Have you met Malaga’s sensational Phoenician Goddess?

Phoenician goddess, Malac

Allow me to introduce you …..

This is Malac, also known as Noctiluca, Goddess of the Moon, the night and of fertility.   This beautiful lady cuts a lonely figure as she stands on the promenade in Rincón de la Victoria, gazing longingly at the sea.

Phoenician goddess, Malac, looks out to sea

Her people, the Phoenicians, who were experienced sailors, navigators and traders, founded the settlement of Malaka (which later developed into the city of Málaga) at the mouth of the Guadalhorce River, around 770BC.  

Yes, Málaga’s history can be traced back more than 2,800 years, making it one of the oldest cities in the world.

Phoenician goddess, Malac in Malaga province, Spain

Málaga’s early inhabitants were mainly engaged in fishing.  They revered their great Goddess, Noctiluca, and worshipped her with offerings and sacrifices at her sanctuary in the present day Cueva del Tesoro (one of only three such marine caves in the world)in Rincón de la Victoria.  

Each year, an image of the deity would be carried in procession and immersed into the sea to provide good fishing for the fishermen.  The Phoenician influence was considerable and many traditions and customs have been bequeathed and continue thousands of years later.  

Phoenician goddess, Malac

To this day, on 16th July each year, sailors and fishermen from villages along the Spanish coast,  parade their statues of the Virgen del Carmen though the streets and introduce her to the sea to bless the waters.

Phoenician goddess, Malac in Malaga province, Spain

The statue of the Phoenician goddess, Malac (Noctiluca) is by well-known Málaga sculptor, Jaime Pimentel.

The divinities may change, but the customs continue.

Malaga: the city that gives you Moore – Henry Moore!

Henry Moore sculpture, Malaga

The Fundación ‘la Caixa’ sponsored exhibition, “Henry Moore: Arte en la Calle” (Henry Moore: Art in the Street) has brought some of Moore’s monumental bronzes to Málaga.

Six of British Surrealist artist, Henry Moore‘s bronze sculptures can be seen on Calle Alcazabilla, in the midst of some of Málaga’s most popular tourist attractions, near to the Alcazaba fortress, the Roman amphitheatre and the old Customs House.

 

Henry Moore sculpture, Malaga

It’s a joy to see these modern pieces against such a historical background.

You only have another two weeks (until June 28th) to view the sculptures in Málaga, before the exhibition moves to other Spanish cities including Santander, Burgos and Pamplona.

Henry Moore sculpture, Malaga

Henry Moore sculpture, Malaga

Henry Moore sculpture, Malaga

Henry Moore would have been delighted that his sculptures are displayed on the streets of Málaga, as he once famously stated: “Sculpture is an art of the open air. I would rather have a piece of my sculpture put in a landscape, almost any landscape, than in, or on, the most beautiful building I know.”

Which is YOUR favourite?

Centre Pompidou – Málaga’s newest artistic masterpiece

Entrance to the Centre Pompidou, Malaga

Málaga is leading the way with a new concept dubbed the “Pop-up Pompidou”, where the general public is offered a selection of around 90 masterpieces from the famous Centre Pompidou’s collection.

Becoming the first outside of France, the Centre Pompidou, Málaga will initially be a city feature for five years, but with an option to extend for a further five years.

The museum also features a programme of exhibitions and workshops aimed at families and younger audiences, making today’s art accessible to the widest possible audience.

Centre Pompidou, Malaga - inside out

We’ve become used to seeing the steel and glass cube (El Cubo) at one end of Muelle Uno (Quay 1), Málaga’s new port and shopping area. What was unclear until now, was that this cube was really a skylight, casting it’s sunlit magic into what has now become the cavernous museum below.

New-look Pompidou Centre, Malaga

Sporting a new look, El Cubo has itself become a piece of art, adorned with coloured panels by artist Daniel Buren, entitled “Incubé”.

I was fortunate to be one of the first people to visit the new Centre Pompidou, Málaga during it’s opening weekend, at the end of March 2015.

