When you think of Sardinia, crystal clear water, golden beaches, the sunlight on the skin, the wave that smashes into the cliffs and seagulls come to your mind. And that’s probably right.
Yet, to the curious who wants to dig under the surface, the island reserves something more. Something which the ground has kept hidden and held in its embrace for centuries. Something which one day, over 40 years ago, the ground decided to return to a new generation. Something that, after 40 years of hard work by men and women who transformed the investigation of the past into a passion and profession, today is standing in front of my eyes…And introduces itself, together with its brothers…“Here we are, we rested enough; today we come back to light: we are the Giants of Mont’e Prama“.
A few centimetres from me, the big stone figures stand out against the wall behind them in all their magnificence, motionless, unperturbed, with the arm, that once grabbed its weapon, still pushed out straight ahead, as if it was frozen in that endless moment when the giant fell forever asleep. And it’s how they are called: the giants of Mont’e Prama; the sandstone statues that, since 1974, have been found broken in many fragments, in the place that gave them its name– Mont’e Prama, in Cabras, in central-western Sardinia.
And today these are finally given back to the world in all -even if inevitably incomplete- their beauty, assembled after a many years long work . The 38 statues -allocated in the National Archaeological Museum in Cagliari and the Civic Museum G. Marongiu in Cabras, as part of the Mont’e Prama 1974-2014 exhibition – have already attracted visitors from all Europe and beyond, while inducing wonder and curiosity, triggering endless questions, excitement and challenging their audiences. And this is the most fascinating aspect of these masterpieces in stone: the halo of mystery that still surrounds them doesn’t let them go and defends them against the imploring gazes of whom who’d like to know their real identity. That mystery which lingers above all the ancient world like a meticulous guard and which attracts us and provokes us so much.
Throughout all this time, various interpretations have been given about the giants’ identity: we know that they are related to the Nuragic age (900-700 BC), exponents of the statuary among the oldest in the Mediterranean, have not yet found a univocal explanation. The ones that can be recognised have been defined as boxers, archers and warriors: three figurative models that simply take your breath away for the accuracy and beauty of the details, the dimensions (over 2 meters high) and for the questions that arise: are you soldiers? Or athletes, about to perform in sacred games? Or maybe did you watch over the deceased of the necropolis of Mont’e Prama – which was entrusted to you at the dawn of time as if you were guards – for all these centuries?
A plaque is at the giants’ feet; the multimedia console, placed in the middle of the room, makes me see the perfect 3D recreations of each statue on display, so that, so that, in my hands playing on the screen, the model presents the sculpture in all its incredible details, details that I had not immediately noticed on the stone. The explanatory panels are skilfully arranged in each room and along the walls of the galleries that guide me throughout the exhibition itinerary, show the history of the excavations in the site of Mont’e Prama, propose theories, guide visitors. The exhibition has been arranged in a simple masterly way: I only think of it for the duration of my visit.
And yet something disturbs me. I know what it is; I know it can seem foolish, but it’s that something that gives me chills every time I enter a museum. I turn back and stop again in front of the giant. It seems he could stare at me from up there, wary: but he doesn’t see me. I keep staring at him… And there it is! That sensation, that thrill! It’s that thrill which you can feel when you realise how small you are in front of history. Not insignificant, be careful! I have never thought that: on the contrary, I have always believed that even the smallest things can shape history. But in this very moment – and maybe because I’m standing at the feet of a 2 metres high giant – I really feel small: and it isn’t an unpleasant feeling. Somehow I feel rewarded: when your land gives you back something so amazing, you can only feel as if you were a part of something bigger, enormous, without limits. And maybe in that moment, paradoxically, you feel you are a bit less small than usual. At the cost of being obvious I think to the famous metaphoric phrase: we are dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants, that’s true. And an exhibition like this can only remind us of that. Always.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the history of this beautiful island: culture is the culture of the world, a reason for pride not only for the people to whom it belongs, but for all of us. So anyone, from everywhere, who would like to approach this incredible piece of culture will be welcome. In my opinion, it’s an edifying, exciting, unmissable experience. A fundamental stop-over for whomever would like to know a new face of Sardinia.
The exhibition will be present in Cagliari until the end of December 2017.
For further information, please refer to the websites of the Museums of Cagliari and Cabras:
Have a nice journey through history!
Copyright photos of the article: Sara DianaS. Diana