Some of you killed Luisa - PhMuseum

Some of you killed Luisa

Valeria Cherchi

2016 - Ongoing

16th June 1992: The upper part of a human ear is found by a priest on a mountainous road in Barbagia, central Sardinia. A young boy, Farouk Kassam, is spending his fifth month in a hidden cave, held captive by a group of masked strangers. The balconies in my village are clad with white blankets, a symbol of solidarity with the mutilated, kidnapped boy. We are about the same age, just six years old. Like most kids, I am also terrified of being taken away from my home.

Eleven years later, Luisa Manfredi was shot dead on the balcony of her home. She was 14 years old and the daughter of Matteo Boe, Farouk’s kidnapper. No-one was ever charged or convicted for her murder, which remains a mystery till this day.

About 200 people were kidnapped for ransom in Sardinia between 1960 and 1997. The Sardinian bandits, known as ‘Anonima sequestri sarda,’ followed a set of unwritten rules called Il Codice barbaricino (The Barbagian code). Where the power of the state falls short, a rough justice-in-parallel served through the code, preserved the honour and the dignity of the individual.

This project is an attempt to decode the complex structure of the Sardinian kidnapping phenomenon. It starts with a personal research of the small and closed communities of the island, weighed down by a past of isolation and colonisation. It then progresses to an individual level, reflecting over the desperation of two mothers: one unable to control the fate of her young kidnapped son, and the other unable to find justice for her murdered daughter.

The story is told through screenshots from family videos and from news broadcasts related to kidnapping cases. It also includes my own photographs from the research process in Barbagia, as well as photographs inspired by the memories and stories of the kidnapped. Finally, there is a written account of my investigation, including my struggle to break through the wall of silence caused by the ever-present law of omertà.

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  • Farouk and his lawyer during the trial against Matteo Boe (1994) - Courtesy RAI Sardegna

  • Mum and I, 1992

  • Night procession in Orgosolo, Barbagia.

  • Matteo Boe, during the trial for Farouk’s kidnapping (1994)

  • Staged photograph inspired by memories of kidnapped victim.
    LEFT - Feeding bread to kidnapped victim.
    RIGHT - Kidnapped tied up and held captive.

  • Roman mines in Porto Flavia.

    The Roman Empire ruled Sardinia for about six centuries dividing the island into two main regions: Romània and Barbària. The first was located along the economically prosperous coast. The second one, called nowadays Barbagia, includes the interior of the island. It was an inaccessable enclave inhabited by hostile rebels whom Romans called Barbarians. Some say that the area was the only one that the Empire could not colonise.

  • Don Monni in his parish confessional. Mamoiada, Barbagia. Don Monni was the priest who found Farouk’s ear on 16th June 1992.

  • Investigating the case of Dori Ghezzi in the headquarters of Italian news broadcaster RAI. Popular Italian singer Dori Ghezzi and her husband Fabrizio De André were kidnapped and held
    captive in a cave from 27th August to 21st December 1979.

  • Mother and daughter in mourning dress
    LEFT: Mariangela wearing the traditional mourning dress for the husband’s loss (black veil).
    Lula, Barbagia.
    RIGHT - Rosalina wearing the traditional mourning dress for the child’s loss (yellow veil).
    Lula, Barbagia.

  • Mario in a cave in Supramonte, Barbagia. Mario is my main contact in Barbagia

  • Farouk Kassam’s ear.

    16th June 1992: The upper part of a human ear is found by a priest on a mountainous road in
    Barbagia, central Sardinia. A young boy, Farouk Kassam, is spending his fifth month in a hidden cave,
    held captive by a group of masked strangers.

  • Piera portrayed as The Blessed Antonia Mesina in Orgosolo, Barbagia. Piera is Isidoro’s daughter, the expert man of the territory who brought me around to explore the caves in Barbagia. We bonded quite a lot. Piera lost her mother a few years ago, they had a special relationship and she is not over it yet. Blessed Antonia Mesina was murdered in 1935, aged 15, in Orgosolo after she attempted to fend off a would-be rapist and suffered 74 strikes with a stone before she died. Her icon is easily recognizable in every house of the village wearing a black veil. Local people tend to repeat her story to visitors of the village several times.

  • View of mountains near Orgosolo, Barbagia

  • Hanging white blankets in my village Banari.
    Staged photograph inspired by childhood memory of Farouk’s kidnapping. The balconies in my village were clad with white blankets, a symbol of solidarity with the mutilated, kidnapped boy.

  • View of mountains near Orgosolo, Barbagia.

  • Roman baths near Barbagia

  • Me at the swimming pool, 1992

  • LEFT - View from Cala Liberotto near Barbagia, where kidnapped Cristina Berardi’s brother drowned.
    - Dear Valeria, My summer unfortunately is not good at all, on July 22nd I lost my brother, drowned in the
    sea of Cala Liberotto. He was 60 years old and was our older brother who left 4 sorrowful sisters. Yesterday I finally started my holidays in this horrifying sultry and violent summer. I’m exhausted and in two days I’ll leave to spend some time in the mountains in the beautiful Trentino. So we will not meet. I’m sorry. A hug, Cristina -
    RIGHT - Masked man in Ottana, Barbagia.

  • Policeman in Orgosolo, Barbagia.

  • In December 2003, after Luisa Manfredi’s murder, her mother Laura walked in to the main square
    of the small village of Lula (Barbagia) and sprayed, in front of everyone sitting in the bars, ‘Some of you
    killed Luisa’. Laura Manfredi’s extreme action worked as an attempt to blame the omertà code of silence
    observed by the whole community. No-one was ever charged or convicted for Luisa’s murder, which
    remains a mystery till this day.


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