This is not an article of art. It does not have the ambition of well-read critique and the audacity of the disenchanted gaze either. It is just a short story by a woman from Bergamo moved to Sardinian lands, who found out that, in Sardinia, there is not (only) the sea and that walls speak, when carefully listened to. A “continental” woman who learns the island starting from the centre, far from the sea, far from the mistral. Because the “sardity” is more than a feature or folklore, it is more than a language characterised by archaic textures, more than a tray of cheese on crunchy sheets of pane carasau. “Sardity” is bringing into the world a soul that is deeply-rooted and proud, because Sardinia lives in every Sardinian and every Sardinian lives in his /her own very personal Sardinia, since there is something deeper than “their” sea.
Therefore, Sardinia is not one, but many, and it breaks up into parts like a kaleidoscope of multiple tones; among those, one has the colour of cinnabar and tells us about a harsh resistance able to make silence resonate. My profane journey begins here.
So this story starts from the centre, from the heart of Barbagia, an ancient region, almost totally devoted to its mountains and filled with a common cultural denominator: the balentía, “maximum style of a man’s potentials”[i], perfect summary of nobility of spirit and resoluteness, emblematically expressed by Orgosolo and its graffiti. Closed among its rocky mountains and steep slants, there is this little village in which the local and the global (a certain kind of global) mirror in each other’s eyes, where it seems to be like a floating bubble, within which a space-time short circuit has been able to give movement to a still image. This sensation reverberates into the narrow alleys and the ochre of the houses, yet mainly into the one hundred and fifty graffiti that dress the walls of the buildings.
Heir of four-hundred other graffiti, now faded, they prove an innovative project that we would never think could be born here and which, for this very reason, could have never been born in another place. Everything started in 1975 when Francesco del Casino, art teacher, living in Orgosolo, engaged his students in an embellishment work for the walls of the village. The experience spread like wild fire, attracting dozens of people, from and outwith Orgosolo.
But the real peculiarity of these graffiti is their non-ornamental purpose. Far from purely aesthetic aims, they create beauty because they speak to us, talking about local and international history in a socio-political sense.
Sure enough, next to political and social Sardinian claims – such as the safeguard of resources of water and grazing lands, the refuse of the interference of NATO on the island or recalls ancient worldly wisdom – you can see the Twin Towers, the feminist fight, Tangentopoli[ii], the Holocaust, violated Gaza, refused military bases, the dispossessed lands of Native Americans.
Images, mainly cubist and dadaist look-alikes, are associated with words – present and far, Sardinian, Italian, foreign; Emilio Lussu’s voice (Sardinian writer, anti-fascist and politician of the XX century) intertwines with that of Brecht, Turoldo, Gershwin and Gramsci.
In this skeptical land the world pours out, and almost paradoxically, thanks to the tacit approval of the community; as a matter of fact, the most significant contribution lies in the fact that the inhabitants gave permission to use their walls in order to transform them in open air canvases.
As Michela Murgia, Sardinian story-weaver, said: “The people of Orgosolo are complicit to the graffiti, which are a collective realisation, if not artistic, at least ideological. Put a wall or put a feeling, it is conceptually the same thing, if the wall belongs to the place where you live, eat, make love, work and die”[iii].
Strolling around the streets of Orgosolo you have the sensation that those walls are almost our home too, and we can find ourselves in the attention given to every single wall, putting our signature and rediscovering the ethic value of the indignation and the meaning of the verb “to resist”.
Orgosolo is us and we are Orgosolo, and in the thick silence of its alleys of a thousand faces we give our tacit approval, revealing “[…] next to a mind apparently local, a silent global heart”[iv].
Alessia Santambrogio is a writer and researcher born in Bergamo (Italy) and based in Sassari (Italy). She holds a degree in Educational Sciences (Hons) from the Università degli Studi di Bergamo. Her specialisation concerns psycho-pedagogy and gender studies and her research engages constantly with literature, history and art. In 2014 she published her first book Genere, identità e violenze educative (Edizioni Accademiche Italiane) about gender education as a form of dark pedagogy, a violent education that smothers boys and girls’ true Self. She has worked in an extra-scholar service with 6-12 children and as educator with a visually handicapped young girl. This is a good spot to find and meet her: http://egocentricacomeigatti.tumblr.com
[i] Murgia M., Viaggio in Sardegna, Giulio Einaudi Editore, Torino, 2008, p. 11
[ii] A nationwide Italian judicial investigation into political corruption held in the 1990s, Editor’s note.
[iii] Idem p.15
[iv] Idem p.16