A Cultural Insult a Day?

Are those upcountry trying to crank up the cultural insults rate of fire to one a day, or just two a week?

Following on from the UK Government’s inexplicable killing this week of all UK funding to the Cornish language, despite their clear domestic and international responsibilities, comes this latest.

gallos_copterHelicoptered in, under great secrecy, perched above the Atlantic breakers, this imposing bronze statue of a regal figure (above) clutching  a sword and gazing back across the ruins of Tintagel castle and towards the Cornish mainland is certainly impressive.

The Guardian reports: “”Brilliant, isn’t it?” said Matt Ward, the property manager of this most atmospheric spot. I think the visitors are going to love it. Imagine it when a sea mist comes in. It will look amazing.”
Press Ward on who the statue represents, however, and he becomes a little more wary. Is it King Arthur? Is that sword Excalibur? “It’s up to you, it’s up to the visitors to decide. You can interpret  it  how you like.””

How will I interpret it?

More cultural vandalism.  Will I love it? I quite like the rendition of form that the sculptor has  done,  so no insults to him, and in some other setting (entrance car park, or a courtyard) it may be quite appropriate. But not there! Not in this century!

The clothing does not date it to the period of the real Kings of Cornwall or of even that of historic Arthur Dux, nor does the sword. It is a history and heritage fraud.

But in the words of an Australian TV ad, wait there is more!

“In its press release, English Heritage said the statue, called Gallos – Cornish for power – was  inspired by the legend of Arthur, but also the castle’s even older royal past.”  

NO it doesn’t mean that as you think it does!  Gallos means ability; capability; know-how; might; power (ie. the power to do something). Nerth is the proper word they should use: might; power; strength; force; energy.  

An elementary Cornish student could have told them that. Did they ask? Who did they ask? Did they Google it?  Why didn’t they ask Cornwall Council’s translation service – you know the one that no government funding is provided for!

Yet, they could do better. Reading this below, you could be forgiven for thinking they actually had some cultural sensitivity … but then their bigger tourist dollar agenda blinds them.

“When the Guardian was given a sneak preview, Jeremy Ashbee, English Heritage’s head curator, was on hand to explain why the statue was not just about Arthur.

He explained that hundreds of fragments of amphorae had been unearthed at Tintagel from around the Mediterranean and north Africa, evidence that wine and olive oil was being imported in the dark ages. Locally made slate stoppers implied the goods were being consumed here and the vessels re-used.

“There was a culture of feasting here, which suggests that the people who lived here were very powerful and had connections with the late Roman and Byzantine empire. I think it’s appropriate to speak of kings.”
Ashbee’s theory is that Tintagel was the summer seat of a dynasty that ruled the kingdom of Dumnonia, which stretched across Cornwall and Devon and into Somerset in the fifth, sixth and seventh centuries.

Ashbee says Tintagel should be about this sort of “real” history as well as Arthurian legend. “We’re trying to balance those two aspects,” he said. “We don’t accept English Heritage is simply glorifying the triumph of the Anglo-Saxons. But you cannot understand Tintagel without understanding how the legends shaped it.””

All spoiled by plonking a statue down on the Island, and a mangling of the language.

If they wanted a non-eponymous name, then in the tradition of the time it could have been something more like ‘strong king’, but get a real speaker to translate it.

Chris Dunkerley
(Cornish Bard, Kevrenor)
Australia          26 April, 2016