A painting in honour of one of Spain's first women-only clubs

May 22, 2022

When Leire Kareaga was invited to participate in a group exhibition celebrating the contribution of women to her home town, Eibar, in the Basque province of Gipuzkoa, she immediately thought of producing a large-scale painting in honour of one of Spain’s first women-only clubs.

Founded in 1951 with 600 members, Goi Argi ran its own support centre for women, organizing sewing and cooking classes, cultural events, and fund-raising activities for social projects such as the construction of an old people’s home.

Still active today, Goi Argi’s immense contribution to Eibar’s social development made it an obvious choice for her artwork, Leire recalls. She decided to create a large-scale painting providing an allegorical account of its activities.

The result is the 2.8 metres high painting, entitledZuena bai dela meritua, that dominates the exhibitionTraces of the women of Eibaron show in St Jean Pied de Port until May 28 2022. Beneath the pediment of a temple-like structure reminiscent of a fairground stage, Leire portrays some of the women who led Goi Argi’s development.

From left to right: Mercedes Kareaga, Goi Argi’s founder, is giving a lecture; Teresa Gantxegi, one of her closest associates and the recipient, at the age of 87 in 2010, has just been honoured with a prize for her contribution to local social and human values; Carmen Apellaniz wears a shirt of San Sebastian’s Real Sociedad football club, typical gear for Goi Argi’s members during carnival time the 1980s; another unidentified member of the club is dressed up as Groucho Marx; and, by a table at the doorway to the kitchen, Felisa Loyola shows a book of the recipes that she taught members.

Seated on the right of the painting is the artist, surveying the scene, while on the left the sinister figure in overcoat and dark glasses recalls a 1972 artwork,El espectador de espectadores, by the group of artists who worked under the name of Equipo Crónica in the waning years of the Franco regime.

Other artistic allusions scattered around the painting include a bowl of apples on the table recalling Maurice Denis’s 1900 paintingHomage to Cézannewhich features one of Cézanne’s celebrated paintings of apples. On the easel in the centre of the room is a painted display of some of the prizes offered in Goi Argi’s fund-raising lotteries.

To the left, an improvised metal prop barely supports the pediment above, at whose apex, beneath the eye of God, is a caricature of Franco. On the right-hand side, a sculptured caryatid, symbolizing the established order of the Franco regime, looks apprehensively out of the corner of her eyes at what is going on.

Beside it, a smaller painting marks another incident in the history of Eibar, its destruction by aerial bombing in April 1937 at the height of Spain’s Civil War.

On 12 April 1937, Italian planes that had taken off from the nearby airfield of Vitoria unleashed 21 bombs on the town. It was just one day before the destruction by German bombers of the town of Guernica, commemorated in Picasso’s famous painting.

Leire Kareaga: “Zuena bai dela meritua” (2018) & “Amama in memoriam” (2022)

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