Sunday, June 01, 2014

Fun And Games In Mallorca

In Sa Pobla, the Museum of Old Toys, which shares the Can Planes building with the Museum of Contemporary Art, houses more than 3,000 toys and objects which make it one of the most complete museums in Europe dedicated to toys. It comprises pieces which were mostly handmade between the years 1880 and 1965. The collection was given to the town by Tom Boig Clar in 1998 on the understanding that the town hall would pay 14,000 euros per annum. This has had to be modified. Economic crisis affected the toy museum market as much as any other, and economic crisis hit Sa Pobla harder than most town halls in Mallorca. The museum was closed for a time but now it seems to be operating as normal. Or at least I think it is.

The collection helps to explain why Sa Pobla, with no particular connection to toys, came to have the museum. It still seems a bit odd that it would have such a museum, but there being no obvious rhyme nor reason for something doesn't prevent towns or villages inventing some form of connection. And Biniali is another example.

Biniali is one of those tiny villages stuck in the middle of Mallorca which would normally attract very little attention to itself. I know it only because I used to have friends who lived there. I doubt that I would know it otherwise and to be honest there isn't an awful lot to know. Which explains why Biniali wanted to put itself more on the map and get to be better known.

The seventh Traditional Games Fair is being held in Biniali this weekend. These traditional games are, rather like Sa Pobla's toy museum, a reminder of childhoods past. Unlike Sa Pobla, where the toys come from different places, the games are traditionally Mallorcan, yet one of the main attractions is a game which involves a toy which isn't unique to Mallorca. It is the "baldufa", the spinning top, the local variety being only small and being so linked to Catalan culture that there is an association of friends of the baldufa based in Barcelona.

There are various traditional games in Catalan culture which are of a more sporting nature. One of them is "el mocador". Meaning scarf or handkerchief, it involves two teams of ten players scrapping over the scarf and getting players eliminated until one team no longer has anyone available, thus making the other team the winner. And there is also sport which is very much part of Mallorcan and Balearics culture. So much a part is it that, quite probably, its origins led the Balearics to be called the Balearics.

Though there is some argument as to the name, the Balearics is thought to come from the Greek to describe the skill of the local people with a sling. The "foner balear", Balearics slinger, was that adept that the Carthaginians and the Romans brought foner mercenary troops on board to help in battles. The "fona" is the sling itself, and in Biniali, starting at 11.30 this morning, there is a "tir de fona" championship. A sling shot tournament.

With the advent of firearms, the foner became largely redundant for military purposes, but the fona was still used for hunting. Nowadays, it is really only a sport, and a popular one at that. The first Balearics championship was held in Lluc in 1997, inspiring other towns to stage tournaments. There is now a Balearics federation for "tir de fona" and there are set rules for the playing of its two versions, one of these being to see who can hurl a stone (it's normally a stone, though it can also be a tennis ball) the furthest and the other being a target contest. And of the targets, there are five separate competitions, depending on distances which range from 15 steps to 90 steps (a step equating to 65 centimetres).

The sport is more than just something that gets played at local fairs. There is a Balearics league, and you might well find some "tir de fona" highlights on the local television for what, in 2013, was won by Menorca. It has been transformed into a modern sport, but its roots are truly ancient. If you want to see the skills of the foner, then Biniali is the place to see them today.

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