the MaMu – Mamoiada Museums network

Unveiling Mamoiada’s local culture: the MaMu – Mamoiada Museums network

Sardinia is one of Italy’s major islands and is located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Thanks to this position, it has been for centuries a crucial crossroads of people and traditions, which contributed shaping its own unique culture tourists can experience through wine and food, traditional costumes, jewellery, music and folk festivals. In addition, by means of their collections and workshops, even museums can help visitors having a deeper understanding of these features.

Despite the recent development of business sectors such as industry and tourism, Sardinia has a centuries-long rural tradition that is still strongly present in popular traditions and idiomatic expressions like “pani e casu e binu a rasu”* or “salludi e trigu e tappu de ottigu”*, good wishes for prosperity in one of the varieties of the local language.

One of the best museum networks that will give you a better insight into Sardinia’s rural life, from trades to traditions, is the MaMu – Mamoiada Museums network, which includes three museums: the Museum of the Mediterranean Masks, the Museum of Local Culture and Trades and the MATer – Museum of Archaeology and of the surrounding Territory.

Mamoiada is a small town in an area called Barbagia, at the heart of Sardinia, with a population of less than 3000 and is particularly renowned for its distinctive local masks, Mamuthones and Issohadores, and its red wine, named after the grape variety called Cannonau.

These masks and their performance recall ancestral rituals for the propitiation of a good harvest. While the Mamuthones wear wooden dark anthropomorphic masks, dark sheepskins and around 30kg of cowbells, Issohadores wear more colourful clothes, a white mask and use a lasso called soha, after which they are named. During their performance, the local red wine plays a key role, symbolizing one of the essential elements for life: blood.

At the Museum of the Mediterranean Masks you will learn that each part of these costumes has its specific significance and why the traditional carnival in Mamoiada and throughout the Barbagia area has a completely different atmosphere than the idea people usually have about carnival. You will also have the opportunity to compare Mamuthones and Issohadores to some traditional masks and costumes from other Mediterranean Countries, such as Greece and Slovenia, finding they share several elements, such as cowbells and animal skins.

The visit begins with an audio-visual taking you into the colours and sounds of carnival, when men become Mamuthones and Issohadores, and ritually perform a kind of dance throughout the town. Stepping into the following room, you will experience an immersion into the typical Barbagia carnival and the museum guide will disclose the meaning of all the elements making up the costumes and the ritual performed. These elements will keep recurring when visiting the Museum of Local Culture and Trades, where the guide will take you to a tour into Mamoiada’s culture, customs and traditions, starting with the birth of a baby, his or her adolescence, marriage and traditional trades, such as wooden mask carpenters, winemakers and ropemakers.

Though learning about the different education men and women received, you will feel a strong sense of community, a mutual help and the desire of sharing one’s available resources which are still alive in the local people.

After visiting these two museums, you might feel a step closer to the spirit of Mamoiada and its people; however, there is still something missing to get the whole picture: the relationship between people and their territory. This is exactly what the MATer – Museum of Archaeology and of the surrounding Territory represents: an interactive museum of Mamoiada’s collective memory where people themselves are the key elements to read the territory. All you have to do is…touch people passing by on a screen and listen to the story they will share with you.

This small, though effective museum network, managed by the Viseras Cooperative, has a thorough narrative, which enshrines the deepest features of Mamoiada’s culture. This is not just a group of museums displaying objects; this is the story of a town and its surroundings, unveiled by different points of view, breaking down those layers that together make up the culture of the territory and the essence of their people.

Ilenia Atzori | All right Reserved © 2017

* “pani e casu e binu a rasu” and “salludi e trigu e tappu de ottigu” respectively mean: “may you always have plenty of bread, cheese and glasses full of wine” and “may you always be healthy and have plenty of wheat and cork stoppers” [cork stoppers were valuable and not everyone could afford them when they first appeared]

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Francesco Manca


29 June 2018
Aritzo family experience We can truly say that we have never been on a better tour than our recent Aritzo family experience. Your family made us feel so welcome and their generosity was genuine. Definitely worth the time and money invested.

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