Ibiza

proud as a peacock

ibiza

 

spring-summer 2019

We are in a bygone Ibiza, part of a small and remote Mediterranean archipelago, practically unvisited. This Ibiza, yet to be discovered, is not a wealthy island, and its fundamentally rural society is scattered between isolated villages that live according to strictly observed ancestral customs. It was an economic reality and a society that, from the 1970s onwards, was to change drastically – and in a very short space of time – with the arrival of mass tourism and urban development. During this period the people of Ibiza, rejecting years of poverty, turned their backs on peasant life and their own identity, including rural objects, clothing and customs. The work of recovering and reevaluating this cultural heritage was begun in the mid- nineties with training programs for master craftspeople, who revived craft skills and techniques, making garments such as rifacus – embroidered petticoats – and producing the island’s traditional hats as well as the traditional espadrilles and musical instruments.

As many as twenty-four gold rings, three on every finger, except the thumbs. This is the gift the bride-to-be receives from her fiancé, and it indicates that a wedding date will soon be set. Her fiancé presents them, wrapped in a handkerchief, in front of her family. He is only obliged to give twenty four if the woman who is to become his wife has all the pieces of jewelry that compose the emprendada: the necklaces, chains, crosses and lockets of gold that will adorn her from her shoulders to her waist. Otherwise, the fiancé will give her a number of rings proportional to the pieces of jewelry that she will contribute. To make public the news of their engagement, she will wear the rings to church, on the Sunday after they are presented to her. Her days of wooing and courting will be over. When the bride leaves her family home, all she takes with her are the clothes and jewelry she is wearing. Thus the most fortunate brides arrive at the altar dripping with gold.

Women’s traditional clothing evolved into three types of dress – as well as day-to-day work clothes. The oldest of these dresses, the gonella negra, was made of a simple fabric woven from wool, hemp or flax, a craft skill once almost lost that today has been revived. It was a long dress that was ribbed at the back, fitting it closely to the body. The front was covered by an embroidered apron, which took more than six months to sew.

The introduction of lighter fabrics, such as cotton, saw this dress develop into the gonella blanca and the gonella de color, the “white” and “colored” gonellas, taking their name from the color of the skirt. The gonella blanca was worn in summer and, contrary to the accounts told to tourists during the 1970s, was not a bridal gown.

This confusion was amplified by the fact that Ibiza’s traditional dance, the ball pagès, is a courtship dance easily associated with marriage, although it is danced on many occasions besides weddings. It is a highly stylized courting ritual, with a strong symbolic undercurrent, in which the male partner appears to dominate with his energetic movements and vigorous leaps. He is the one who decides that the dance is to begin, when, with a resounding clack of one of his large castanets, he calls the woman he has chosen to dance with him. Yet, despite her lowered gaze and dainty steps, it is the woman who leads, dancing in a figure-of-eight pattern that her partner must follow, never turning his back on her as he continues to leap around her, hoping to win her admiration. The dance ends with him kneeling before her as a mark of his devotion.

These folk dances, closely linked to rural life, were organized spontaneously by families and neighbors, especially during the summer months when work in the fields was over.

Ommm

As the sun sinks into the sea off the western coast of Ibiza, its last rays are reflected in the layer of 23- carat gold leaf that highlights the tip of the central monolith of an artwork by australian land artist andrew rogers. Observing the ibizan ritual of sun-worship, small groups of visitors approach in silence to watch it disappear into the mediterranean. On the bare earth, stones arranged to form symbols bear witness to recent meditations.
The views towards the island of es vedrà at sunset are breathtaking. The ten meter tall block of solid basalt, extracted and carved in Turkey, is aligned with the setting sun on the day of the winter solstice, and together with twelve columns arranged to form a fibonacci sequence, representing the orbital paths of the planets around the sun, it is part of time and space – the speed of life.
A vision of the passing of time, pace, and the interconnectedness of humanity. The artwork, installed by the artist on the rugged coastline close to Cala Llentia, was funded by Guy Laliberté, founder of Cirque du Soleil, and is part of rhythms of life, a series of geoglyphs or monumental artworks in stone that rogers builds in situ in “topographically interesting places”.

say cheese!

A pastry whose flavor takes you back to the middle ages. Sweet, mint-scented, but with the strong flavors of goats’ and sheep’s cheese. Among ibizan desserts, it is the most unusual and the most sought-after –- by residents and visitors alike –- but it is still largely unknown outside the island. Flaó, which today takes pride of place in pastry shop window displays year-round, was originally only eaten on easter sunday. That these sweetmeats were chosen to celebrate the end of lent should come as no surprise. Easter week usually coincides with the last days of march or the first days of april, the time when cheeses reach optimum ripeness, and the best flaó is made. It is a cake with a sweet base, made from flour, eggs, sugar, a little lard, lemon zest and anisette, with a filling of eggs, soft goats’ cheese, sheep’s cheese and mint, its distinctive ingredients. An authentic flaó should be pungent and intense: ibizans would consider anything milder a sacrilege.

drink your
medicine

Thyme, fennel, rosemary, chamomile, lemon verbena, lavender and juniper: just a few of the plants that make up the list of ingredients for herbes eivissenques, Ibiza and Formentera’s traditional herbal liqueur. An anisette-based spirit with digestive properties, it is savored over leisurely after-dinner conversation. According to custom, it must be made with an odd number of plants or its medicinal properties will be cancelled out, but in fact there are as many recipes are there are producers. The herbs are collected in May and June when they are in flower, and are infused for three months in a mixture of dry and sweet anisette liqueur, the exact proportions a secret. The flavor is then corrected with thyme used to increase its bitterness, and anisette used as a sweetener. Its origin, in the 19th century, is attributed to one Joan Marí Mayans, who sailed to Barcelona in his llaüt to bring the necessary supplies to the tiny island of Formentera.

in black and
white

Immaculately white, with a tall crown and a broad, rigid brim, encircled by a long black satin band that falls down over the shoulders: this is the capell de floc, the “ribbon hat,” once an indispensable item of day- to-day wear in traditional Ibizan women’s dress. Tilted slightly to one side, with a headscarf of yellow cotton, it accompanied the “colored dress,” worn with a long apron and without jewelry. It is woven from the leaves of the Mediterranean dwarf palm, and the process of making a hat can take a year to complete. Six months are required to braid a total of ninety meters of llata, a plaited thread, two or three millimeters wide, made from these leaves after each has been split into seven fibers. Approximately the same amount of time is needed to sew the edges of the plaited fibers into a spiral, forming first the crown and then the brim, until the whole becomes a hat. Its characteristic white color and its stiffness is achieved by painting it with several coats of a mixture of blanco de España and fish glue, to which each artisan adds their own ingredient. A secret they are very reluctant to reveal.
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