It’s our first day in Sardinia. We check into our hotel early afternoon. There’s just enough time left in the day to drive to Orgosolo and take a walk through the political history of the world depicted in building-tall ‘murales‘ (murals). Everything from the Spanish Civil War with scenes reminiscent of Picasso’s painting of the massacre at Guernica, to the collapse of World Trade Center (9/11), and the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Some events intimately connected with local struggles. Others that affected the whole world. Famine. War. Victory. Terrorism. Anarchy. Love. Philosophy. Family. Local characters. The walls of Orgosolo tell it all in vivid bigger-than-life murals.
But not everything about this quirky little village is quite as reflective as its murals! Orgosolo was once known as “the village of murderers” thanks to its high crime rate. It is also the home town of Sardinia’s very famous bandit, Graziano Mesina. A hero to some for his anti-capitalist kidnappings and daring prison breaks! At 78 years of age, this former kidnapper and bandit is back on the run since July 2020 and believed to be in Corsica. And apparently local people ‘don’t have a clue of his whereabouts’… It is also the topic of a 1960s Italian film ‘Banditi a Orgosolo (Bandits of Orgosolo)’. No wonder then that one of the locals in Cala Gonone described the people of Orgosolo as ‘weird people’…
We start our ramble through this quirky little town near Nuoro after we got a coffee and shared a local panino (sandwich) from a mobile ‘café’ strategically situated next to the central car park. The youngster in the mobile café also had us taste some of his grandmother’s home-made Mirto – a popular local liqueur made from the berries of the myrtle plant. He convinces us (me) to buy a small bottle which he decants from a large container. Grandma should be proud of the boy’s ability to sell her produce to visitors…
Now and then we have to duck into a doorway as a scooter or car roars past at seemingly breakneck speeds. The locals don’t seem to notice the racers… perhaps they’re only trying to scare the visitors…
Our walk takes us past scenes of the Twin Towers collapsing, the Spanish Civil uprising, Gaza, Palestine, Saddam’s statue being pulled down, and many more. Some depicts civil resistance. Others are poignant. Others evoke a sense of anger at man’s unkindness to his fellow man. There are many dealing with the plight of refugees and migrants. Sympathetically.
Others are purely for local consumption. Scenes of noisy motorbikes racing through the supposedly tranquil streets an obvious pain for this artist…
After a few hours of criss-crossing the streets and viewing the history of the world we decide it’s time to get going. We’ve probably only viewed about half of the murales. But we’re getting hungry and hoping that restaurants will be ready to serve dinner by the time we get back to Cala Gonone.
History – Orgosolo style
Children mentioned in the murals of Orgosolo
Iqbal Masih (1983-1995), a Pakistani boy, was born into a poor Jewish family. When he was four years old his family borrowed 6000 rupees. To pay off the family debts he was put to work in a carpet factory where he and other children were bound with chains to the looms to stop them from escaping. At age ten Iqbal escaped, after learning that bonded labour was illegal. He went to the police to report Arshad (the businessman the family had borrowed the money from). The police brought him back to Arshad who told them to tie him up upside down if he escapes again. Iqbal escaped again. He was then able to attend a school for former child slaves. He toured the world making speeches about child slavery and became a symbol of abusive child labour in Pakistan. Iqbal’s activism was directly responsible for more than 3000 Pakistani children being freed from bonded labour.
On Easter Sunday 16 April 1995, Iqbal was shot dead with a shot gun by suspected members of the carpet mafia. He inspired the “International Day Against Child Slavery” held on 16 April each year by the Christian Cultural Movement of Spain, as well as various organizations such as “Free the Children”.
Muhammad al-Durrah was a 12-year-old Palestinian boy deliberately shot by Israeli military forces while caught in a cross-fire between the Israeli military and Palestinian security forces. The incident took place in the Gaza Strip on 30 September 2000. The whole incident was filmed by Talal Abu Rahma, a Palestinian cameraman working for French television. Footage shows Muhammad and his dad, Jamal al-Durrah, crouching behind a concrete cylinder. The boy Muhammad is seen crying and the dad waving, followed by a burst of gunfire from the Israeli position, and then the boy is seen slumped and mortally wounded. He dies soon after.
How to get to Orgosolo
Orgosolo is situated on the eastern side, and almost in the vertical centre of Sardinia. Have a look at the map below how to get there.
Unable to view the map? – follow this link to the map.