Picasso, all saints, history and sunshine

I don’t have the patience for Picasso. Don’t misunderstand me. I like his work and he rightfully holds his place in the art world – but I get a bit bored of much of his work quite quickly. Perhaps I don’t have the right attitude or perhaps I am being deliberately obtuse when it comes to his work. I thought I would test out my theory and go to the Picasso museum in Malaga today. He was born here in Malaga but his family moved away to the north of Spain when he was about ten years old. His socialist leanings, his painting of Guernica – one of my favourite paintings – forced him into exile in France during the reign of Franco’s dictatorship. Still Malaga claims Picasso as its own.

Last night, I took in a sunset drink on a roof top. I went home early, not just to get up early, but to avoid the Halloween festivities that were happening on every street. Today is All Saints Day. In the Catholic church, it is a Holy Day of Obligation which means you must attend Mass. In Spain they take it one step further and it is a Public Holiday. Lucky for me as this means Spaniards get up even later than they would normally, so I am off to the Picasso Museum without much of a crowd. In fact, the streets are almost deserted with the exception of the odd stray cat. Apart from the permanent Picasso exhibition there is a second, temporary, exhibition ‘We are completely free’. I get the double pass to see both exhibitions. I walk around the galleries looking at Picasso until I spot a sign and a staircase going down. The sign says “Archaeological Site”. I go down the stairs. I am the only person there. The silence is beautiful. I had not realised that the ground beneath the museum preserves important evidence of Malaga’s past. Malaga is the second oldest city in Spain and one of the oldest in Europe. The Phoenicians and the Carthaginians were here well before the Romans. There are exceptional Phoenician, Roman and Moorish remains, as well as those of the Renaissance palace. In Australia, I get excited about bits and pieces that have been dug up from sites that date back to the early days of the colony. Here on display was not just the ancient bricks and stones of houses, the ancient bricks and pavers of Roman roads, or the ancient embedded earthen jars for storage of food and water but there were other fragments of Malaga’s history some dating back to the seventh century BC. I walked around the walkway taking it all in with just the sounds of my footsteps and my breath.

Once, I finish marvelling at history, I visit the temporary exhibition ‘We are completely free’. It is an exhibition of women artist and surrealism. It is an astonishing, international collection of art created by women who would have been painting around the time Nina was touring Spain. Now I am marvelling at the achievements of woman who lived in a man’s world of the 20s and 30s. Nina included.

I walk back out into the sunshine and onto the palm shaded streets. Malaga has – on average – 350 days of sunshine every year. The smell of the river, canals and drains are further proof of this fact. It is now almost midday and the Spanish people are coming out, hitting the cafes for breakfast, which will then turn into lunch before returning home in the evening and coming out again at 9:00 or 10:00 pm for dinner. I can’t manage this. I have been trying to get into and onto Spanish time but years of conditioning of the nine to five (plus) make it difficult. I head back to my room to work on the logistics for tomorrow. Tomorrow, I am taking a break from Nina. After all I am completely free and it’s good to take a break from your travel companion once and a while. My friend Jan, from the Camino, recommended I visit Estepona. It is on the way but I am cursing Nina and her reluctance to travel backwards in the same direction. She has me travelling in what is essentially the size of a big six. Starting from the inside and doing a big circle before shooting up to the north east for Madrid. I shall meet up again with Nina in Cadiz. Nina spent just one night there but I hear it is worth staying a few nights. After all, Cadiz is the oldest city in Spain.

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