“You have to see the gegants,” my friend Cheryl told me. Cheryl, the tour guide and host of my Barcelona visit, knew that I make small wooden figures. So to prepare for my visit, Cheryl located shops that made and sold marionettes and puppets.
But she also knew that I’d want to see Barcelona’s special large figures – the gegants … the giants.
Gegants are huge hollow papier-mache figures that are part of Catalan festivals. Districts and neighborhoods each have their own gegants. Cheryl’s neighborhood had the Gegants de Santa Maria del Mar.
At various times during throughout the year, the gegants are part of neighborhood and religious festivals. But when the gegants aren’t performing, they are on display in the Casa Dels Entremesos, named for the housing that was established in 1439 for the the maintenance and preservation of the gegants.
The display areas in the Casa Dels Entremesos are designed so that you can walk about chest-height with the gegants, when, in fact, they would be towering over you if you saw them in a parade.
The person controlling the gegant wears a structured frame or carcassa that is connected to the upper body of the giant. The operator looks out though a mesh area in the gegant’s clothing. What a balancing act for the gegant operator to carry the towering gegant and perform dance moves without tipping over or bumping into another gegant.
As I looked at the dozens of gegants on display, I noted the detail of the work – the facial expressions, the jewelry, the flowers or handkerchiefs that were held by many of the female gegants, and the fringe and lace on costumes.
Throughout the exhibit, Catalan festival music played, and I almost expected the gegant couples to begin to dance. You can see the gegants dance in this video and others that are posted on YouTube.