horse in the Nevadan outback.