The normative descriptions of folk customs, such as we find in ethnographic encyclopaedia, or in the representative publication of the Museum of Mediterranean Masques of Mamoiada about the local Carnival, lift the custom into a timeless sphere, adjust it to the rhythm of the eternal return. What was yesterday will be tomorrow as well, and the parade of the mamuthones and issohadores of Mamoiada appears before us from the obscurity of five thousand years as we would have experienced it by entering the stream of time at any of the carnivals in the past five thousand years.
The normative description highlights the actions repeated year after year, which are considered the essential elements of the custom, and the carriers of collective identity. Exactly because of this, it does not account for such casual and improvised actions of the realization of the custom, as, for example
• that the mamuthones and issohadores, while dancing through the village, en-route stop at every bar, where they dance around the room, and they get free drink in return;
• the villagers take part in the feast in a wide variety of carnival costumes, which, from a historical and symbolic point of view, are absolutely incompatible with the millenary tradition of the mamuthones, but this absolutely does not bother anyone;
• the participants of the parade again and again quit their ritual role, to interact with the relatives and friends, thereby strengthening social ties, and they take pictures with their mobile phones of the other millenary masquerade, the kurents invited from Slovenia to amuse the village, just as these latter take photos of them, and all the onlookers of all of them;
• and that this multi-threaded series of events, which waves on, halts and then restarts during many hours in several sites, unique and never repeatable, and only to be experienced here and in person, this is the very carnival of Mamoiada.
On the Milan flight a young Italian couple is watching me organizing the photos. “Where is this?” they ask. “In Mamoiada, Sardinia”, I reply. “Next year we will go there, too”, they decide.
Mamuthones in the bar. Video by Tibor Nagy
Maria Pittau: Su Beranu (Spring). From the album Raighinas (2004)
New blood. Video by Ildikó Fabricius