jeudi 30 avril 2015

Monte do Makelaartje

It was back in september 2013. We were spending a WE in the lovely old town of Veere, a place full of inspiration. This is where I discovered the existence of the Churra Algarvia breed... And this is also where my attention got attracted by very pretty makelaartjes, on the façade of many buildings around (see below for three examples). So, we decided that this Dutch tradition was too nice not to be shared with our Alentejano friends. And we ended up, with the help of José, Thomas, Marie, Claire and Joaquim Inacio, with what is perhaps the prettiest Makelaar of the whole Alentejo (judge by yourself above)!

Now, since I knew that you would all be curious about makelaartjes, I decided to interview a reknown Leiden specialist, Mr. Tim Meijers. Here is what he wrote for us:

"The tradition of placing decorative Makelaartjes or something similar on rooftops is seen all around the world, but the variant as now seen at the Monte is especially common in Northern Europe.

They serve a dual purpose. One is architectural: makelaartjes connect the two sides of the roof. Although there is no consensus as to the exact origin of the word, "makelen" means in old Dutch 'to make' or 'to connect'. A ‘Makelaar’ is also a person mediating between house sellers and buyers - a real-estate agent. The other purpose of makelaartjes is spiritual and/or decorative. There is a huge diversity of patterns and shapes (see here for a great sample)

Different stories circulate about the origin of this practice. Some date back to pre-Christian times. One of the figures often represented in makelaartjes is the donderbezem (thunderbroom), which was believed to lead Thor, the Nordic and Germanic god of thunder, to protect the house from thunder and lightening. Later, other varieties developed. 

In the Netherlands, like in the rest of Europe, makelaartjes are often found on farms and barns. Each part of the country has its own tradition. In Frisia, where makelaars are part of Uilenborden, they are often adorned by elegant swans on both sides. Different areas of Frisia use different sets of symbols: palm-branches for peace, tulips for hope, crescents for fertility, a harp (green if the farmer owned the farm, white if he leased it), cloverleaves for the trinity, and so on. There used to be a round hole (one can still recognize it in contemporary makelaartjes) in the middle of the board.

There are two stories about where the name ‘uilenbord’ comes from. Some say that the hole was used for light and ventilation, but that church-owls used it to enter the barn as well ("uil" means "owl" in Dutch, hence ‘owlboard’). Others say that the name comes from "ûle", which means "eye". The hole served to let in the ’eye of the day’ (see here). "uilebord" would mean in this case something like ‘windowboard’ rather than ‘owlboard’. 

In Twente (Eastern Netherlands), makelaartjes often consisted of two horse heads (perhaps two donkey heads would fit for another of the buildings at the Monte...). This practice changed in the aftermath of the 80-years war. Some parts of land where controlled by the (catholic) Spanish, while others where controlled by the (protestant) Dutch Republic. This resulted in religious pluralism, which subsisted even after the entire area fell in Dutch hands. Oppressed catholic farmers then used their rooftop decoration as a way of expressing their identity. A prominent symbol became, of course, the cross (see below for a Veere example), together with other Christian symbols (heart, half-moon, anchor, etc.). It is said that traveling priests (disguised as sales people) providing illegal religious services used this to find out where their presence would be welcomed. Perhaps in the future, threatened pomegranate consumers (dressed up as birdwatchers) will find their way in the Alentejo in the same manner... Protestant farmers responded by making changes to their makelaartjes too, developing their own style. Observing makelaars can still help us finding out today which areas were predominantly catholic or protestant. 

Note that windmills sometimes have makelaartjes too (here in Leiden). Interestingly enough, their purpose is specific. When the direction of the wind changes, the wind blows past the makelaar, making a whistling sound. This way the miller knows he has to turn the wings of the mill to face the wind."

Trigo mole, Aveia e Cevada

This spring, the Monte is surrounded by a few hectares of three different cereals: Trigo mole (Common Wheat, Triticum aestivum), Cevada (Barley, Hordeum vulgare) and Aveia (Oat, Avena sp.). It had been a long time since these crops had not been cultivated there - more than 10 years. The pair of black-shouldered kites, the pair of white storks and the family of barn owls that are breeding in trees or on posts located in the middle of this sea of cereals don't seem to mind... Let's hope that harvesting that has just begun will not disturb them...

mardi 21 avril 2015

Monte das cebolas - Crew

Ils sont arrivés, les T-shirts du Monte! Realisés de main de maitre par Jeremy Van Houtte, berger au Bercail mais aussi vidéaste et surtout illustrateur. Les fans de jus de pomme boitsfortois (ci-dessous) auront sûrement repéré sa griffe. Sur le T-shirt, les 4 éléments cardinaux du Monte: les brebis churra algarvia, les ânes (y compris notre mirandaise Jeropiga), les grenades et le montado de azinho (Quercus rotundifolia). Mon petit doigt me dit qu'on va devoir en refaire un tirage rapidement...

Beja en vrac!

Rapide petit tour en ce début avril dans le centre de Beja, après une visite du musée botanique, et un délicieux petit repas au Pulo do Lobo. Le ciel est laiteux mais la ville est parsemée de patrimoine: le chateau et son architecture arabe, l'hôpital de la miséricorde, la place de la République, le très riche Couvent de Notre-Dame de la Conception, l'élégante statue de la reine Leonor,...

Mauremys leprosa, o cagado mediterranico

A few days ago, J.I. came across this Spanish turtleMauremys leprosa on the road from Campinho to Reguengos. It is widespread in Portugal. Less common is the European pond turtle Emys orbicularis.

lundi 20 avril 2015

Redondo: palais bleu, palais jaune

José Perdigao, Redondo's glass painter

Redondo is full of artists. You will probably have heard of the Salomé brothers: Janita, Vitorino and their eldest brother Zé. You will perhaps have heard of the Ceramist Vitoria Duque. But you will probably not have heard of José Perdigao who painted the windows of his little house in the old town with representations of Camoes, of Pessoa and of Queen Isabel. As we start a conversation with him, he shows us some other pieces, including a glass painting of Redondo's Porta da Ravessa.

And if you keep your eyes open you will also discover in the same street the collection of a cactus passionate...

A Horta-Bar do Joaquim Manuel

Les hortas sont des petites oasis d'abondance et de liberté au milieu d'étendues de céréales, de vignes et de montado. Elles sont des doux mélanges de verger et de potager. On y expérimente de nouveaux semis, on y creuse des petits cratères, on y dessine des lignes droites, des cercles et des rectangles, grands et petits, on y joue avec la lumière,... La horta de Joaquim Manuel à Campinho en constitue un exemple particulièrement réussi. Et en plus, il y a adjoint une petite salle de fêtes... Découverte en sa compagnie, par un petit matin brumeux d'avril...

Entre les fèves des marais, voici d'ailleurs que se glissent quelques Orobanche crenata, plante parasite sans chlorophyle.

Pelodytes punctatus, again!

Ce ne sont pas les premières observations de Pelodyte au Monte. Mais ce mois d'avril, nous y en avons croisé deux ainsi qu'un autre au village... Le batracien est tout petit, les feuilles d'or de son oeil sont délicates et le mélange de verts qui parsèment son corps est tout aussi inattendu.