Girona mini-pilgrimage

This was the first of three mini-pilgrimages offered to delegates of the international meeting ‘Walking Art and Relational Geographies’ and others in Girona, Cataluña. 6 July 2022

We met at the foot of the steps of the Catedral de Girona, a traditional location for the start of a pilgrimage. As we waited for the group to assemble, I asked, do you see any pilgrim signs?

The statues at the front of the building are inset with the shell motif behind them – the iconic scallop being the emblem which pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela sported.

We searched for the yellow arrows which are used to indicate the path; instead we were surrounded by the yellow ribboned loops of the Cataluñan Independence movement.

Sign of the Cataluñan Independence Movement on the pilgrim path

We were a group of approximately twelve, and I explained that I had changed the place we were walking to once I knew the start time was 9pm (sunset is around 9.20 here), and now that the city and I had started to get acquainted in person, rather than virtually from Scotland in the initial planning stages.

The title of my walking project here is Separation and Unity, being aware of the political issues that concern Scotland and Cataluña, both, in their debates and attempts at achieving autonomy from England and Spain respectively.

We performed some simple experiential exercises: huddling close, noting that we were united in our interest in walking, turning outwards to acknowledge those people around us who were not in our group or who were in groups of their own.

We began some chi gung exercises, a method of grounding and centering in the body. It became clear that we needed to take more space for ourselves in order to move individually. We were moving together, separately and experimenting with breathing in unison.

Through Girona’s city walls

Last week, I walked part of the Cami Sant Jaume alone, as a secular pilgrimage.
I was on the path with others – dog walkers, cyclists, 2 hikers. Walking part of this age-old tradition, I knew there were others who went before me and who will come after.

Now our group traced a pilgrim path through the archway made by the city walls and, despite there being no external signs to guide us, we headed downhill to the river. We left the heavy, archetypal building behind and walked in silence, in single-file, with the thick, steep walls with religious iconography on either side.

As we walked down Reí Marti, we paid attention to our connection with the elements – the paved surfaces under our feet, the air and water – indivisible.

Also to the birds we could hear but not always see, the insects we only knew were there if we looked very carefully or when they bit us, the other folk milling around the city. We were a mass moving inside and outside the city walls.

We were aware of each other walking together. Our intention was clear.

As the streets opened out, we turned left taking Carrer del Bellaire and heading straight for the river, passing once again,
underneath, though by now we were amongst modern architectural constructs. The train line ran overhead.

Around the cornerstone the left, was the Column of the History of Girona, a pillar of stone whose four sides depicted images and text saying this ancient settlement back to the Neolithic.

We were at the River Onyar and the Pont (bridge) de Pedret which formed a crossroads where the first Cami de Sant Jaume and other route signs were located.

We looked back at Cathedral
There are messages of separation ‘Libertat’, ‘Bienvenue a la République de Catalogne’ alongside theVies Verdes (green cycling / walking ‘carrilet’ route (a modest narrow guage railway) I took out of the city last week

We glimpsed the La Devesa Park where we walked yesterday.

As I walked out of Girona, I moved from the urban environment, the edge lands where people were growing crops in their hueltas / allotments, and then out of town, walking between city and towns. There were people stringing these urban places together by walking between them to work and school.

I was carrying my clothes and sleeping mat with me, crossing the country, from Osona to La Garrotxa and into the Barcelona región.  

We completed our mini-pilgrimage at the foot of the steps of Basílica de Sant Feliu, a familiar way to end a pilgrimage. Close by is the statue of la Lleona (lioness) whose bottom/ass you are invited to kiss, an 11th century folk tradition.

Basílica de Sant Feliu
La Llona

Soundscape by Ralph Hoyte Temple of Hermes

International Walking Encounters – Cataluña

The Project – part 1

June/July 2022

The first part of The Separation and Unity Project between Edinburgh and Cataluña takes the form of walking, walkshop and outdoor performance as part of WALKING ARTS ENCOUNTERS, Walking Arts and Relational Geographies

There is a spiritual-political-geographical link between Edinburgh, Scotland where I live, and Cataluña in the Iberian Peninsula where the Encounters are taking place (Girona, Olot and Vic). In both countries, we have long been engaged in matters of self-determination, with debates over separation and unity, community, national and inter-national relationships. Whilst primarily represented as a battle fought in law courts and parliaments, or between opposing protesters on the streets, this has often been a binary approach. It is necessary to spend time listening, sharing and making work with artists and members of the community in order to understand each other better and find possible ways forward.

Europe is defined, in many ways, by borders. They speak of crumbled empires, shifting boundaries – most of them, …. speak of unimaginable suffering.

Kerri ni Dochartaigh ‘Thin Places’ p17

As a walking artist, secular pilgrim, feminist and outdoor performer, I will carry the awareness of these issues from the Scottish hills to the Cataluñian mountains, from Edinburgh’s extinct volcanoes (Arthur’s Seat, Calton Hill and Castle Rock) to the volcanic land of Olot, and between Oak Wood in the Lammermuir Hills and the oak trees of the Plain of Vic.

I have been walking the St Margaret’s Way through the carboniferous volcanic rocks of the Burntisland area in Fife, Scotland, and will be able to carry my experiences with me on the ancient spiritual path which unites each of the three conurbations where the Encounters are happening, the Camí de Sant Jaume (Camino Catalán).

Co-mingling of Oak and Beech

Separation and Unity

This is the artistic focus

  • in the human experience (notions of belonging and alienation, shared feeling and dislocation);
  • consideration of the other-than-human and our relationship to that realm; and in the landscape.

Documentation:

  • Impromtu performance
  • Collecting words, images, marks, and sound segments
  • Mapping.
  • Film and pamphlet on return to Edinburgh.

Collaboration with delegates during the International Encounters will take the form of walking sections of the urban camino together in each of the three locations. This ritual series of three mini pilgrimages will be a way of considering the spiritual aspect (in the widest sense of the word), and the trinity of psychogeographical outings will form a unity between the three sites for the purpose of comparing sensations, ideas and feelings. Each walk will start with an embodied exercise for individuals, a group game for unification, and prompt = one hour in each place:

  1. Girona: starts at the Catedral de Girona to Pont de L’Aguia 9pm for 40 minutes
  2. Olot: starts at Plaça Major to Pont de Sant Roc 6.30pm for 30 minutes
  3. Vic: starts at Catedral de Sant Pere de Vic to L’Atlàntida Centre des Arts (35 mins 6.30pm
Co-existence and mutual reliance

I will be making contact with women for whom this focus is pertinent, both in Scotland and Cataluña. As always I will seek Shiatsu practitioners with whom to exchange.

#walkingandrelationalgeographies @naucoclea #artdelcaminar