Vincent the Basketmaker - Vincent le vannier - Vanie
Vincent the Basketmaker is doubly important. He represents the important basket-making trade in Provence and Vincent, a specific character in Frederic Mistral's poem Mireille.
Vincent sits, making a big willow basket (a "banasto" - used since time immemorial throughout Provence), his wide-brimmed hat at his side, and surrounded by his tool (the traditional billhook common to southern Europe - used for cutting smaller woody material such as shrubs and branches) and the willow, reeds, and cane essential to his craft.
Vincent is from Vallabrègues (a village near Avignon and Arles, which is said to date up to 3,500 years before the birth of Christ) located on the left bank of the Rhone river. The flooding of the river did indeed create disasters, but those floods also spread fertile clay resulting in the growth of willow reeds. At first nomadic craftsmen were the basket makers, but they set down their roots in Vallabrègues. Thus, the basket-making industry was firmly established in Vallabrègues by the 13th century. At one time 450 out of a population of 1,818 individuals in Vallabrègues were basket-makers. Vallabrègues became the biggest basket-producer in France, until baskets were no longer widely in use for transport, carrying etc. To restore their name as the basket-maker center of France, in 1990 the village decided to create a festival and parade held every year. Many shops sell home-made baskets and a museum commemorates the unique tradition of the village.
In the early 19th century Vallabrègues attained even more acclaim with Frederic Mistral's romantic poem Mireille, and the opera by Charles Gounod based on Mistral's poem. The essence of the story revolves around Mireille and her forbidden lover, Vincent - the basket-maker from Vallabrègues. Vincent as a basket-maker is perceived by Mirielle's father, a farmer, to be beneath her station. Both the poem and the opera are a story rich in the tapestry of Provencal traditions, beliefs, and customs.
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