Cómpeta’s latest artwalk has come and gone. I didn’t see all of it – there were 22 locations with work by 38 artists from many different countries, live music in various places and the Easter processions, so seeing all of it would take some doing. I managed to run in and see a few exhibits and greatly enjoyed doing so. Here is something of what I saw.
The Ceramica la Posada giftshop: wonderful paintings and ceramics by Rex Gates (above). In the upper room Laura Harrison was displaying her photographs. These were simple shots of anything that caught her eye, such as tree bark patterns, coloured glass panes or the mooring line between ship and dock. Perhaps it is my interest in small creatures but I thought this macro work was brilliant.
Artwalk #3 beside the Antiques shop showed work by Hendrieka Osephius, inspired by the contrast between nature and human construction.
I liked the demonstration of bronze sculpting at Artwork #4, a reminder of the hard labour (as well as skill) involved; Daan van Neerven told me the molten bronze is at 1500 degrees, which is quite a risk to manage.
Then there was Artwalk #5 at the primary school, displaying the younger children’s work on the outside wall (you couldn’t do that in the UK) with bigger paintings on the main building.
Inside I found Yani playing a keyboard and singing Italian songs in a rich baritone. He’s the art teacher at the secondary school of Alojaina, which collaborated with Cómpeta’s secondary in the art project. The walls were covered with their work, and the paintings on the tables expressed a progression through the four elements. I hope you will forgive my giving a little extra space to the work of these students.
In Artwalk #8 the big seascapes with flecks of colour stood out.
I liked them but think I preferred the black and white work displayed here.
There were also huge fabric wall hangings, made by Beatriz Constán Martín, apparently from recycled scraps. Beatriz also made jewellery also using circular shapes and vivid colours.
I was tempted again into Artwalk #10, Galería Luz de la Vida, opposite. Always beautiful work here. Amazing statues, fabulous paintings from a range of artists.
This year they were serving drinks and tapas in the lower room near a tiny garden. I got here late on Saturday when many exhibits were closing and several exhausted artists were crashing out here. Anna Barbara Lenzin was still at work, though, up on the scaffolding to make a new mosaic at gallery’s back wall.
I caught the display of Bettina Winther’s very calming paintings – again inspired by nature, using very simple colours.
Artwalk 12# was the Galería Centro de Bellas Artes and housed work by various artists. I especially loved the bright colours used by Carin Tegner but all were interesting.
The last exhibition I made – I missed out most regrettably on 15-23 – was Artwalk 14 – the townhall exhibition rooms. These included the excellent Phillippa von Krusentierna, who also displays in the Canillas and who makes strange manikins and strange simple paintings.
I hope this gives you some idea of the enormous range and interest of the event. I can’t convey the atmosphere, enhanced by the celebration of Easter at the same time. Then there was music – Mar y Luz performed in one street, Mitch France in another and on the Sunday there was a jam session in the main square. And I wish I had seen Merel Holleboom’s work – her strange machines are always fun. Oh well. There’s always next year…
It’s on again: the Cómpeta Art Walk, where dozens of artists exhibit within the town. Last year I thought the event was terrific – have a look at my Artwalk post to see what was involved.
You can expect artists from many different disciplines, of different nationalities and with radically different styles. And judging from last year, there’s a high probability of a great atmosphere, too.
It runs for 4 days, but skips Good Friday in respect for the Easter celebrations, so 12th, 13th, 15th and 16th from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. I believe there are over 35 artists involved this year…so put your walking shoes on and check it out!
Sedella lies south of the main bulk of La Maroma, the great mountain of the Sierra Tejeda, which rises dramatically above this attractive village. Like all the villages it is not far from water – the Rio de la Fuente passes just to the east. It is surrounded, on lower slopes especially, with farmed lands but to the north you are immediately into the natural park. Walking routes bring you to the Molino Montosa, an attractive old mill; go above it and you find first a clear demonstration of the water system and then the reservoir used to supply it.