Entrance to the Centre Pompidou, Malaga

After entering the Centre Pompidou, the stairs lead you down to the surprisingly large exhibition space inside, where you are taken on a journey through “The Collection”, featuring art of the 20th and 21st centuries.

The works on “human representation” are divided into five galleries, some larger and some smaller, exploring such themes as “Metamophoses”, “Self-Portraits”, “The Man without a Face”, “The Political Body” and “The Body in Pieces”.

Within each gallery the art is represented in the form of sculptures, paintings, installations, films and videos.

Displayed on the walls through the museum are works by Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Georg Baselitz, Joan Miró, Francis Bacon, Antoni Tàpies, Max Ernst, Marc Chagall, Constantin Brancusi and many others.

Ghost by Kader Attia at Centre Pompidou, Malaga

Centre Pompidou, Malaga

Without a doubt, my favourite piece was within the “The Body in Pieces” gallery, by Algerian artist, Kader Attia. “Ghost” is an installation of more than 140 hollow figures, kneeling in straight rows and all facing in the same direction. Each empty figure is made entirely of aluminum foil and alludes to be an anonymous Middle Eastern woman, covered from head to toe by her chador, bowed in prayer.

Ghost by Kader Attia at Centre Pompidou, Malaga

These fragile forms convey a powerful statement.

The installation could be described as vaguely sinister, yet I felt myself both respecting the figures’ privacy of worship, as well as being curiously drawn to inspect the hollow shells further.

 Interactive art at Centre Pompidou, Malaga

I was able to seize the opportunity to become part of two of the interactive exhibits – the first, unknowingly, as I queued with the crowd outside the entrance to the museum, where the moving image is displayed on a wall inside, as a piece of art.

Hidden Faces at Centre Pompidou, Malaga

Later, in “The Man Without A Face” gallery I was encouraged to become an “anonymous witness” by hiding behind a white mask to observe how other visitors react to the artworks (and to me hiding behind the mask!)

Two or three temporary exhibitions are scheduled each year at the Centre Pompidou, Málaga. There is a cafe, auditorium and children’s inter-active play area.

Leaflets are available at the entrance (in several languages, including Spanish and English) suggesting various self-guided routes through the exhibits, depending on the amount of time you have available.

OPENING HOURS:

16th June to 15th September: 11.00am to 10.00pm
16th September to 15th June: 9.30am to 8.00pm

Closed on Tuesdays, January 1st and December 25th.

ENTRY FEES:

Permanent collection: €7, concessions €4
Temporary exhibition: €4, concessions €2.50
Permanent collection + temporary exhibition: €9, concessions €5.50

MY INSIDER TIP: FREE ENTRY after 4pm every Sunday 

WEBSITE: centrepompidou-malaga.es

Malaga: Orange Blossom, Incense and Art

Orange blossom in Andalucia

It’s an exciting time to be in Málaga.

To add to the heavenly scent of the orange blossom (also known as “azahar”), this weekend sees the beginning of Holy Week – with incense wafting into the heady mix.

Easter week in Malaga, Spain

Easter week in Malaga, Spain

Easter week in Malaga, Spain

Semana Santa features seven days of religious passion and spectacle – not only in Málaga city, of course, but in every town and small village throughout Andalucía.

Plus, one of Málaga’s famous sons returns each year to take part –YES, ladies, Antonio Banderas is in town!

Málaga already has a well established art scene with its Picasso museum, Contemporary Art Centre and Baroness Carmen Thyssen museum, but this week has seen the city’s credentials as an Art Hub extending further, with the opening of the Russian State Art Museum from St. Petersburg.

The Russian museum is housed in the beautifully restored Tobacco factory (Tabacalera) to the west of the city centre, near to the already popular Automobile Museum.

And today, Málaga extends it’s cultural connections still further, with the opening of the Málaga branch of the Pompidou Centre – the first outside of France.

Dubbed the Pop-Up Pompidou, the museum is housed underneath El Cubo, a huge glass cube in Muelle Uno – the city’s fabulous port area.

Which museum will YOU visit first?

 

The Lost Village of El Acebuchal

El Acebuchal, Spain

El Acebuchal isn’t so much a village as a 17th century hamlet within the unspoilt mountains and natural park of Sierra Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama.

