There seems to be a tradition in the mountain villages of inland Sardinia of painting murals on shops and houses. Sometimes these relate to what the shop sells, other times they’re traditional scenes from everyday life. But one place where the murals have started to take over is the village of Orgosolo where the whole village has become an outdoor gallery of street-art.
So much so that the village has become a tourist attraction in its own right as people come to see and photograph the murals. As you know I love a good bit of street-art and so it was also high on my wish list to go and see Orgosolo. Unfortunately the children didn’t share my enthusiasm and after they’d taken cursory look I left them playing cards in a cafe fuelled by Fanta and gelato, while I wandered around with my husband.
I wasn’t sure how the locals felt about the steady stream of people walking through their village to see the murals. Clearly there were shops and bars who were benefiting from the money spent by visitors on drinks and souvenirs, but there were also quite a few young men hanging around with close cropped hair and crepe soled boots who made me feel a little uncomfortable.
According to the guide-books, the village has a chequered past as a centre for vendettas, kidnappings and banditry in the first half of this centuary. The most famous bandit of them all, Graziano Mesiana, otherwise known as the Scarlet Rose came from this village, and after serving his time for murder returned to live in the area, where he occasionally acts as a tour guide – I bet he’d have a few tales to tell.
I got the impression that the village is keen to move on from it’s violent history. Nevertheless there is clearly a tradition of political protest which is expressed in many of the murals, on themes such as war, poverty and hunger.
Many of the murals are by the artist, Francesco del Casino who was a teacher at the Orgosolo High school for 20 years before returning to his native Sienna, and you can see the influence of Picasso and the cubist movement in his work. Others are by artists and sculptors such as Pasquale Buesco, Vincenzo Floris and Massino Cantoni who come from Orgosolo and the surrounding area.
The mural painting started in the 1970s when teachers and students at the local high school decided to create outdoor posters to commemorate liberation and the Resistance movement. From posters the work moved on to murals with many of the works were created and supervised by Francesco Del Casino while he was an art teacher at the school. The murals have also been photographed and promoted by the local photographer, Kikinu, who has a studio in the village and has created books and postcards of the art works, which are on sale to visitors.
I was impressed by the quality of the artworks by Francesco Del Casino and also by the political messages which pulled no punches.
In some there was also the element of gentle humour which I detected elsewhere in Sardinia where the people are generally quite reserved. I loved these giant ladies having a gossip and the motorbikers creating havoc below. The caption reads Orgosolo, oasis of peace and tranquility.
It appears that Orgosolo is a place where things are not always what they seem, when you scratch beneath the surface.
Where else would you have such an artistic setting for a cash machine?
You can see all my photos of the Murals in Orgosolo on Flickr here.
More Sardinia articles to enjoy