The little community of Mamoiada lies at the very centre of Barbagia -Inland Mountain area of Sardinia, just few kilometres from the rocky Supramonte di Orgosolo and only 14 km south of Nuoro.
The surroundings make for one of the most thrilling landscapes in the mountain region, many streams pass through rocks overlooking fresh water springs so to create green pastures and prolific vineyards.
The people of Mamoiada go proud of its ancient origins and traditions celebrated during the many festivity throughout the year: the most important of which are: The Bonfires of Sant’Antonio religious festival and the traditional Carnival with the world known masks of Mamuthones and Issohadores.
Mamuthones and Issohadores are the emblem of this beautiful mountain hamlet.
The Mamuthones are more than just a masquerade to the people of Mamoiada (mamoiadini), but deeply an important element of their identity.
The Mamuthones are decked out in dark, shaggy sheepskins on which rows of juggling 30 kilos of cow bells (sa carriga) are strung, and with heavy, black, oversized masks with pronounced features carved out of precious woods.
They move solemnly with an ancestral dance, led by red jacketed and white clothes Issohadores, each wielding a lasso ( sa soha) twirling it and catching victims, sometimes targeting spectators watching from balconies along the route.
It is said that, in ancient times, this was used to capture the woman that they wanted to marry.
The real meaning of the rituals of the Mamuthones and Issohadores during the Carnival of Mamoiada is covered by an uncertainty and mystery. For some it celebrates the victory of the Sardinian shepherds (Issohadores) against the Arabs-Saracen (the Mamuthones) that tried to conquer the island, surrounded and led in procession. Others sees it as a ceremonial procession in honour of a pastoral god started in the Nuragic period and arrived till today as a good auspicious for the harvest.
For the more mystical thinkers, the performance represents the mythical killing of the old people, while others think that the mamuthones mask portrays some diabolical spirit.
If you like to know more about the traditional masks of the Carnival and the town’s ancient culture, have walk around the three museums of Mamoiada: the Mediterranean Masks Museum, http://eng.museodellemaschere.it/ the Museum of Culture and Labour http://www.viseras.it/, and the Museum of Archaeology and of the Territory. http://www.museomater.com/
But in the end the special feature of Mamoiada are the hospitality of its people and fragrance and deep flavour of the wine produced locally from the indigenous grape of Cannonau and Granazza.
This festival is profoundly sensed in the village of Mamoiada being full of mythical and ritual aspects and it is a time for reviving communal belongings and identity.
St. Anthony’s Bonfires Day coincide with the first annual appearance/outing“sa prima essia” of the iconic figure of the Mamuthones with their blackened shepherd’s outfit, a silent reminder of an idealised pastoral past, carefully directed by their eternal rivals , the Issohadores.
A unique experience for the tourists a chance to know the best kept secret the real Sardinian life with at the centre its special people.
A Special Thanks to Gesuino G. and the Gruppo: Issohadores e Mamuthones Pro loco Mamoiada that made all this and more possible with their typical and warm hospitality.
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