The Burren. Memories from the Middle-earth

The Burren. Memories from the Middle-earth

Dabrowka Stepniewska


The Burren is a limestone plateau in north County Clare, Ireland, dominated by karst landscape. It measures at least 250 square kilometers. This extraordinary region is rich in natural and cultural attractions. Traveling via the Wild Atlantic Way, along the rocky coast of the Atlantic Ocean, through the limestone desert interspersed with the green hills and valleys, you have the impression of traveling in time and space. In a moment you are back to the Neolithic Era, in the other you are crossing the gate to the world of fantasy full of Little People, Feries and other amazing creatures well known from the J.R.R. Tolkien works.

The name Burren comes from the Gaelic and means a rocky place. Historically, the name referred to the Barony of Burren situated in north-west County Clare. Geographically, the name has a wider meaning. The area lies between Galway Bay on the north, the Atlantic coast on the west and a line drawn through Doolin, Kilfenora, Gort and Kinvara. However, outside this area you can also find the limestone features, but not as frequently and concentrated.

The Burren, County Clare, Ireland
The Burren, County Clare, Ireland

The Burren is the youngest landscape in Europe and has suffered intense glaciation. The last one occurred about 10 000 years ago. You can find here almost all typical limestone landforms, like underground rivers, swallow holes, glacial erratics, caves, clints, grykes and closed depressions. The limestone is an organic sedimentary rock laid down millions of years ago in a shallow warm sea, it is the result of marine plants and animals dying and accumulating in horizontal beds on the sea floor.

The first people to arrive in the Burren were hunters and fishermen who moved into animal husbandry with the keeping of cattle, sheep and goats. From the results of research and archaeological excavations a lot of information has been gathered about the life and death of these early settlers. There are numerous monuments and tombs dated to the Neolithic Era from, ca. 4000 – 3000 BC. The tombs of the first farmers, widely known as megaliths, are impressive monuments over the graves of their dead.

Poulnabrone Dolmen, by Steve Ford Elliott
Poulnabrone Dolmen, by Steve Ford Elliott

The Burren is also well known for the remains of over twenty churches constructed between the 6th and 12th centuries. These are evidences of the spread of Christianity in this region and traces of stay of the early Irish missionaries, like St. Colman and St. Cronan, who laboured in this remote area. Most of these churches are of architectural interest and in most cases their patrons and founders being known and revered.

The Corcomroe Abbey is one of these remains, sited among the grey hills and valleys of the Burren. It is best known for its lonely situation. The abbey acquired the name of Sancta Maria de Petra Fertili (St. Mary of the Fertile Rock) which reflects the fertile nature of the Burren lands. It has been built in the 12th century and used by the Cistercian community for the next 400 years.

The Corcomroe Abbey

In a countryside like the County Clare, isolated from the rest of the country by the river Shannon, with so many visible remains of the past and an extraordinary landscape that stimulates imagination, the folklore was rich and survived over the centuries maintained by the Gaelic language. It has left many material and immaterial traces in the landscape and in the literature.

Recently it turned out that the magical landscape of the Burren may have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to bring to life the Middle-earth – the central continent of the Earth in Tolkien’s imagined mythological past. The term is equivalent to the term Miðgarðr from Norse mythology, describing the human-inhabited world. In ancient Germanic mythology, the world of Men is known by several names, such as Midgard, Middenheim, Manaheim, and Middengeard. The Old English word middangeard descends from an earlier Germanic word, transliterated to modern English as Midgard.

Doolin Fertile Stone
Doolin Fertile Stone

Tolkien’s world famous works, like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, take place entirely in Middle-earth. J.R.R. Tolkien worked as an external examiner to National University Galway in the 40s and 50s of the XX century. Galway, the most central port on the West Coast in the sheltered eastern corner of Galway Bay, located between County Galway in the province of Connacht to the north and the Burren in County Clare in the province of Munster to the south, was a great starting point for exploring the surrounding area.

