Orgosolo Murals are the best-known example of mural art in Sardinia. Originated in the late 1960s to voice people’s feelings and opinions, this artistic phenomenon has no equal in Europe.
Discovering Sardinia: The Murals of Orgosolo
Orgosolo dominates a secluded, mountainous area made of granite rocks and Mediterranean scrubs, a region known as Barbagia, which still lives according to its own rules, customs, and traditions.
Before the rise of mural art, Orgosolo was known as the town of bandits, who benefited from the isolation of the area -among Europe’s most remote and least populated.
Nowadays, visiting Barbagia is key to discovering the most authentic side of Sardinia. The perfect reason to venture into Sardinia’s granitic heart is to find the hundreds of murals in Orgosolo.
The story of Orgosolo Murals
The story of Orgosolo Murals begins in 1975 when Francesco Del Casino, an art teacher originally from Siena but living in Orgosolo, engaged his art students in painting a few walls around the village. Since then, hundreds of artists -both Sardinian and foreigners- have followed, painting on Orgosolo’s houses figurative scenes packed with meaning and political demands.
Among the very first murals to appear in Orgosolo was one painted to commemorate the Pratobello revolution -namely when, in 1969, residents came together to stop the creation of a military base on a common land used by local shepherds.
The specificity of Orgosolo Murals is that they focus on the message rather than the aesthetics -political and social messages inspired by Marxism. Since the (political) message is crucial in Orgosolo’s murals, artists often further spelled it out through a poem, a quote, or any text. In Orgosolo, the mural is the message; without a message, there is no mural.
More artists painted local heroes, artists, philosophers, and tributed rural traditions as opposed to industrialization and urbanization. Eventually, the Sardinian muralism movement embraced more international themes, such as egalitarianism, anti-imperialism, solidarity, and pacifism -without losing its founding trait of being a political and educational experience rather than an aesthetic phenomenon.
Discovering Orgosolo Murals
Elsewhere in Sardinia, mural art is mostly ornamental; in Orgosolo, murals depict modern and contemporary politicians, philosophers, notable figures, and fellow humans condemned to live under bombs and terrorist attacks.
History flows on Orgosolo walls, not only the history of the island but that of the whole world. Next to the slogan from Sardinia’s independent movement and the fight against the military exploitation of the island, we see the twin towers on fire, the bombing of Gaza, and the native Americans who lost their land.
Among notable people’s portraits is the founder of Italy’s communist party, Antonio Gramsci, originally from Sardinia, but also Gino Strada, the founder of Emergency, and Carlo Giuliani, the student gunshot during the Genoa G8 summit.
Residents of this land of shepherds are known for being wary and deeply tied to their past and tradition. In Orgosolo, however, they proved that their mentality isn’t close and provincial but open to the whole world. The murals on the houses of Orgosolo empathize with suffering people in any country, showing how this extremely isolated region -an island within the island, if you want- is dialoguing, through the international language of art, with a broader world.
The community behind the murals of Orgosolo
Perhaps, the most powerful trait of Orgosolo murals isn’t their internationality but the support they have received, and still receive, from the local community. Since the origin of mural art in Orgosolo, murals were painted with the belief that they should engage the community and make a difference in the lives of locals, who were directly involved in the realization of the murals.
None of the murals in Orgosolo is disfigured or written over because each mural is endorsed by the whole community.
Moreover, providing your wall to mural artists implies agreeing with the direct political message that will be represented on it. It makes you part of the final artwork and also part of a community that, as Che Guevara would put it, “is capable of feeling deeply any injustice committed against anyone, anywhere in the world.”
Orgosolo Murals Map
Trust me, it’s way easier if you download my free google map of Orgosolo Murales ;)
Find Orgosolo murals in my Sardinia travel video:
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