Situated close to the border of the provinces of Granada and Málaga and coming under the control of Cómpeta, El Acebuchal is actually nearer to Frigiliana in terms of distance – yet a world away from the hoards of holiday-makers visiting the Costa del Sol.

The name comes from the Arabic “acebuche” meaning olive, and even though we know of its existence since 17th century, it is thought to have been inhabited long before then.

Mules in El Acebuchal

El Acebuchal was an important staging post on the ancient mule-trading routes between Competa, Frigiliana, Nerja and the inland city of Granada.

Fresh fish caught on the coast and locally grown crops including tomatoes and raisins were traded for chickpeas, wheat, lentils and other goods not easily available in the nearby mountains.

Life was hard for the inhabitants, as it was in most of rural Andalucía, but became even more difficult when they were caught between the Franco regime and guerrillas in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. Authorities had long suspected the villagers of supporting Republican rebels hiding out in the mountains, by providing them with food and refuge. In truth, the villagers were literally caught in the crossfire, and hassled from both sides.

In the summer of 1948, the villagers paid a heavy price for their isolated location in the mountains when the Guardia Civil ordered that El Acebuchal be cleared of its 200 inhabitants, who were forced to flee, leaving behind their homes, belongings and livestock.

The abandoned mountain hamlet soon fell into disrepair and eventually into ruins, becoming known locally as “The Lost Village” or “Pueblo el Fantasmas” – The Village of Ghosts.

Casa Antonio, El Acebuchal

Antonio's initials in stone = El Acebuchal

Fifty years later in 1998, Antonio García Sánchez, son of one of the original villagers, returned with his wife, Virtudes and family to restore a couple of houses in the village. Once these were completed, they rebuilt a further five houses and the tavern when they noticed an increase of rural tourism in the area.

People were starting to return to El Acebuchal.

This family’s adventure became contagious as other former residents turned their attention back to their old family homes to begin their restoration, so that today, all 36 houses, the chapel, tavern and cobblestone streets have been returned to how they once were.

If you head to El Acebuchal and discover the tavern during the morning, you will probably find Antonio and some of his family gathered on the shady terrace opposite, performing some of their duties.  The tavern restaurant serves dishes appropriate for the mountain environment: choto (kid), lamb, wild boar, rabbit and venison, with delicious home-made cakes and bread.

Inside Bar El Acebuchal

Inside Bar El Acebuchal

Step inside the tavern and you will find the walls proudly lined with old photos of El Acebuchal and its former residents.  Whenever I visit, I always find myself lingering a while, trying to imagine what life must have been like for these people.

With only a handful of permanent residents, most people you see around the streets are visitors, hikers or holidaymakers staying in one of the village rental properties.

El Acebuchal

The countryside near to the isolated hamlet is almost deserted except for the crumbling ruins of long-abandoned cortijos.  There are plunging ravines, tinkling streams, mountain slopes covered with pine trees and the rocky crags of the mountain tops reaching up to the blue skies above.

This area is ideal for visitors who want to get away from it all …. and you can certainly do that in El Acebuchal as there is no telephone reception, no shops, credit cards or internet.

Rural tourism has breathed life back into the village which has risen like a phoenix from the ashes. 

How to get there:

There are main two routes to El Acebuchal.  You can get there from the Cómpeta-Torrox road (A7207), where you turn off near to the Km 8 road marker. Follow the direction signs for El Acebuchal.   Here you will face a 6.5 kilometre un-made mountain track to the village.  It’s not for the faint-hearted as there are no barriers, but it’s certainly drivable – and you don’t need a 4-wheel drive to do it.  Along the way you will drive through a stream and see spectacular scenery.  It’s quite an adventure!

Alternatively, the more popular and shorter route is from the village of Frigiliana.  Take the scenic back-road towards Torrox, and after two kilometres you will see the turn-off sign to Acebuchal on your right.   This road is asphalted – except for an easy 1500 metre section near to the village.

Tell me – would YOU dare to drive along an unmade mountain track with no barriers?