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Sardinia Street Art : From Social Upheaval to Cultural Heritage

  • sardinia, mural, graffiti art
April 13, 2015

Amidst the mountain area in central-eastern Sardinia, is located a seemingly quiet, sleepy town called Orgosolo. At the same time, the town of Orgosolo is known for its violent past, manifested in bloody feuds involving families over generations, extortions and kidnappings. Apart from these stories, after which a movie called Banditi a Orgosolo was made, this town in Sardinia is also famous for its mural paintings and street art. Out of 250 mural paintings in Sardinia only in Orgosolo can be seen around 150. The sort of graffiti art was at first executed by local artists, covering the stories of the town’s past and Italian history.

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Left: Introduction to Orgosolo / Right: a Detail from Orgosolo Mural

Emergence of Mural Paintings as Rise of Graffiti Art

The mural paintings in Orgosolo emerged by the end of the 1960’s. During that period, the Italian economy was failing under the pressure of social upheavals and massive strikes. The mural paintings became a dominant expression of the common displeasure. One of the first graffiti art images was done by an anarchist theater company from Milan, Dionisio. Later, when this idea of early graffiti art spread all over town, Francesco Del Casino and his students played out the role of the creators of the early mural paintings. Although, more refined works came later with more experienced artists. But nevertheless, the key effort of Francesco Del Casino was to get students for Sardinia involved in the ideas of political activism by criticizing the Nazi brutality, battle for liberation and other social problems concerning labor and education. To this day, political issues are still the dominant theme in these mural images in Sardinia, so we can refer to it as an early development of graffiti art, both in technological and ideological sense.

sardinia, mural, graffiti art post italy news sardegna creative work
Piedmont Troops, Mural of Orgosolo – Sardinia
sardinia, mural, graffiti art post italy news sardegna creative work
In Memory of Salvador Allende, Mural of Orgosolo – Sardinia

Evolution of Graffiti Art in Sardinia

By the end of 1970’s another crisis hit the Italian economy, opening the way for even greater political commotion, hitting the employment rate and raising the inflation. That resulted in the series of anti-government strikes. In the early 1980’s a new wave of recoveries came, followed by the improvements in the social and educational sectors. This improvement reflected in the mural paintings of Sardinia, giving people a chance to view their lives in a different light. The result was a new iconography in the graffiti art, depicting daily life of the city’s inhabitants. At the same time, the artists expanded their interests to the topics related to the global political events. This sprung mural paintings with the themes such as Tiananmen Square protest of 1989, protests against G8 summit in Genoa and destruction of the World Trade Center in New York.

sardinia, mural, graffiti art
In Memory of Carlo Giulliani, Activist Killed in Protests Against G8 summit in Genoa 2001, Mural of Orgosolo – Sardinia
sardinia, mural, graffiti art
Left: Political Mural, Orgosolo- Sardinia / Right: Mural Against Poverty, Orgosolo – Sardinia

Graffiti Art in Sardinia as a Cultural Heritage

The Orgosolo’s murals have drawn a lot of attention, starting from the 1990’s, when the number of tourists boosted and the great number of international projects occurred in this very town of Sardinia. As the graffiti art of Sardinia started to become recognized as a part of cultural and intellectual heritage, the Italian government invested a sizable amount of money for mural restoration. Dr. Francesca Cozzolino’s studies show the process for the mural artist to grasp and digest the global event in order to present them in the pictorial way is very hard. In order understand them, one must study them through historical, anthropological, aesthetic, sociological and political aspects. She pointed out the three moments in the Sardinia mural painting’s development: protesting and celebration approach; a tool of education through a unique local culture; and finally, the recognition as a cultural heritage resulted in the conservational process.

With its uniqueness and significance, the mural art of Sardinia is, deliberately or not, connected to the images of Lescaux cave and Pompei houses, to the legendary murals of Rivera and Orozco, as well as to contemporary street art of Shepard Fairey, Banksy and Sten Lex.

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sardinia, mural, graffiti art
Mural of Orgosolo – Sardinia
sardinia, mural, graffiti art
Mural of Orgosolo – Sardinia

All images are courtesy of chasingtheunexpected.com