From Sant’Andrea Frius, on a sunny autumn day, I fly downhill on a beautiful panoramic road towards the olive groves and vineyards of Parteolla, one of the last historical Sardinian regions to visit on this trip.
I enter Donori, on the slopes of Mount Zurru, and arrive at the central square where, at the entrance to the Town Hall, the deputy mayor Gigi, the councilor Antonio and my friends Francesco and Silvana who will host me for this day are waiting for me.
The mild climate that characterises these areas allows us to spend a beautiful morning walking through the streets of the historic centre. I notice the elegant buildings, several stone portals, before arriving at the beautiful nineteenth-century building that once served as Monte Granatico (wheat bank). At the entrance there is a marble plaque engraved with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The building now houses an exhibition of minerals and tools from the nearby S’ortu becciu mine.
A little further on is the old Town Hall, in Art Nouveau style. On the walls of some buildings there are panels with phrases by literary authors, politicians, philosophers, and even singers. An open-air book, which can be consulted at any time by everyone, and hopefully by the new generations in particular.
Donori is part of the National Association of Raw Earth Cities. Here in the historic center there are still some walls in ladiri, the mud brick. Sometimes these walls have the lower part in stone and the upper one in ladiri. And in addition to a clear sandstone, here you can also see the granite that partially crops out in this area. An old Enel cabin is made entirely of red granite ashlars, which in the past were carved by skilled local stonemasons.
Towards the exit of the village there was a wash house and a mill, which have now disappeared, and a large square remains in their place. We go up towards a panoramic road that dominates the houses of the village and from which you can see the land planted with vines and olive trees that reach the foot of the mountains. The administrators tell me about the Donori TerrAccogliente event that takes place immediately after the harvest to promote and enhance local products, and about the Cantina Sa Defenza, which takes the name of a country church dedicated to the Madonna “of the defense”.
For lunch we go back to Francesco and Silvana’s house, in the countryside outside the town, where a nice hot soup and a little rest await me! Later, Francesco and I drive through the vineyards to visit the tomb of the giants of Inguttosu Mannu. Along the way we have to stop to let a flock of sheep and newborn lambs pass through, and we manage to chat with the shepherd. We arrive at the archaeological site when the sun has already set and there is a magical atmosphere and a silence broken only by the sound of the light wind. Not far from here are the remains of a Roman bath complex.
We go back home, to what Francesco calls his “worker’s farm” and we talk about music and art.
SARDINIAN SHORT STORIES
Francesco Sangiovanni is not a native of Donori but has lived in his “worker’s farm” for many years. Here he had animals, several donkeys and a sow that he no longer has, stray dogs (today Gea and Stecca live with him and his partner Silvana) and devotes himself to rural life, cultivating the land.
But Francesco is also an excellent musician. We are talking about the groups in which he played in the past, Jeffrey and That’s All Folks, Massimo Spano’s Rural Electrification Orchestra, and we remember the day of our first meeting when on a cold December evening we played the Beat Mass with Barritas in Oristano.
It does not end here. Francesco is also a sculptor, or rather archaeo-sculptor as he defines himself. He proudly shows me his creatures, the neofossils, pebbles rounded by the force of the water and the abrasive action of the transport, from which the fossil is “freed” by the hand of the sculptor. Neofossils for Francesco are oxymoron stones that unite the past but also the incredible mystery of new life.
Since 2013, contemporary art has been at home in Donori. In fact, the Contemporary Festival takes place here, conceived by Silvia and Pietro of Cantina Sa Defenza, dedicated to live performances of avant-garde music, artistic residences and urban installations, philosophical debates, round tables and training activities for international art schools.
This morning, during the walk in the historic centre, the administrators talked to me about the idea of having an urban work created by the Iranian artist Mohsen Baghernejad Moghanjooghi, who has lived in Turin for many years. It should be a narrow alley lined with clay walls, modelled on those existing in some Iranian villages. In fact, the raw earth becomes the element in common between the cities of Iran and some towns in Sardinia, in this case Donori.
In Iran these alleys are planned so narrow to keep the sun from beating and to protect from sandstorms. But there is also a social reason: these alleys are called “ways of conciliation”. They are so tight that sometimes only one person can pass through them. And they are used to force two people who have quarreled (this being unbeknownst to them), two “enemies”, to cross their ways. who inevitably have to confront each other and come out of the alley reconciled.
PS. 2021. For the seventh edition of the Contemporary Festival, the artist Mohsen Baghernejad Moghanjooghi has finally created the work “Among the clays” using mud bricks and reeds taken on site. A work with an important symbolic meaning, especially in Sardinia, and where the idea of making peace with the enemy is combined with the enhancement of raw earth.