Throughout November illustrator Kavel Rafferty will be reporting from her adopted city of Barcelona, exploring its hidden corners and its idiosyncrasies. The series begins with a neon owl, battered but unbowed.
In 2007 most of the defunct neon signs in Barcelona were demolished, but this owl, which had become such a well-loved symbol of the city, was saved. He’s known locally as El Búho in Castellano and in Catalan as El Mussol, and he dates from the 1970s, built by advertising and signage company Rètols Roura. In his prime, lit up in glowing neon, he must have looked amazing.
The poor old thing had his luminous eyes knocked out a couple of years ago in a storm and he was starting to look very sorry for himself, battered and forlorn. Thankfully Barcelona council, along with the Municipal Institute of Urban Landscape and Quality of Life and the advertising company Verona Comunicació, started a joint restoration project last year and he now has his mesmerising yellow eyes back, so he's looking a little more healthy and back to his unblinking self.
All these years on he stands perched above the buildings where Avinguda Diagonal meets Passeig de Sant Joan, just five minutes’ walk from my studio, and not too far from the more famous Sagrada Familia. And El Búho seems a much more fitting mascot for Barcelona and Cataluña than Gaudi’s church, keeping a watchful eye over the city’s inhabitants.
I'll be leaving Barcelona in three months, moving down south to Valencia; one thing I'll really miss about this city, apart from all the fabulous friends I've made, is this funny fellow.
Viva El Buho!
You can see more of Kavel's work on her website.
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