It is said by the locals that Tolkien would often take trips to the lunar-like landscape of the Burren. When you consider that Tolkien was visiting the Burren around the same time that he was writing The Lord of The Rings, it is easy to see how the stark beauty of this region might have inspired him. The landscape here is certainly unusual, and for a fantasy author such as Tolkien it must have been magnetic.

The Burren, County Clare, Ireland
The Burren, County Clare, Ireland

Amongst the craggy fissures and creeping woods of the Burren there is a cave called Pol na Gollum (Hole of Gollum). The Gollum’s character is essential to the entire plot of The Lord of The Rings. Did Tolkien get the name for this miserable creature from this cave? Furthermore, Gollum in The Lord of The Rings had a distinctive gurgling cough, and at the mouth of this cave the chirps and calls of rock doves echo and transform into a similar guttural sound.

Thanks to Peter Curtin, the owner of The Roadside Tavern pub in County Clare and a member of The Burren Society Tolkien Symposium, it has been accepted that one of the most iconic authors of the fantasy literature – J.R.R. Tolkien, was influenced by the magic of the incredible place of the Burren while writing his most famous work.

Pauline Baynes's copy of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord Of The Rings
Pauline Baynes’s copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings

Gallery

Reference:

http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/places/the_burren/burren_karst.htm

http://www.ireland.com/en-gb/what-is-available/attractions-built-heritage/historic-ireland/articles/burren-and-tolkien/

https://www.theceltictimes.com/index.php/irish-stories-main-menu/the-little-people

https://www.theceltictimes.com/index.php/irish-stories-main-menu/fairy-and-folk-tales

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle-earth#Etymology

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galway_Bay

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3287440/Show-way-Mordor-Unique-hand-drawn-map-Middle-Earth-gives-rare-insight-Tolkien-s-mind.html

https://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/historical/history_colbeck_1905.html

https://www.theguardian.com/books/australia-books-blog/2016/sep/26/hannah-kent-the-good-people-dives-into-an-irish-world-of-faith-and-fantasy

Materiality and Memory at Pulse

In June, 2016 a gunman entered the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida and murdered 49 people. In the aftermath of the murders the club has been routinely invoked in a wide range of political causes, but materially it has become a place that illuminates the depth of homophobia, complicates gun rights, and recognizes domestic terrorism. […]

via Memorializing Uncanny Histories: Materiality and Memory at Pulse — Archaeology and Material Culture

Three medieval worlds and the social memory of cultural heritage sites.

Three medieval worlds and the social memory of cultural heritage sites.

Grzegorz Kiarszys


The presented book “Three medieval worlds. Iuxta castrum Sandouel” aims to tell the stories of the remains of medieval strongholds in the cultural landscape of the Góra district (Lower Silesia Region, Poland) and to restore their presence in the social discourse. The research project was financed by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, coordinated by the National Heritage Board of Poland, with the aid from Archeo Landscapes Europe. The studies focus on the relics of early medieval strongholds and late medieval motte castles located in the Lower Silesia Region, Poland. These features are often considered as mysterious objects of anthropogenic origin. However, their original purpose and cultural value is seldom recognized by the local community.

Relatively low historical awareness in the western Poland results from the historical context of those territories. After the end of World War II, due to decisions made at the conferences in Yalta and Potsdam, the eastern part of the Third Reich was put under Polish administration. The local German population was replaced by Polish settlers from the eastern and central territories. Post-war reality in western Poland caused the meaning of archaeological and historical monuments to be devalued. Polish citizens, resettled to the western territories, perceived the landscape as “alien” or “German”. After the horror of war they were unable to recognize the heritage sites or imagine their abstractive value and identify with it. In their eyes the landscape of “Regained Territories” didn’t have any past or tradition worth to acknowledging and commemorating. Historical and archaeological monuments were not seen as their property.

