Thursday 14. January 2010

The culture and language of North Kurzeme in Latvia

In the Lunch Lecture Friday January 15, Lauma Gulbe, a master's student in Coastal and Marine Management at the University Centre, will discuss a film project that she ran in Latvia shortly after she graduated from Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences with a degree in Tourism Organization and Management.


The goal of the project was to make two films and issue a DVD for non-commercial distribution. The films tell a story of the life and times of people that lived along the coast of North Kurzeme in Latvia. The films take up topics such as what the coast of North Kurzeme looked like 100 and 200 years ago, how people lived and how ships were built and sailed. The films also discuss the Livonian language that was spoken in the area but is now nearly extinct since the last native speaker recently passed away. The language none the less still has the hope to be restored since it is well recorded and has a legal status in Latvia.


In her talk Lauma will give a short overview of Latvian culture and the historical background that inspired the story told in the films. She will also show some clips from the films that can be viewed on the following website.


The talk will be in English and will be held in the cafeteria of the University Centre. It starts at 12.10 and is open to all who are interested.


About the films:


"The Closed Coast" takes us back to the beginning of the 20th century in Lūžņa village - Lūž kilā in the Livonian language - when it was one of twelve Livonian fishing villages along the Baltic Sea coast. By the end of the 20th century, Lūžņa was no longer a village - just a bus stop with one road to an unnamed missile base and another road featuring a landscape with a roof of a former living house. A grand radio observatory and a town for military personnel, called Zvyozdochka, was located in the middle of the forest nearby. However, in the 1980s it was still possible to meet and speak with a few of the original inhabitants of Lūžņa - Lizete Švanenberga, Alvīne Mūrniece, and Ernests Mūrnieks.


"The Century of Sailing Ships" is a story about faith in oneself, faith in one's nation, and ardent tenacity of purpose. The personality and ideas of Krišjānis Valdemārs - a spiritual leader of the first Latvian National Awakening and influential promoter of Latvian-Livonian seafaring - permeate the whole story. In the early 19th century Latvian peasants were still serfs, but they trusted to Valdemārs' ideas. So naval schools were established and ship building industry launched along the coast where Latvian and Livonian people lived. In the late 19th century they already had their own merchant fleet and sailors from this area used to be met in almost every sea port all around the world. This story takes us to the Livonian villages where Livonian ships and their captains began their sea voyages during the 19th and early 20th centuries