Orgosolo: An Anarchist Treasure
By James Grant
2nd May 2022
Deep in the Barbagia region of Sardinia, Orgosolo is a town of around four-thousand with an economy resting on the shoulders of shepherds who have resided here since the Nuragic age tending sheep, and producing cholesterol-free cheese. One could say not much has changed: families still gather on their patios in autumn and crack almonds with rocks. With the addition of Sardinians being known to harbour a unique gene pool that produces numerous centenarians, this land wears an enchanted, granite coat.
1975, six years after the first anarchist mural appears in the town, Francesco Del Casino, an art teacher, celebrates the 30th anniversary of the anti-fascist resistance movement with his students, by asking them to create political murals to adorn the streets.
This practise, repeated by generations of Del Casino's students, continues today. Now, a small town, described by Pasquale Cugia as an 'eagle's nest' in the Sardinian mountains, has become a beacon of political solidarity. With the rural population having a historically strenuous relationship with the national government across the Tyrrhenian in Rome, the island is one of five regions in Italy granted a degree of ‘Home Rule’ by the Italian constitution following the Second World War, in an effort to maintain national unity.
‘Felice il popolo che non ha bisogno di eroi’ – Happy are the people who don’t need heroes
Muralism, pioneered in Mexico following the 1910 revolution and spreading first across Latin America and then Europe later in the 20th century, has remained an integrally political form of art. With the muralist’s canvas ranging from the side of banks to the walls of homes, to the ceilings of train stations, muralism remains perhaps the most accessible form of artistic political expression: public, designed to be seen, not confined to straight edges. Though finding its routes in Mexico, we can see a disparity between murals of Diego Rivera – large, intricate, and colourful crowds of industrial and agricultural workers gathered around figures like Lenin or Marx - and the cubist-influenced murals of Sardinia and Spain. And yet, there remains an evident homogeny: resistance, struggle, the working class.
The evident example of homogeny is class. Whether this is industrial, agricultural, or intellectual, in the urban environment or the rural, muralism is the representation of the poor – their struggles and their accomplishments.
A collection of aspects that form the image of Sardinian culture – the flag with the heads of the ‘Four Moors’, the shepherd’s caps, the women’s shawls, the prickly pears.
In all forms of political artwork, there remains the conflicting question of purpose. For those who created these murals, the objective is clear. On the other side, we see them reduced to tourist attractions. Let us not take away their significance and view them in the shallows of aestheticism, but in the depths of muffled voices and existences. These artworks, from Mexico to Sardinia, are an integral cultural aspect. They are history, anarchy, and struggle, and should be seen first as such.