On the other hand, the communistic ideology was about creating the new social order; it exploited the past for political reasons, developing interest only in specific archaeological sites, for example those related to the early Polish Piast monarchy. Such archaeological sites could later be used in the discourse of propaganda and to justify border shifts after World War II. Along with the disappearance of archaeological earthworks from the Polish topographical maps, they also vanished from the awareness of the local population, losing their cultural value. The consequence of that process had a great impact on the contemporary perception of cultural heritage in western Poland.

Archaeological sites can be valued due to their physical form and state of preservation, as well as their chronology or relationship with historic events that are considered to be important. As soon as such a place is identified and significant, it starts to play a part in contemporary social discourse, receiving a new cultural context. This can be created in relation to different roles such as education, or become an active part of the construction of social identity.

The non-invasive archaeological methods can be useful for popularizing of archaeology and widening the awareness of historical places in local societies. Application of such methods as: aerial photography (both archival and contemporary), Airborne Laser Scanning, magnetometry and historical cartography can be valuable, not only for professional archaeological landscape studies, but also in the process of construction of a narrative about the biography of specific archaeological features.

Archaeology can produce a persuasive and aesthetic background for the contemporary social discourse. Restoring the memory of archaeological heritage sites in the region, with the aid of a properly constructed narrative and visualisation of specific monuments, can revive the imagination of local society and fill in the empty places with stories being told once again.

 

The Baltic Way. Memory of solidarity and non-violent fight for freedom

The Baltic Way. Memory of solidarity and non-violent fight for freedom

23 August 1989: Human chain linking Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania
in their drive for freedom

Vilnius – Širvintos – Ukmergė – Panevėžys – Pasvalys – Bauska – Iecava – Ķekava – Rīga – Vangaži – Sigulda – Līgatne – Drabeši – Cēsis – Lode – Valmiera – Jēči – Lizdēni – Rencēni – Oleri – Zasi – Rūjiena – Koniņi – Nuija – Karksi – Viljandi – Türi – Rapla – Tallin


UNESCO Memory of the World
Dr Algirdas Jakubčionis, Lietuvos Nacionalinis Muziejus

On 23 August 1939 foreign ministers of the USSR and Germany – Vyacheslav Molotov and Joachim von Ribbentrop, as ordered by their superiors Stalin and Hitler, signed a treaty which affected the fate of Europe and the entire world. This pact, and the secret clauses it contained, divided the spheres of influence of the USSR and Germany and led to World War II, and to the occupation of the three Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

50 years later, on 23 August 1989, the three nations living by the Baltic Sea surprised the world by taking hold of each other’s hands and jointly demanding recognition of the secret clauses in the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and the re-establishment of the independence of the Baltic States. More than a 1,5 million people joined hands to create a 600 km long human chain from the foot of Toompea in Tallinn to the foot of the Gediminas Tower in Vilnius, crossing Riga and the River Daugava on its way, creating a synergy in the drive for freedom that united the three countries.The Baltic Way was organised by the national movements of each of the Baltic States: the Popular Front of Estonia Rahvarinne, the Popular Front of Latvia and the Lithuanian Reform Movement Sąjūdis.

The preparation for the Baltic Way took place in the summer of 1989. According to the plan, the Baltic Way had to start at the Gediminas Tower in Lithuania, continue through the Latvian capital Riga by the Freedom Monument and end at Tall Hermann’s Tower in Tallinn. The Baltic Way was 650 kilometres of freedom, in which ca. 1,5 million Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians had to stand with their hands joined in a live human chain, though actually their number reached 2 millions. Lithuania was assigned a 200 kilometre section of the way. It was divided into 50 smaller sections symbolizing the years of the occupation. These sections had to be filled with inhabitants of various Lithuanian cities and towns. Certain sections of the way were allotted for representatives of various occupations and organisations. For example, the section from the Vilnius Cathedral to the Green Bridge over the Neris river was assigned for the deportees.

