It was a group of great artists, in a historical moment marked by social and cultural ferment, that triggered the creative ‘spark’. The story of the murals in Sardinia originates in a lively little village in the Campidano countryside and then others gradually joined in, from Barbagia to Planargia and beyond, towards the north. In short, the Island became the capital of mural painting. This was partly to bring new life to decaying picturesque views, to walls in ladiri and semi-abandoned alleys, but it was above all to give impetus to the desire to make the cry of protest and suffering that involved entire communities heard. Years later, there is a new ‘flame’, a free and spontaneous one. This time, the artists transforming and reviving the urban fabric, some local and others not, are young but already internationally famous. From murals to street art, from protest to experimenting, Sardinia is always the protagonist, like an immense palette to fill with colour.
If we are talking about a ‘museum-village’, our thoughts go to San Sperate. In 1968, an artist, after travelling around Europe, decided to return home. This was Pinuccio Sciola. He and a group of friends spread a layer of lime on the village walls and filled them with scenes of everyday life. Today in San Sperate, also famous for its exquisite peaches, there are more than two hundred murals and they attract visitors from all over.
A few years later, in Villamar, the encounter between Chilean exiles and local artists triggered a creative turmoil that resulted in the village decorating itself with scenes of historical events. Not far from here, in Serramanna, you will observe the heart-rending ‘emigrazione è deportazione’ (emigration is deportation), a joint creation by four artists in 1979: the theme is the need to emigrate to secure a future. The works, painted on the walls of villages surrounded by the Malvasia vineyards of Planargia, feature the ‘living’ memory of traditions: Flussio, Sennariolo, Montresta, where the use of black backgrounds is surprising, and Tinnura, which boasts the highest concentration of murals in proportion to the population.
Orgosolo is the quintessential village of murals. Its over 150 works are full of emotion, protest and social claims. Strolling through the narrow streets of this Barbagia village, you will find yourself on a journey through time and you will be struck by the pride of a community that celebrated its personalities and intended to protect its traditions. Every year, large numbers of people reach the town and dive into its atmosphere, listening to the songs of the tenores and taking advantage of it to explore the treasures of Supramonte.
Murals in Barbagia and in central Sardinia (Ogliastra, Baronia and Marghine) also means Loceri, Borore, Fonni, Irgoli, Mamoiada and Oliena. Everyday life, convivial moments, treasures of the territory, parties and carnival masks are celebrated. It is a ‘bridge’ between past and present depicted on the walls of Palau, in front of the turquoise sea of Gallura. Characters in traditional dress and scenes of contemporary life coexist in landscapes and architecture that will take you to a dimension beyond space and time.
The new millennium has seen the ‘unleashing’ of a new artistic ferment. Collectives and associations emerge, street artists from the Peninsula are involved, cities like Cagliari, Olbia and Sassari choose to dedicate urban areas to the expression of an original way of depicting the reality of Sardinia, where a renewed social commitment also peeps out at times, especially on the topic of environmental protection. San Gavino Monreale is the emblem of the new trend: dozens of artists continue to work to restore colour to old buildings, alleys and squares, where you can admire ‘heroes’ of Sardinian culture, international stars and historical characters.
You can also see them in Selegas, with scenes that have a strong emotional impact, and in the villages of the Cagliari hinterland like Capoterra and Monserrato. Street art has also started to make its way into Sulcis: in Sant'Antioco you can follow creative itineraries in the open air, with tributes to the artisan tradition of the most populous city of the Sulcis archipelago. Between old and new murals, Sardinia now has almost two thousand works, almost everywhere. This is another reason to explore it, slowly and with curiosity.