Around the world in Basque, with Etxepare
Our characters don’t much like talking and chatting, because they find all that pretty boring. However, they do understand the Basque language, that ancient language whose origins are lost in the mists of time and which holds all those weird sounds and tongue-twisting surnames. That’s why a lot of the Kukuxumusu characters have names in Basque: Zuringo (egg white ), Txikoriabelar (chicory) Errezu (phrase), Aizko (hatchet), Kateorratz (safety pin) Ataute (coffin), Zakarra (rough), Hiruko (trio), are just some of the best known.
Just in case you don’t know – but we hope that you do -Kukuxumusu itself is a Basque word which we invented to give a name to our enterprise and which we feel sure you love as much as your pet dog. ‘Kukuxu’ literally means “flea” and “musu” means a kiss. And I guess that is what we do with our drawings – give ‘flea-kisses’ to the most diverse kind of themes and subjects. In this way, we “kukuxumize” life itself as we make a penetrating poke with our sharp pencil point and give existence to all that is current in life at any moment.
According to the Instituto Etxepare (Basque Language Institution) more than a million people speak, write, and facebook or twitter and instam in this language. The language is used to fall in love, get mad, watch TV or even write some Ph.Ds. They mention all this in a booklet which we have designed for them here at Kukuxumusu with some of our very own drawings and which will be distributed all over the world.
The catalogue has two versions – one written in Basque, Spanish and English (download PDF) and the other written in Basque, French and German (download PDF). It contains some basic expressions and also gives some details about the origin and history of this age-old language. And it also has some funny and interesting anecdotes. Such as, for example, that Juan Sebastián Elcano a first-language Basque speaker, was the first sea captain ever to circumnavigate the world. And also the fact that Shakespeare, in one of his plays, praises the Basque steel that was used to make swords in times gone by. And even the French philosopher Voltaire referred to the Basque people as a singular race that gamboled and danced on the foothills of the Pyrenees and how right he was!
The first book written in Basque only appeared in 1545, written by Bernard Etxepare (hence the name of the Institute) and it was published with the intention of promoting the Basque language. That groundwork took shape and has grown since then, despite the fact that it is a difficult language to learn and the fact that it has little similarity with any other language in the world. Nevertheless, there are now a total of 32 universities around the world where the Basque language is studied and fostered.
Could you imagine a Japanese person talking in Basque? If you went to Tokyo, you could likely find a slit-eyed Japanese with a Basque beret asking you: Zer moduz? (How are you keeping?) To which you might respond “Ondo, eskerrik asko!” (Fine, thanks!). And the two of you could go off and have a nice chat as you down a couple of sakes or more…