The Baltic Way was a phenomenon which showed how three small countries – the Baltic States, regardless of their unique individual national characteristics, created a cross-cultural spiritual synergy both internally and between the Baltic States in the name of a common goal – to overcome the consequences of World War II and to destroy the totalitarian regimes. The Baltic Way is a historic symbol that is alive in the collective memory, enriching the understanding of the sense and values of solidarity and freedom of expression.

* * *

References:

http://www.lnm.lt/en/gediminas-castle-tower/

http://www.balticway.net/index.php?hl=en

http://baltikett.ajaloomuuseum.ee/eng/index.html

Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part III

Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part III

 

Dąbrówka Stępniewska


Part III
The unity of place, time and action.

The movie is the third part of the “Chopin. Memory and musical landscape” series. It maintains the principle of decorum and the unity of place, time and action. The Pianist was performing Chopin music on historical piano, from the Chopin era, at the place of his birth, his early infancy and later summer stays. The concert lasted approx. 45 min and the whole video material has been recorded within that time.

The sound is playing the main role in this picture. The piano melodies are very reminiscent of the sounds of the surrounding nature. The singing birds blend in the music and the subsequent passages strikingly resemble the rustle of the trees and the babbling brook. The music is spreading around the park through the open windows and from hidden speakers. It reverberates all around and makes one stop, calm down and sink into the sounds.

The first part https://archaeologyofmemory.wordpress… focuses on people and objects, their interrelation and mutual impact, their shared being and intertwined biographies. The issues of embodiment of things and objectification of human beings emerge from the text as well as the power of human perception and emotions. The music and the artist are treated as memory medium, which enables to travel throughout time and space, within the world of music.

The second part https://archaeologyofmemory.wordpress… further explores the concepts of biography of place and biography of landscape, the issues of construction and de-construction of national monuments and national heritage sites. The case of Fryderyk Chopin birthplace in Żelazowa Wola is a great example of creating and sustaining national memory and national monuments using historical and artistic expressions.

* * *  Epilogue * * *

Photo: Chopin concert at Łazienki Royal Park, Warsaw
Chopin Recital at Łazienki Royal Park, Warsaw 2016

The Fryderyk Chopin Monument, facing one of the gates to the Łazienki Royal Park, was designed by Wacław Szymanowski in 1909 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Chopin’s birth. It was not erected in the Łazienki Royal Park until 1926 with the plans cancelled by the World War I as well as by controversies surrounding the solid design itself.

During the World War II the Chopin Monument was one of the first in Warsaw to be blown up by the Nazis. Reconstructed in strict conformity to the original, it remains an essential symbol of the capital city of Poland.

For more than fifty years Chopin concerst have been held at the foot of the Chopin Monument. Emminent pianists perform here every Sunday from mid-May until late September at 12 noon and 4 p.m.

The atmosphere in the park is unique, both carefree and raised, like listening to classical concert and enjoying an open air festival at the same time! Perhaps this is the reason why these recitals are hugely popular with Warsaw residents and tourists alike.

 

Travels, Migration and Memory of Things

Travels, Migration and Memory of Things

“A journey, after all, neither begins in the instant we set out, nor ends when we have reached our door step once again. It starts much earlier and is really never over, because the film of memory continues running on inside of us long after we have come to a physical standstill. Indeed, there exists something like a contagion of travel, and the disease is essentially incurable.”
Ryszard Kapuściński, Travels with Herodotus

 

Curatorial Text


Travellers. Voyage and Migration in New Art from Central and Eastern Europe.
14.05 – 21.08.2016 at Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland

Artists: Adéla Babanová, Daniel Baker, Olga Chernysheva, Wojciech Gilewicz, Pravdoliub Ivanov, C.T. Jasper & Joanna Malinowska, Irina Korina, Taus Makhacheva, Porter McCray, Alban Muja, Ilona Németh & Jonathan Ravasz, Roman Ondak, Tímea Anita Oravecz, Adrian Paci, Vesna Pavlović, Dushko Petrovich, Janek Simon, Radek Szlaga & Honza Zamojski, Maja Vukoje, Sislej Xhafa

