AGRUPACIÓ PESSEBRISTA DE RODA DE TER

In the town of Roda de Ter there has always been a deep-rooted interest in tradition.

If you went back to a very distant past, long before the makers of pessebres (Nativity Scenes) formed a group within our community, you would see the desire in almost all the homes of Roda de Ter to have a pessebre at Christmas time.  Small pessebres, devoid of all professionalism or artistic planning, were rising like a well brimming with dreams, from a childhood curious about what happened in the stable in Bethlehem.

Over the years, however, the naïvety of those pessebres would take on the form and dimensions of positive creativity, leading gradually to the discovery of new tendencies of quite rich and remarkable artistic sensibility.  And that is how, from simple things, beautiful creations were born, brought to life through the knowledge and ingenuity of the people.

Those humble pessebres of the early twentieth century, and the competitions encouraged by the local newspaper, “Ressò”, and later continued by the Roda Ramblers Association with the excellent participation of entrants of all ages, were interrupted  by the Civil War (1936-9).

When that sad period was over, many community activities began again, and the first of these were the pessebres.  That dream took flight again year after year.

So a small group of people formed, held together by a wealth of enthusiasm and excitement, and at Christmas 1975 they staged the first exhibition of dioramas in a building that could hardly afford shelter from the elements.  The people of Roda turned up there excitedly to visit the attractive plaster pessebres and terracotta figures that speak to us of Christmas.

1º President Sr. Xavier Rosaura

It was from that important step that the group of pessebre makers, or pessebristes, called at that time “Verge del Sol del Pont”, took on a new and promising aspect.  Collaborations with other people whose artistic interests came from various branches of professional work made an excellent and decisive contribution to the perfecting of new structural forms and ideas, through the harmonious marriage of art and technology.  This led a few years later to the pessebre of Roda being known and talked about everywhere.

What is most important, however, is that the pessebristes working at that time in Roda de Ter saw fit to organise a Trobada (an organised gathering) of Catalan pessebristes.  At the trobada that took place in Terrassa in 1978 Roda was nominated to host the 1980 event.  For this reason in 1979 a committee was formed.

The eleventh Trobada of Catalan pessebristes, held in Roda de Ter in October 1980, was a great success, and had more than six hundred participants.  The Art Group of Vic took part in the organisation of the Trobada and among other things published four issues of the magazine, “Trobada”.

Roda’s pessebristes already had several contacts with other societies and knowledge of what had been achieved in the town during the Seventies.  This led in 1980 to the founding of the Roda de Ter pessebrista group.  It was in fact Roda’s first pessebrista group, totally independent of all other groups or societies in the town.  The group’s first committee consisted of the president, Xavier Rosaura, and the members Lluis Aguilar, Josep Carreras, Antoni Godayol, Joan Novellas and Lluis Perdomo.

The new group began work with great energy and very soon the exhibition of pessebres put on every Christmas was deservedly well received by the public.  One can sense, quietly and clearly, in each new edition the artistic development and the impact of the self-sacrifice and perseverence of these fifteen pessebristes spurred on by the hundred members who make up the group.

The main activity every year of Roda’s Pessebrista Group is the staging of an exhibition of dioramas in the Can Planolas social centre, an exhibition of seven pessebres of considerable dimensions with, in addition, an audiovisual pessebre.  The exhibition remains open every year from the beginning of December to mid January.

We are founder members of the Catalan Federation of Pessebristes.  We have attended as a group practically all the annual trobades, as well as the Biennials and other exhibitions, and we always take an example of our work to them.

We should look for a moment at the audiovisual pessebre in the exhibition.  As its name implies, it is a diorama with sound and movement.  On the stage of a miniature theatre (a reproduction of the former Parish Hall) various scenes are presented, all with music and relevant explanations.  While on the subject of this pessebre and all the other dioramas in Roda’s exhibition, we should point out that in our group not one of them is the work of a single pessebrista, but are all collaborative works.  We draw your attention to that because it is the exception rather than the rule in the majority of other exhibitions seen every year.

The true to life nature of our pessebres, or rather, of our work, is what gives it its character.  In an article about the making of pessebres published in the newspaper, “La Vanguardia”, on December 23, 2001, it was said that our group had invented hyper-realism in the pessebre, since our reproductions were a faithful and almost exact copy of what we see in nature.

Although we also show biblical themes in settings such as a desert in Israel or Palestine, or a temple in Egypt, our favourite environment is the countryside.  Nature is so extraordinary that it just has to be copied, attempting to reflect in the diorama everything that we see in each season of the year.  This means representing seascapes of the Costa Brava, snowscapes of the Vall d’Aran and the Pallars, as well as streets, squares and corners of great artistic beauty in villages of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, Castile, Leon, Extremadura, Galicia and Andalusia.

Over all the years of our history, which are many already, we have managed to amass a good collection of pessebre figures.  They are mainly the work of the Barcelona figure makers, the Castells brothers, as well as Josep Traité of Olot, Muns and the Olot workshops.  We also have a photographic archive with a large number of images of many places in our country.  This is our group’s patrimony, as the dioramas are not kept, but are destroyed every year.  There are, of course, exceptions, such as when an itinerant exhibition is to be put on, or when a diorama has gone to a permanent exhibition, (for example the several pessebres that we have in Italy, or in the Museum of Rural Life in L’Espluga de Francolí).

This is the story of a dream that began in the far-off days of a cold and snowy winter that might be seen in a spectacle of this sort.

So the Pessebrista Group of Roda de Ter has invested its efforts in this fine adventure, an adventure of perseverence admired by the people who know every year that when Christmas is coming they will again see what they have been anxiously looking forward to: the intimate world of the pessebre.

It reminds us every year of the landscape on the Road to Bethlehem, of the verses by Sagarra, and even of a small miracle.