From the mill you can go on to the ‘buitrería’ – this was a vulture sanctuary for injured birds. There is still a birders’ hide, but this is essentially obsolete since the resident birds that were fed here (leading to visits from large flocks of wild vultures) have now died. I still live in hope of seeing what a friend once witnessed: a flock of more than 20 taking off from the bank below the hide. Failing this I can always head to a small picnic site, to round off this nice walk with an encounter with a vulture that is always happy to pose for photos.
Sedella’s neighbours are the nearby Árchez, which is easy walking distance (see Silk to Salt) and the more distant Canillas de Aceituno (though Canillas de Albaida is actually closer).
I have heard different accounts of the origins of the town’s name: a Cómpeta couple told me years ago that it derives from silk, the Spanish word being ‘seda’. Silk production was a significant industry here during Muslim times. However, other sources say different. Guide writer Hilary Gavilan, Andalucia.com, and the Diputación all mention the Latin word Sedilia, meaning rural possession as a possible name source. The latter two also mention Sedille as used by the Visigoths. Then there is the fact that, post-reconquest, it was referred to as Xedalia (an Arabic word, surely). Finally there is a long-standing tradition that the Catholic Queen Isabela created the place name on being told of a battle that took place nearby, when she said, “Sé de ella“, which means I know about it. No mention, it seems of silk. Perhaps the ‘seda’ in Sedella is mere coincidence.
I can wholeheartedly agree with Gavilan’s assessment of the town in her book The Axarquia, East of Málaga: “a delightful village with interesting alleyways and narrow streets. Well worth exploring”. Like so many of these villages there are lovely streets, attractive metalwork balconies and unexpected views.
As well as walks to the Puente Romano, the Molino Montosa or the Buitrería, there is great pleasure in just strolling through the streets. There is church and chapel – the Chapel de Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza has a forecourt built with embedded stones in front of it, an old threshing circle. The little townhall is in an attractive square, just near the bus stop. There are several attractive and interesting mosaics in this square giving explanations of the towns history. There is also the old public wash-house, with the spring waters that come down from the sierra filtered through a dozen sinks. I imagine the centuries of work that would have been done by the town’s women here – hand washing all, linen, all garments, all fabrics – and in a climate like this, they would have needed endless washing. No more though: it has now been turned into a mini garden, decorated and full of plants. With such a simple adaptation they turn the utilitarian into an unexpected attraction.
Centro de Visitantes
This is the visitors centre for the Natural Park and an attractive facility with good displays, maps, explanations, and even some conference rooms for visits from the great and good, as well as toilets and a little shop. I wish it were open a little more, but it is worth taking a look round.
Restaurante Lorena is the only one I’ve eaten in here, being served good, traditional local food, though the boars’ heads displayed don’t appeal. The owners, who cure their own cheese and ham, are very pleasant, in spite of being Real Betis fans (I’m Malaga, of course).
On the same street (Villa del Castillo) there are two others, Chiringuito and Meson de Franco, which seems like a well-set up bar. In the Plaza, near the San Andrés Apostol church, there is also a bar. It is pretty basic but I’ve been perfectly happy to enjoy a beer or two here after a long walk.
Fiestas & Events
January 17th: Fiesta de San Antón. Like the Canillas de Albaida fiesta (also the 17th) there is a procession followed by the blessing of animals that have been part of the procession.
Easter: several sources say that the Easter celebrations in Sedella are particularly deeply felt and so attractive to watch.
August: Celebration of the Day of Our Lady of Hope (to whom the chapel is dedicated)
That means yes, it is going to rain. We’ve had a proper rainy old Saturday, from Friday afternoon through to Saturday afternoon in waves of light drizzle, 3 minute lull, torrential downpour, steady drizzle and start again.
It is quite something to see this. The villages are so up and down, they have so many narrow alleys and steep, stepped streets that the whole thing becomes a water park. There are drains and vents bubbling and overflowing, terrace drainholes spouting waterfalls from three stories up, rivers gushing broadly across the street, damp spatterings from every overhand. There is so much water in every direction you expect the whole compact village to lurch, tilt sideways, wrench loose and float away.