Curator: Magdalena Moskalewicz
Collaboration on the part of Zachęta: Magdalena Komornicka

The exhibition looks at travel in a region where freedom to travel was, until recently, a luxury available only to the very few. The revolution of 1989 and the subsequent opening to the world and globalisation processes allowed citizens of the former Eastern Bloc personal mobility on an unprecedented scale. Participation in international exchanges contributed to the region’s identity today as much as the new political and economic order. For two successive decades, capitalism and globalisation carried us farther, faster, and surer, until we got used to thinking in terms of progress with only one direction — forward! Today, we see how that moment was as pivotal for modern European history as it was exceptional. Europe’s response to foreign refugees shows that our participation in the global exchange was, and is, predominantly one-way. We do not willingly share the privileges that we gained after the fall of the Berlin Wall and as a consequence of our EU accession. We are enthusiastic about going abroad, but far less so about welcoming foreigners.

The works presented in the show tell the stories of holiday trips as well as distant journeys and migrations. They focus on a period from the mid-20th century until today, from the closed borders of the divided Cold War-era Europe to the capitalism-driven acceleration of the 21st century’s first decades. They offer a reflection by contemporary artists hailing from the region — the former Eastern Bloc countries, the former Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia — often first and second generation migrants, on the last few decades in the history of Central and Eastern Europe.

Twenty-three artists from fifteen countries show how people, goods, and ideas flow between our part of Europe and other regions of the world. They tell us about Cold War-era tourists dreaming about exotic trips at a time when the freedom to travel was synonymous with political freedom. About travellers, who, on distant voyages, discover the forgotten history of abandoned places. About historical and contemporary migrants, their identity formed at an intersection of languages and cultures. But also about the objects these travellers take with them. About pictures that are to remind them of home and which become a source of knowledge about the world for others. About products that in distant countries turn into ambassadors of their culture. About artworks whose circulation beyond their place of origin lays a foundation for building canons. The artists present various means of transportation, such as ships, trains or buses, as well as visas or permits, that facilitate or limit their personal mobility. Discovering the enriching value of travel, they also shed light on the tensions arising inevitably between the poetics of the experience itself and the political situation that condition it.

Most of us know the familiarity of one home and one culture only. A traveller takes advantage of multiple viewpoints. That complex perspective not only allows us to recognize and embrace the value of other places and nations, but also to see ourselves as foreigners. By looking at the experience of voyage and migration in the art of Central and Eastern Europe, The Travellers shed light on the contemporary identity of the region.

The Travellers_full materials (pdf)

Liban. Memory of Stones

Liban. Memory of Stones

“Palimpsest means a parchment that has been partly erased and re-inscribed. It evokes the marks made by human settlement on the land, the passage of time, presence and absence and the web of inter-dependence uniting the natural and the cultural, the material and the immaterial.”

Jade Wildy

Limestone. All kinds of buildings and other constructions have been built using jurassic limestone from local sources for a thousand years. Many quarries were erected in the early Middle Ages in hills that comprised tectonic horsts. A dozen of these quarries were still in use in the 19th and 20th centuries. Nowadays they represent important objects of both geological and cultural heritage. The quarries from the Lesser Poland region are the most well known examples of the post-exploited geological landscape in Poland, where most of building and road stones as well as raw materials for the chalk, cement and chemical industries were excavated.

Liban Quarry. The Liban Quarry  is located in Kraków-Podgórze district near the railway station Kraków-Płaszów. The exploitation of limestone was carried out here since the 14th century. The limestone company ‘Liban and Ehrenpreis’, founded by Bernard Liban and run by the Liban and Ehrenpreis Jewish industrial families from Podgórze, established the quarry here in 1873. By the end of the 19th century a complex of buildings was established within the quarry as well as a railway line was laid. The ‘Liban and Ehrenpreis’ enterprise was the most important company in the construction materials industry in Kraków at that time.

