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March 8 Art Exhibit Focuses on Stories, Portraits of Basque Immigrant Women

By: Cienna Madrid   Published 7:08 am / February 27, 2017

A photo of a Basque woman

Photo Credit: Peter Oberlindacher, Josefina Astondoa Mendiola. Courtesy of the Basque Museum and Cultural Center

On March 8, the Student Union Building Fine Arts Gallery will present the new exhibit Inner Strength: Portraits of Basque Immigrant Women, featuring the photographic work of Peter Oberlindacher and the ethnographic research of Begoña Pecharroman.

A free, public reception celebrating the opening is scheduled for 5-7 p.m. on March 8. Light refreshments will be served. The exhibit will run through April 7.

This exhibit combines the artistry of black and white environmental photographs with excerpts of stories by women of various ages who have emigrated to the west from the Basque Country.

“These portraits are intentional and without pretense, as are the women I photographed,” said Oberlindacher. “My goal was to capture the impressions that these Basque immigrant women left with me: determination, graciousness, enthusiasm, and pride. Most of all, I wanted to show their inner strength, which I suspect has played a significant role in the success of the Basque people in this country.”

“These tales helped tell the history of the Basque people in Idaho and the United States,” added Begoña Pecharroman, who interviewed the women. “The most moving and important thing to me though, was that we were constructing the history of Basque women, and women in general, which has long been ignored or diminished.”

The character, fortitude and dignity of these women is demonstrated through the use of light and natural interior and exterior backgrounds. Excerpts of their stories include themes of work, oppression and life in their homeland as well as immigration and integration into society in their new home.

The exhibit celebrates Women’s History Month and the inauguration of the Eloise Garmendia Bieter chair in Basque studies at Boise State University. The chair will allow a visiting Basque professor to offer graduate classes or workshops, with the aim of increasing studies and research on issues related to Basque language and culture. The Basque studies program was established at Boise State in 2005.