Quite a lot of the land does. A real humdinger of a storm brings a fair bit of erosion with it; we have landslips and rain damage. The landscape here has been built by erosion aided and abetted by humanity’s unending urge to chop down trees and light fires, and barely slowed by our counter-measures of terracing and replanting. Everywhere you look you see the marks of water – the sculpted limestone, the steep valley sides, the deep gullies of busy little mountain streams.
It is probably not the time to go for a walk. I can vouch for the experience of being caught in a violent thunderstorm high up on the ridge of the valley being fairly unpleasant. My companion on that day insisted, “Foot on the accelerator, lets get home!” But an on-off rainy day isn’t always a bad walk; you can have beautiful patches of light and shade; the land can seem wonderfully fresh, the cloudscapes beautiful. If you get high enough you might even get above the cloud and look down on rainbows!
That said, on the occasions when I have persauded others to come out in the teeth of the weather they are not over-enthusiastic. I tend to find them putting their hoods up and heading away. Been in Spain too long, I guess, got a bit nesh.
I must admit, as the rain hammers on the shutters and pings off the railings, now I am too. Brrrr.
I mentioned, in writing on Cómpeta recently, the wealth of artists and art that is hidden in these small villages and, very much in passing, a guitarist who was due to perform in a Canillas de Albaida. I remembered this on the day itself and in spite of being “Too Busy” decided to take a peek anyway, even if I could only stay for a few songs.
The performance was held in the old fish market on Calle Fortuna, just below the main square. This does not sound promising, does it? However, it has been converted into an art gallery by Philippine von Krusenstierna,
a Swedish artist and ‘Canillera’ of many years. It is clean and tiled, with a high ceiling creating space, and a couple of small counters (easily converted to serve drinks). It is very small – no more than a large room – but Phillipa has made the most of it, filling the walls with her strange, surreal artwork. I came to the double iron gates wondering where the audience would fit in.
By squeezing, it turned out. There were banks of chairs, all but two taken, and some people standing. Someone was passing out tiny beakers of red and white wine from the counters. I looked around at the shadowed art on the walls, and listened to the warm hush of voices – the noise of many people being quiet because here was the guitarist, Keith James, explaining how the songs he was singing had caught his attention or were poems which he had set to music, and playing a hypnotic guitar. He played Lenard Cohen songs, one based on a poem of Federico Garcia Lorca, he played sad love songs and poems. And the music gained echos from the intimate atmosphere of the tiny gallery, the candlelight, the strange, almost sinister artwork looking down on us all. What a treat. What a pleasure to enjoy such a complex experience in such a setting!
The New York of the Sayalonga Valley! Cómpeta is one of the larger white villages. It is also distinctive in its cosmopolitan nature, with a big immigrant community – about 800 residents are foreign – mainly British, but many other nationalities are represented. It lives on tourism as well as agriculture and building – domestic tourism, at the Noche del Vino and Semana Santa, for example – as well as international tourism all year round.
I’ve often heard visitors express disappointment or disapproval at the effect of this modern influx of foreigners on the town. “Uff! I can hear more English than Spanish!” they say, or “Hardly an authentic pueblo blanco, is it!”
I understand that people who head to the hills wanting to escape the costa-del-sol cliché don’t want to see British tourists. But there a limitations for the residents to the ‘quaint’ villages that are preferred and, in my opinion there have been terrific benefits – and not just financial ones – to the development that Cómpeta has seen over the last 50 years, including the arrivals from abroad.
The town is so beautiful and its hillside location is so picturesque that it has long attracted artists and would-be artists. I do not think this has overwhelmed the town’s Spanish culture – just enriched it, with new ideas and new audiences. I think the many small businesses that have grown up based initially on foreign visitors have given the town a vibrancy and energy it would not otherwise have.
