The traditional crafts in Marmilla are mainly related to cereal production, an activity that has always been the backbone of the economy in this region. For centuries, the means of production for a farmer have been the tools needed to work the fields, from the hoe to the sickle, from the plow to the harrow. These have been the tools used to measure the workers’ skills and resistance to fatigue, and, thus, their job opportunities. However, in a region that preserved a society structured around grain production from the Middle Ages until the middle of the last century, the real means of production were the things they worked with daily, such as the animals, the tool storage areas and the land itself, on which the livelihood of the entire community depended.
Therefore, when someone talks about the farmers’ job, it is inevitable to explain the way in which the land was subdivided and the various figures that were once a part of the social hierarchy.
The main figures of the society were the messàius mannus (large landowners), a small number of people who owned more than half of all the sattu (countryside). Their homes were proportional to their possessions, meaning the amount of equipment, animals and crops. There were also the messaiéddus (medium-sized landowners), who owned 25% of the sattu. They, often with their children’s help, were directly involved in agricultural work, so they only used outside help occasionally. The messaiéddus a giu e carru normally worked for large landowners, using their unique possessions: an ox-yoke and a kit of related tools. The rest of the village land was divided among the town hall, religious institutions and the remaining ninety percent of the population, who were small landowners. Surviving independently with a small property or without a property at all was impossible, so all of those who were in this condition worked as serbidoris (servants).
The economic relations between large and medium landowners, and between them and their servants, were governed by different kinds of contracts. The annual contract, called a mes’a pàri (a half for each), was an agreement between the mannu messàiu and the mesapparìsta (sharecropper). The milliorìa (improvement) contract established that the messàiu mannu could eventually grant some uncultivated land to messaiéddu, provided that he cultivate it. When the contract expired, the land was divided in two halves, with one half returning to the hands of the original owner and the other half becoming a part of the messaiéddu’s property.
The servants were not entitled to these kind of leases due to their lack of financial autonomy, so they were governed by other rules. The highest position among servants was the sotzu, a sort of lieutenant who worked in the fields, but who also oversaw the other workers. They were followed by the s'òmini (the man), or the first adult worker, who served as the vice-sotzu; the mes'òmini (the middle man), who was a sort of general laborer; the boinàrgiu (the cattle herder), who looked after the oxen that pulled the yoke; and the boinargéddu, a type of apprentice servant.
Servile contracts could be annual, seasonal or daily. The first one consisted of a minimum rate, plus a variable fee depending on the year and the worker’s level in the hierarchy. The second one was only made for two figures: the guardian and harvester. The last one was usually used when the number of contracted servants was not sufficient to collect the wheat quickly enough. The harvesters from Marmilla were in high demand and often worked in other areas of the island. Each harvester was entitled to bring a gleaner, and their compensation consisted of the grain that they effectively cut. The daily contract stipulated the following conditions: the giorrunnadéris servants had to work using their own hand tools, live in their own homes and arrive at work before dawn.
The Agricultural Cycle
The year began in capudànni (September), but the grain that would be used as seed would be selected a month before. In September, the first plowing began. In October, the tsréppadura (the separation of clods) was executed using a hoe or harrow dragged by oxen. In November, they proceeded with a new plowing, perpendicular to the first plowing, which was followed by a second tsréppadura to soften the soil. The seeds were then placed in the ground. In December, a network of drainage canals had to be dug if the field was flooded with rainwater. In January, the first hoeing of the year was done, with the dual purpose of keeping the soil soft and removing weeds. In February, the second tillage took place and in March, the third. In April, the skabiskadùra (weeding) was the main task. In June, they finally proceeded to harvest.
In the villages within the SCI (Site of Community Importance) Giara de Gesturi, the tradition of craftsmanship is still alive, including the creation of art and objects for daily use. Textile also has an important role, so the hands of skilled embroiderers are put to good use by creating refined tapestries, carpets, shawls and tablecloths. It is also worth mentioning the professions that flourished in the past, due to textile production, and today still retain some importance. Seamstresses, known as cosingeras, are able to make both everyday clothes and the traditional folk costumes, whose colors and designs vary from village to village and are only worn on special occasions.
Weaving was also important in the Marmilla, where the s'ollastu (olive), su modditzi (mastic), su cannisoni (reed) and s'arannada (pomegranate) were used to make scarteddus (baskets) for various purposes: po binnennai, po arregolii sitzigorru, po s’olia, is codrolinus, is drucis, su pani o su bistiri, or to transport harvested grapes; collect mushrooms and olives; and preserve cakes, bread or clothing.
Today’s skilled craftsmen, heirs of the masters who built and decorated the churches and houses of these villages, artfully carve stone and wood and beat iron, making objects intended for everyday use. There is not a lack of workers in the field of blacksmithing, goldsmithing and metalworking, as expert hands have started to rediscover obsidian as a useful material for making incredibly elegant jewelry.
Ceramic art, which has ancient origins in Sardinia, is a further expression of local art. The potters today are influenced by Nuragic and Neolithic ceramics as well as those from other cultures, and use this inspiration to create unique pieces that combine both the old and the new.
The small shops and cooperatives dedicated to the preparation of traditional food products, including baked goods, meats, cheese