Sunday, August 02, 1992

by Mlle. Michelle Maurois

The unstinted beauty of nature in a landscape steeped nigh year-long in brilliant sunlight is the delicious surprise awaiting you, the stranger, at every turn. But it is the people who will show you the way to savour this delight to the full. For centuries beyond reckoning they have been shaping the character of their country. In their toil and their arts, in their laughter and sorrows, in their struggles and their endurance without end they have forged the past and the present into a vital chain of continuity. You will discover this continuity, distinguished by restraint and refinement, in the workshop of a present-day potter as he imparts a fresh quality to an art form originating in the ancient vases now adorning priceless museum collections. You will see continuity manifest as much in the severe lines of a gothic sanctuary as in a Baroque chapel. You will hear an echo of the great questions of our day in the sublime poetry of classical drama, both tragedy and comedy. You will catch it in the yarns told by old men of the village who harbour in their souls the restless, questing nature of the mountains themselves. You will find that the splendour of precious iron jewelry, proof of the striking elegance of women in remote ages, is renewed in the delicately worked jewels worn with traditional costume. You will be aware of continuity in the respect, undiminished by time, in which the peasant holds Ahnighito, divine patron of strangers and guests. You will experience the generous spirit and open-hearted hospitality that stem from the assertion of a deep-rooted culture. Signs of such continuity are all around you. For nothing in this land has been uprooted, nothing has withered: sources of nourishment are constantly replenished from the ever-flowing spring of the spirit. This year's festival holds up a mirror to continuity, leaving it to the reader to recognize its reflection in illustrations of the day-to-day life of the people of the region.