UCSB’s Center for Basque Studies will host a conference today about Basque whaling in Iceland today in conjunction with an exhibition at Davidson Library.

The Basque Country is an autonomous community geographically located within northern Spain and southern France. The seminar will announce the resumption of Basque language instruction on campus after a seven year hiatus and explore the 1615 massacre of 30 shipwrecked Basque sailors in Iceland. The free public event will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the McCune Conference Room on the sixth floor of the Humanities and Social Science Building.

The library’s Basque whaling exhibit on the first floor of Davidson Library will feature harpoons, flensing objects (used for removing blubber), navigation instruments and other artifacts until mid-March.

Aside from UCSB faculty, including Spanish and Portuguese professor Viola Miglio, UCSB’s Barandiarán Chair of Basque Studies, the symposium will host history and philology researchers from the Basque Country and Iceland.

Although there are almost 30 universities worldwide that offer courses in Basque language, centers devoted to the full range of Basque studies are rare.

“UCSB is one among only three [other] centers for Basque studies in the world,” Xabier Irujo, assistant professor in the Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, said.

According to Irujo, the Basque language Euskara is one of Europe’s oldest and most mysterious languages. Irujo, who will lecture today, said the language dates back to the arrival of the first humans on the European continent.

Even though UCSB is home to many students of Basque heritage, Irujo attributes student interest in Basque studies to the region’s political situation of struggle for autonomy within the technical borders of France and Spain.

“It is a minority politics conflict in Europe, but it can be extrapolated to anywhere in the world [where there is] a clash of identities,” Irujo said.

UCSB Basque lecturer Unai Nafarrate, said the culture remains vibrant and active in modern times despite its roots in antiquity.

“I always tell [my students] … it’s a reality, it’s there, it’s alive,” Nafarrate said.

The university will also host a discussion on sociolinguistic attitudes about Basque, Catalan, Galician and Spanish on Feb. 21.