Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cultura e Basta

Tel-Aviv on a friday can be somewhat bizzare.

It's got its messiahs and those who make offerings of straberries, buns and pineapples to them.

It's got its enthusiastic chanters

and its occasional march of the queen's guards.

It's even got its alternative literaty stalls, run by a mixed staff of humans and cartoon animals.

This is Itka's "Bastarbut" stall, featuring the land's finest offerings in underground comics, poetry and progressive thought. It's about time I wrote something about this project, which was the gateway to many of my adventures over the past few years.

When I met Itka, she had a folding table at the back of her car and a couple of crates full of books and journals. Her idea was to take alternative Israeli literature, most of which is created around Tel-Aviv, and take it to peripherial towns.

Israel's smaller cities suffer from a dreadful lack of cultural activity. A city like Tiberius, for example, has neither a theatre ensamble nor any kind of musical ensabmle to call its own. The concept of young, ass kicking culture is unheard of there. Having said that, the north is rich with music festival and other events. If the comics and poetry get driven there by Itka's little Renault, they go the distance.

Since then Bastarbut (a name bombined of "basta" - market stall, and "tarbut" - culture) became an online store and a sort of an active organization producing spoken word events and supporting other cultural endeavors. This Friday, though, it still looked like the old idealistic traveling one woman show, the peddler's cart next to which we slept in the dirt in the Negev. It's a magnet of good people, too. We got a visit of honor from prime Lithuanian blogger Daiva Repeckaite.

and ended up jamming behind the books with prime Israeli hard rocker and master bratwurst maker Zeev Tene, actress Yael Appelbaum and the legendary Helene Berube.

If all of this looks like an advertisement to my girlfriend's business, you should know that it is not a business. Bastarbut doesn't pay off fiscally. The sales often don't cover the price of fuel to the destination, not to mention the trip back. It's one of those things that happen in this world because they must do, because goodness is there to be shared, even when it's melancholic goodness, as in Yanay Perry's heartbreaking comic book, or dirty goodness as in Merhav Yeshurun's poetry, or painful political goodness as in such journals as "Sedek". This is Hebrew culture's most profound goodness. It's well worth lugging around.

2 comments:

natanaael said...

The cultural buildings are well preserved in some cities, but in others the situation is unfortunate. We need to value all forms of culture.

Anat said...

About Bastarbut - when i first heard the name i thought it's also combined from "bas" - which means "only" in arabic - and "tarbut". so it can also mean "only culture", and get that israeli-palestinian co-existence aspect...