MAMUTHONES AND ISSOHADORES: Ancient Pagan Carnival in Sardinia

Tony Corocher

2016 - Ongoing

Sardinia, Italy

Mamuthones and Issohadores are two traditional masks still visible during the ancient pagan Carnival held in the small town of Mamoiada (in the mountains of Barbagia, Sardinia, Italy).

Some scholars argue that this rite dates back to the Nuragic Era, as a gesture of reverence for animals, to protect from evil spirits or to propitiate the harvest. Whatever the origins, this is a very deeply felt rite and a very important part of Mamoiada’s ancient culture.

I decided to capture not the main event - the final procession open to the public - but what happens before, in the backstage, during the dressing ceremony... a very private and secluded matter that takes over three hours and is not open to the public. This is where it is possible to see and understand what this festivity really means to those who put on the mask... plus 30kg of iron bells and goat skins.

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  • Each Mamuthones has to be helped by two or more people to put on the costume which is composed of a hand made wodden mask, about 30 kg of iron bells and a sheep/goat skin. The process takes about one hour for each Mamuthones.

  • Sometimes even the children put on the costumes too. Sometimes they parade together with the adults, sometimes in a different group... most of the children will keep up the tradition until they decide to 'hang the bells' when they are older like their fathers/uncles did before them.

  • A beautiful example of a Mamuthones fully dressed and ready to join the parade... the mask will be put on at the last second.

  • Mamuthones and Issohadores helping each other to get dressed.

  • Issohadores in front of the costume (mask + 30kg of iron bells) of a Mamuthones.

  • Each Mamuthone has up to 3 people helping putting the heavy mask on.

  • Discussing the details of the parade with the locals and the administration.

  • Resting before the parade which is very hard work, jumping up and down (like the animals they want to represent) through the street of Mamoiada with 30kg of iron bells on their back.

  • Everyone is ready. The Issohadores get the final things in place... they will lead the parade and "guide" the "animals" Mamuthones making sure they do not run away.