Testimonies from the past

The small towns located at the foot of the Giara began to modernize in the second half of the last century. The rural inhabitants, who until then had remained faithful to a secular culture, faced a process of change that affected not only the current productive system, but also the political and social order that people had followed up to that point. It is true, as some people argue, that life in the fifties in the towns of Sardinia was much like that of the Middle Ages. All of these changes happened over a very short period of time, so many of the people who lived in this old-fashioned world, which is so deeply different from the present one, are still alive.

Therefore, in order to have an adequate understanding of this past world, you must consider the people, including the farmers and craftsmen, who experienced this life first-hand and can still tell their stories.

As the passage of time distances us from the old way of living in these rural towns, it is of vital importance that we save the voices of its last witnesses. However, there is also another key reason to hear the stories directly from the original sources: in the traditional rural world, “knowledge” was not coded in a systematic way, so no one spoke about it explicitly, wrote it down in books or taught it in special courses, as all of these things would come later on as the towns modernized. The secrets of the trades were learned by observing the work of the older farmers and craftsmen and acquiring the necessary knowledge to work. The complex and articulated knowledge, consisting of concepts and manual skills, required memory, attention and untiring application. Think about the amount of information that a farmer needed to work the land: the geographical and topographical characteristics of the territory and their effects on the crop. For example, a steep or rocky area is not suitable for planting, so it is left uncultivated and used for grazing, whereas vegetable crops are cultivated near a stream because they need to be irrigated.

Needless to say, these are simple examples, but there is no doubt that there once was a “country science”, which was perhaps a less universal science to the one taught in schools, but was no less able to respond to the problems at hand. This, of course, holds true for all of the arts and trades that, until the last century, helped to define the relationship between these people and their world and to develop the community culture. The people who were a part of this world and culture should now be left to speak.

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