Forced-labor. During the World War II and the time of Kraków’s German Nazi occupation, Liban Quarry was set-up as a forced-labor camp. The Nazis employed here approx. 800 people working 14 hours a day without holidays and Sundays. The prisoners of Konzentrationslager Plaszow – a Nazi German concentration camp,  were kept here from 1942 to 1944 performing forced labour. On average, there were 400 prisoners in the camp. Throughout the period of its operation over approx. 2,000 Poles and Ukrainians were working in very difficult conditions in the quarries and lime kilns. During the liquidation of the forced-labor camp in July 1944, 146 of 170 prisoners escaped. Others were executed on the spot. They were buried at the place of execution.

Konzentrationslager Plaszow. The Konzentrationslager Plaszow was built by the SS in Płaszów, not far away from the Liban Quarry, between the Kamieńskiego and Wielicka Streets, partly on the site of Jewish graveyards. Originally intended as a forced-labour camp KL PLaszow had been populated with prisoners during the liquidation of the Kraków Ghetto on 13–14 March 1943. Thereafter, the camp was expanded and turned into one of many Nazi German concentration camps. The real Jewish tombstones were used to pave the road into the concentration camp so that inmates were compelled to trample over the relics of their ancestors on their way to and from work.

“Schindler’s List”. In 1993, Allan Starski created in Liban Quarry the scenography for Steven Spielberg’s famous “Schindler’s List”, depicting the Konzentrationslager Plaszow. For $ 600,000 at the bottom of the quarry they built 34 huts and 11 watchtowers. Part of the decoration still remains in the quarry, e.g. fragments of fences, wooden poles with the remnants of barbed wire or a part of the path laid with imitation of Jewish tombstones. These traces remain confusingly mixed with the genuine historical artifacts from the WWII.

Mainstay of nature. After the WWII the ‘Liban and Ehrenpreis’ company was nationalized and employed to 110 employees. In 1986, the deposit was considered to be exploited. At the end of its exploitation the Liban Quarry has become an important mainstay of nature in the city center. The bottom of the quarry is covered with water, it has a dense vegetation and is a residence for many species of birds. There is also a very large population of dragonflies and butterflies. The impressive limestone cliffs, ponds, prolific fauna and flora absorb the historical heritage of this place. When one climbs up the Krakus Mound and looks down from the lip of the Liban Quarry,  one can see the power of life rather than death.

Natural-cultural palimpsest. A lot of Kraków’s citizens are coming here for a walk, to do some sport and to entertain, rather then admire and explore the cultural heritage, like the tourists do. But is there something wrong in such behavior, besides leaving behind garbage? Personally I have a mixed feelings and different thoughts while visiting places like this: former cemeteries, sanctuaries, settlements, places of forced labour, mass massacres, mass graves, which have been absorbed by the dynamically changing landscape. Their function and meaning are constantly changing in time and are re-defined by successive generations. A natural-cultural palimpsest of memories, indeed…

Dąbrówka Stępniewska

Reference material:

http://www.realtimearts.net/article/118/11426

http://www.artsmildura.com.au/Palimpsest/HOME.aspx

http://historia-gornictwa.pwr.wroc.pl/attachments/article/22/12GoreckiSermet-Kamienio%C5%82omy_Krakowa.pdfhttps://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liban_(ob%C3%B3z)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krak%C3%B3w-P%C5%82asz%C3%B3w_concentration_camphttp://podgorze.pl/kamieniolom-libana/

http://www.wazki.pl/krakow_liban.html

http://www.inyourpocket.com/krakow/Liban-Quarry_49806v

https://polandian.wordpress.com/2008/05/12/schindlers-list-death-camp-krakow-off-the-beaten-track/

https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005144