Although contemporary Japanese otaku culture is by far dominant at Bogotá geekfest SOFA, it’s not unique. Every year, a merry band of troubadours, knights and damsels put on a grand show for the public. This group are known as Pendragon, Colombia’s foremost medieval re-enactors.
Oli Pritchard had the good fortune to be able to speak to Andrea Gutiérrez, otherwise known as Husfrejya, who tells us about the idea behind Pendragon from the comforting warmth of a pabellón
“We’re happy to be inside,” she admits “because obviously the rain has affected us before, with everything wet and the people preferring to stay inside and forgetting what’s outside. Being inside allows many more people to see us”.
They have created a beautiful medieval village, with everything under circular tents and a plethora of games and activities rumbling on all around us. Lute music drifts above, lightly filling us with joy and merriness. Every now and again we have to dodge a flying combatant from the rope game – where a man swings a rope at a group of people trying to rob a prize from beneath his feet.
It’s far from the only activity though, as Andrea explains: “The permanent activities are, for example, archery, which is one of the most famous and most popular. There’s also board games, music, dancing and games like the game of baúl or the rope game you see behind us.” The archery appears to be very much in demand, and Andrea readily agrees, saying it’s “always the most popular. It’s constantly there, and there’s always a chance for the public to have a go.”
These were bloody times, of course, and that’s not been forgotten. Husfrejya’s eyes light up with a Viking’s bloodlust as she eagerly tells us: “There’s a ring for combat, so we have exhibitions of combat with different forms of arms.” A lot, it appears, “We have lances, axes, various types of swords” says Husfrejya, with a smile. “People like anything where other people get hit.”
At the same time there’s a lot going on that represents day-to-day life, like the kitchen and the woodcarvers. “We have a kids’ zone, where they can play with catapults to fell walls, play on wooden horses and put on armour for photos”, explains Andrea.
Pendragon is hearty yet small in number, so they also incorporate other middle-age themed fans, which means there are fellows strolling about in Japanese samurai armour. “In Europe it’s easy to have groups of Vikings, of Romans, or Celts, but here we are all together in Pendragon, with various types of Eurasian civilisation from 500 to around 1500 AD.” I wonder which is the most popular and the reply comes quick as an arrow “Vikings. But also Christian Europe, the knights.”
The beautiful suits of armour are only for display. Andrea explains that they get oxidised or damaged if they get used too much, but also that “everyone is responsible for making their own suits and armour. Everything you see here is the product of their research into their civilisation and what they can make. We do import some things, like a few helmets and, mainly, swords. We’re constantly trying to experiment and try new things. It’s a learning process, so in the future we might be able to make more things here. Most of the helmets you see are made here as well.” It seems to me like a wonderful way to run a group.
If you fancy loosing off some arrows or putting a loved one in the stocks, why not get in touch with Pendragon? “SOFA is the biggest event of the year, a window to so many people to show our culture, but we have various other meetings throughout the year” affirms Andrea. “We’re very thankful to SOFA for allowing us this opportunity, and of course to all the people who have stopped to see us.”