By Vincent West
GUERNICA, Spain, (Reuters) - A group of chocolatiers in Spain's Basque Country are creating a version of "Guernica", Pablo Picasso's masterpiece representing the bombing of a small Basque town in 1937, to showcase their skills and celebrate their cultural heritage.
Guernica, one of the world's most famous paintings, was Picasso's response to the bombardment, carried out by war planes from Nazi Germany and fascist Italy to assist the forces of fascist general Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War.
The immense cubist painting, which hangs in the Reina Sofia art gallery in Madrid, depicts a harrowing scene in black and white full of tormented human and animal figures.
For many Basque people, the memory of the bombing and Picasso's visceral artistic response form part of their cultural identity.
To mark the 85th anniversary of the bombing, a group of about 40 chocolatiers from a local association called Euskal Gozogileak have been collaborating to produce an interpretation of Guernica made out of chocolate of different colours.
"There is this part of suffering, this part of peace. There is a message of hope," said Lorena Gomez, the group's president. "For us it is also very emblematic of our homeland."
The project is a technical challenge due to the vast size of the painting, which is almost 3.5 metres high and 8 metres wide. The chocolatiers, who have been working in an industrial kitchen in the small town of Lezo, have tackled it by making 14 separate chocolate slabs.
"We have had to match up different templates, colours and images and we had our work cut out for us," said Ismael Sayalero, one of the chocolatiers involved. "Maybe we missed a few details but I think it turned out pretty well."
The final result will be shown in several locations, including in the town of Guernica.
As well as partaking of an important event in the cultural calendar, the chocolatiers wanted to draw attention to the high level of craftsmanship their profession requires.
"Confectionery has always been the poor sister of haute cuisine," said Gomez. "What we want is to bring the sector the recognition it deserves, like fine dining."
(Writing by Nathan Allen, editing by Estelle Shirbon)