An example of this is the yearly ‘Art walk‘, held around Easter week, which was begun by foreign artists but embraces many nationalities, reaches out to Canillas de Albaida and just gets better every year. There was music in the square this time – I briefly saw the talented Yanique and friends playing there – but then, there is almost always music on in and around Cómpeta. Even the cuisine here seems to me to have been enriched and enhanced by the influence of visitors from many different countries to become more varied and interesting, whether you are having Spanish tapas or a Moroccan tagine.
There is lots on here because there are people who want to make things happen. Everywhere you go at all times of year – even a rainy weekday in the first week of December, for example, you will see posters telling you of different activities, classes, demonstrations, performances: I noticed the “Encuentra de los coros” – choirs from 5 villages will be meeting in the church to sing together – an ‘unplugged’ music event in restaurant Casa Paco, a crooner in a bar in the countryside, a guitarist performing in a tiny art-gallery in Canillas – a Christmas market, and a performance of artistic skating in Torrox! That’s more events being advertised than I remember happening in a year in the dull, dormitory town (30,000 popn) I grew up in!
Cómpeta is a cracking small town with a wealth of facilities and activities, a vibrant cultural scene to enjoy and the most wonderful natural landscape all about it to discover.
Cafés/Restaurantes (lots): Too many to count. Of particular note, El Recreo – just
behind the townhall, a cafe with a nice open patio; the 3 cafes on the square and plenty of restaurants – La Tetería, which also has occasional curry nights (though service can be slow); El Pilon up the steps; Oscars just off the square (especially good range for vegetarians); Hotel Balcon – the menu del dia I had there in the summer was superb; Pamplona up above Plaza Vendimia – worth the walk.
Shops: 3 medium sized supermarkets; many small shops including boutiques, bazaars and hardware shops; 3 chemists. There is also a weekly market held in the open air carpark (shut for the day) on Saturdays.
There’s also a Medical Centre (Consultario), Police Station (beside the townhall), Nursery, Primary and Secondary Schools, Tourist office (at the bottom of the hill near the bus stop), banks, estate agencies and more. You get the picture. Of special interest to walkers, the adventure agency Salamandra have their shop and office near bus stop and tourist office – you can’t miss them.
Accomodation: Hotel Balcon is the main hotel. The Estate Agencies, of which there are at least 4 in the centre of the town, can help with rentals – or you can find hundreds on the web.
Transport: Buses 3 per day to Malaga via Caleta and Torre del Mar
January 20th Feria del Barrio, celebrated on San Sebastian’s day as he is the town’s patron saint, a procession followed by a town picnic.
May 3rd, Día de la Cruz – again a procession, this time up to Cruz del Monte in the first hills above the town, for a ‘merienda’ – a tea-time picnic.
March-April Semana Santa: processions from Palm Sunday through to Easter Sunday. Many of these are spectacular, with the icons taken from the church and carried around the village on great plinths by smartly dressed (but sweating) locals to the accompaniment of the town’s brass band. In addition, recent years have seen a passion play performed in the main square and other parts of the village on Good Friday.
Late July: Summer Feria, the usual 3 days of partying and fair-ground fun, usually including live music and public dancing, a foam fiesta and other events, always accompanied by letting off loads of ‘cohetes’ – incredibly loud banders. Great fun or noisy disruption, depending on your mood, age, company and circumstances.
August 15th : Noche del Vino
This is Cómpeta’s unique festival, celebrating the start of the grape harvest, the local moscatel grape and the wine produced from it. The posters for it are created from the winner of the yearly competition by local artists and are now a collector’s item.
There are events through the week and on the day markets and stalls sell local goods. In Plaza vendimia there are displays of traditional grape pressing and people queue for free plates of migas (fried breadcrumbs) with bacalao (cod) and grapes, along with samples of Cómpeta wine. There are performances of flamenco dancing and band music. In the evening, more free wine and, in the main plaza, speeches, prizes and flamenco artists performing.
