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Orgosolo and the Sardinian Mural Tradition

Orgosolo, a small town in Sardinia's Barbagia region, is awash in murals

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orgoloso mural picture

Orgosolo Mural Picture: A Sardinian shepherd in traditional garb relaxes on a rock.

James Martin, Europe Travel

Sardinia is an isolated island of passionate people. You can see it in the art forms, especially in the Cubist inspired murals of Orgosolo, Sardinia. The shepherd shown on the right, isolated on a rock with his big, clumsy-looking hands and his eyes wide open for the region's legendary poachers, kidnappers, and wife-stealing ne'er-do-wells is a classic. What he's really doing is keeping an eye on his wife--as you'll see in the pictures linked below.

Sardinia's rugged interior has always been good for developing independent inhabitants who have their own ideas about how a country and household should be run. However primitively rendered that fellow in the upper right seems, you'll still manage to come across shepherds looking exactly like him in any out of the way "shepherd's bar" in Sardinia's Barbagia region, even in these tourist-rich days that present a challenge to every culture trying to preserve its past.

Orgosolo's mural tradition started around the late 1960's or early 1970's when student protest was beginning to question decades of social oppression and injustice. Then, as Italy's "Economic Miracle" was unfolding in the '80s, the painting turned to scenes of everyday Sardinian village life, a life that was vanishing with the changes brought about by the reforms and the new economy. The evolution of the murals was repeating the rhythm of nature--destruction of the past and rebuilding anew--but with an eye toward the old values and traditions.

As you'll see in our mural pictures, many of the murals are annotated. Many are captioned with quotes from famous people or memorable phrases repeated in the countryside.

Where is Orgosolo?

Orgosolo is located 17 miles from Nuoro, the provincial capital. There are two hotels there, the Sa 'e Jana and Petit Hotel. I recommend staying nearby at Su Gologone, (book direct on Venere.com) a short distance east of Oliena. A fine beach called Cala Gonone lies just beyond the town of Dorgali to the east of the hotel.

Don't worry about finding the murals. They're everywhere.

Food in the Barbagia Region

The Barbagia region is famous for "pane frattau" (a "primo" or first course made by dipping the island's famous flat bread into hot water or broth, then layering it with tomato sauce and topping it with a poached egg and grated Sardinian pecorino cheese). The dry, flat bread, called "pane carasau," was designed to be able to be transported by shepherds for a long time as they shepherded their flocks from the mountains to the sea at certain times of the year. You can actually find it in the US at gourmet specialty stores.

Music - Tenores di Bitti

Just to the north of Orgosolo is the town of Bitti, notable for the rather strange (to North American musical sensibilities) and primitive sounding, yet powerful music of the Tenores di Bitti. I've recorded a short clip of this music from a festival in Sedilo, Sardinia: Tenores di Bitti.

Pictures of the Orgosolo Murals

These pictures have been taken over several summers in Orgosolo. The visitor will find something new just about every year. In the true manner of a protest medium the murals skewer everyone from the current mayor to kids on vespas: Orgosolo Sardinia Mural Pictures.

Chronicler of the Barbagia: Grazia Deledda

The Barbagia region of Sardinia is chronicled best by Nobel Prize winning author Grazia Deledda, who penned "Reeds in the Wind" (compare prices) and Cosima (compare prices). The books referenced above will give you a good idea of the historic traditions of the Barbagia region of Sardinia, reflected in these murals.

Ms. Deledda was born in Nuoro in 1871. Her house, featured exactly as she described it in her biographical novel Cosima, has become the Museo Deleddiano. You can visit it at Via Deledda 42 in Nuoro. Telephone: 0784/258088-242900

Web Resources featuring Grazia Deledda have been compiled by Esther Lombardi at our Classical Literature Site.

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