Having left Sardinia for Austria we went to see an ancient ritual in Austria: The consecration of ham, eggs and bread. Saturday before Eastern we walked through a beautiful landscape and were told that near a small Hotel, that would open only in summer, at half past three there will be a rally of people waiting for the local priest to consecrate their food. And in fact, at three fifteen there was still no one but us, but at three thirty there have been around 70 people with approximately 20 baskets.
It is an old tradition to prepare the “eastern ham” at home and to put it together with eggs, bred and salt into a basket, cover it with a nicely embroidered napkin and get the priests’ blessing before eating it the same or next day. We had the impression that this yearly ritual was also a nice occasion to meet neighbors that you might not have seen for a while, doing something exciting for the children and feeling to be part of a local and yet broader community.
The priest’s headdress and outfit seemed to be very traditional. In contrast was the priest’s equipment: he came in a rented car with Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and other celebrities printed on both sides and brought a microphone and loudspeaker which were quickly set up. The few words he spent where first traditional, praying, blessing the food and thanking the women for having cooked it and embroidered the napkins but then linked to daily politics in Austria and the discussion about crosses in public places. He called on his community to engage for the cross, the symbol that since 1800 years unifies and gives identification to Austria and his inhabitants, he said. The entire ceremony was not taking more than 15 minutes, then he rushed away to repeat it in the next small village.
We instead were invited to taste the consecrated ham and eggs and bred afterwards and it was delicious!
Women have always been powerful in Sardinia compared to other regions in Southern Italy. Sardinia is said to be the only Italian region with ancient matriarchy. The most famous women in Sardinia is Eleonora d’Arborea, who in the 14th century defeated Spanish invaders and composed the Carta de Logu, a body of laws which came into force in April 1395. They were considered to be far in advance of the laws of other countries,the penalty for most crimes being a fine, and the property rights of women being preserved. Another famous women is Nobel Price Winner Grazia Deledda, born in the late 19th century. Her most famous novel is “Canne al Vento”, about a young women and rebel to her father’s strict rules.
But why have women in Sardinian been traditionally more powerful ? The most reasonable explanation is that during winter all male members of the family left their houses for months to walk with their herds of sheep to warmer regions. (“Trasumanza”). This seasonal movement made it necessary for women to run the daily business alone, taking important decisions for the family and the income, producing and selling products from sheep like cheese or traditionally hand made carpets.
Nevertheless traditional society protected young women from being “dishonored” by strangers. So men were afraid to infringe unwritten laws. This is why the man in the picture above experienced difficulties when working for the first time with female colleagues in a Hotel in the early 70ties. “I tried to pass them without getting noticed”, he said. “I was afraid and also felt ashamed, the situation for me was uncomfortable. Until one day one of my female colleagues said to me: ‘Ziu Boicu, you can’t go on like this. Or you stop being afraid or you have to quit this job’. Then I made up my mind and the next season I came over it”.
Since 1972 we come as tourists to this small village in Sardinia. Every year, sometimes twices. I even worked here for two seasons. In 1989 at the bar of one of the restaurants. This is where I learned Italian and made friendships for life. One year later I had the best job ever – I was renting bicycles to tourists, sitting virtually the whole day in the sun, reading newspapers or books and waiting for tourists to sign a small contract, joking with them in different languages. Good times!
In those two long summers I got to know the people and the culture here quite well and I saw the growth since then. But also my father observed how things changed. Until the 60ties main income was based on mixed farming. Then tourists from “the continent” (how the islanders call their fellow citizens from Italy) as well as from Germany, Switzerland, France and other countries arrived and changed the live of the around 3000 inhabitants. The entire village was catapulted from a simple and archaic culture with ancient traditions into a modern, globalized and complicated world – in only four decades. High speed. What did this do with the people here? How did they manage to stay humble and build a sustainable tourism without committing the mistakes so many other touristic places and coasts in Europe did? Big questions I try to find answers to by interviewing people, taking pictures and also collecting pictures from the last four decades. The one you see above is said to be from the 1950ies.
Based on this material I want to write a book and dedicate it to the wonderful people of this small paradise on earth. Now in my sabbatical I finally have time for this project. By the way, I am not the first German writing a book about the village: the other one is much more famous in Germany, Ernst Jünger. He wrote “Am Sarazenenturm”, (in Italian: “Terra Sarda”) in 1954. The book was published one year later, the year electricity arrived in all households. Jünger was forecasting that progress and modernity would destroy this idyllic life and I want to find out if he was right with his premonition…
(c) The holder of the copyright of the picture above from the 1950s is unknown.
When have you spend exclusive time with your father (or your mother) lately?
I hadn’t for years. During school and my university studies, my father was very busy, working in IT. Since he retired I was very busy, working in IT.
Until some weeks ago, as you know…
Now we are in Sardinia together. Just he and me alone. For two weeks. We are discovering each other again. What we like to drink and eat. When we go to bed or wake up. What we read, what we think. I have plenty of time to ask about the past. How was I as a child? How was Sardinia in the seventies? Why he married my mother? Why did they buy a territory and build a house in Sardinia? How was his father when my father was a boy? How was my grandmother as a mother? What are my fathers’s values and drivers in live?
He has time to discuss with me his thoughts about the future of humanity, when Artificial Intelligence Systems will gain more and more influence. My father is engaged in a foundation caring about The Human Use of IT : How can we avoid that one day mankind is ruled by machines? What rules do we have to set to make machines respect human beings and their values?
You think this is kind of ‘voodoo’ and far away? You are wrong. It isn’t. we are almost there. Read the novel The Circle by Dave Eggers and you realize that IT Technology is already ruling our daily lives. Have Or look at the new generation, feeling under pressure by having to “like” their friends’s Social Media contributions in a timeline that never ends. Have you heard about cars driving alone? You certainly know Siri or other “smart assistents”on your “smart phones”. They will get even smarter. Filter your phone calls for you, take decision for you. But based on which values or parameters?
My father is a visionary men. He worked in IT since the early nineteensixties. He is passionate about philosophy, he already was as a young man. This is a rare combination and our daily walks at the seaside or through pine-tree forests are full of interesting discussions about strengthening human rights and democracy: today and in a future dominated by artificial intelligence.