September 6th/7th Noche de las Lumbres
Traditionally, with the grape harvest coming to an end, people in the countryhouses and farms would collect all the old and broken boxes, baskets and planks and build a bonfire (‘lumbre’) in honour of the Virgin Mary, with the family celebrating by eating peanuts and drinking anis round the fire and hoping (after enough anis, perhaps) to see her image in the flames, presaging a good harvest. Nowadays fires are lit in various parts of the village as well as in the countryside and there are sometimes firework displays. .
“Not much like Sunny Spain, is it?” the tourists groan as they huddle around the gas-heaters in tented ‘open-air’ bars as the rain patters on the cover above.
“La tierra la necesita…” – the land needs it – sighing villagers, struggling up the hills with umbrellas tell each other “Ya ve…”
We have been getting weather recently. The “100% chance Precipitation” kind, interspersed with a couple of lovely sunny days. Summer-only tourists find it odd to see the clouds here and shocking to endure rain, but in our sea-to-mountain landscape fogs and rolling clouds are very much part of the scene.
Okay, so the oppressive condensing fog – which glooms-out the mountains, the valley, the village, the house next door and leaves the cars crawling along in second gear – the mountains is not really a big thrill.
But even fogs have their moment: one early morning in late June – well into the hot season – I was climbing the Huerta Grande and was delighted to find a thickening mist cooling my hot muscles, blowing across the path, confusing the thread lacewings who were making their brief appearance just then. In summer it’s a privilege to be in cloud!
When storm clouds gather on the mountains threatening a valley still brightened by sunlight the drama of the scene is wonderful.
Often low-lying cloud, clinging to the hillside and valley bottoms, rolls slowly inland, until hilltops are turned into islands and higher villages find themselves perched above a sunlit sea of mist.
As rain and mists clear, the damp earth smells fresh and clean, the colours look more vibrant, the small birds – warblers, thrushes, finches – are active again – everything seems renewed. Perhaps the Axarquia is most beautiful after rain?
Beautiful village, tightly packed into the hillside by the deep gorge of the Rio Salares. They have made a really good job of creating a modern wide paseo linking to the main road at the foot of the village, that allows the Salareños space to park their cars when they are not using it for fiestas and parades, while keeping the maze of narrow white-washed streets in its orginal form. A retaining wall keeping the steep bank above the town in place has been turned into a beautiful and striking garden with steps up the slope and an arbour at the top. Alas, that was completed before the “crisis” and the nearby wall is rather ugly brick – I hope it can be transformed eventually.
The village’s symbol is its mudejar tower. Attractive and unusual the ancient tower was once the minaret of the town’s mosque and considered a historical monument. I had begun to wonder if the whole thing wasn’t starting to lean over when, early this year, the whole thing disappeared behind scaffolding. Now it looks brand-spanking new, but I’m afraid ‘rebuilt’ is the adjective that springs to mind, rather than ‘renovated’.
The river and the little bridge (‘puente arabe’ – though possibly built by the Romans) are very attractive. In truth the whole town is, and a great place for several lovely walks, even before your consider the fiestas. This village is home to the ‘Fiesta Arabe’ in September, one of my favourite of the village fairs. It also boasts Bar El Theo, a bar-restaurante I have frequently taken weary walkers. It might be described as ‘authentic’ or even ‘rough-and-ready’ but we have always had a warm welcome from the rotund Theo and his diminitive wife María. Besides, the food he serves is excellent – fresh, tasty, plentiful and great value for money. I have long been amused to find “Bar el Theo” graffiti’d onto rocks on various tracks that might link the walker to the restaurant after a good hike.
Cafés/Restaurantes (2): Bar El Theo, Mesón Los Arcos
Shops: 1 small supermarket
Accomodation: The townhall site lists 4 country houses available as accomodation.
March-April Semana Santa: processions from Palm Sunday through to Easter Sunday.
Late July: summer feria (in honour of Santa Ana)
Mid September: Festival Arabe Andalusi is a marvellous Arabia themed weekend fiesta, with belly dancing, dressage, flamenco, falconry and general fun. One of the best fiestas of them all! Click on the link to see my blog from this year’s Fiesta.