Some of you killed Luisa
(2016 – 2019)
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.
‘Some of you killed Luisa’ is a photo-text project about my attempt to decode the complex structure of the Sardinian kidnapping phenomenon.
I challenge the idea of using the photographic medium to document and understand part of one of the darkest histories of my homeland, the island of Sardinia, where between the 1960s and the 1990s almost 200 people were kidnapped for ransom.
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.
By defining the parts of the story that are reliable, I draw on several sources: archival material from news broadcasts related to kidnapping cases, historical and anthropological evidence, statistics, my own photographs from the research process, screen shots from family videos as well as photographs inspired by the memories and stories of the kidnapped.
How to tell a story bound by uncertainty? How to talk about histories that are just partially ended?
With this work, I propose to look at the reasons that depict the absence of truths, instead of seeking the truth itself. I examine small Sardinian communities as a case study of a civil context that has opted to decides to shape its social structure by choosing silence and omerta.
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; they both conducted public and extreme actions with the intent of breaking the silence; implicating the wider community.
The outcome of this work is a multilayered examination, where visual material and texts develop simultaneously and state the importance of myself as a witness of a community bound by the ever-present law of omerta.
O Lord, open our lips
The depersonalising perception of the figure of the priest is a common phenomenon carried out by both religious and non-religious people. It is the result of two widespread non-declared schools of thought which support the idea that priests are exempt from two features which are crucial in outlining an individual’s personality: interests and mistakes.
On the one hand, non-religious people are unlikely to imagine priests outside the context of the church or any other religious environment, almost struggling with the idea of a clergy person developing personal interests and passions. On the other hand, worshippers tend to discharge pastors from the common human fault, as though strengthening their faith by picturing the priest as a saint.
Being a priest is not only a vocation but also a job, one which requires a most powerful uniform: cassocks, white collars, mitres… are like potential labels, giving us the pretentious privilege of a straightforward knowledge of the individual who wears it. But how accurate is this knowledge? How much is there that we do not want to understand? How much easier is it for us to see the stereotype, compared to the effort we would need to make to understand the real essence of these people?
The two terms ‘woman’ and ‘priest’ are easily definable but difficult to understand in depth as both contain various codes, too complex to be decrypted. Two of these codes are femininity and spirituality, and they are the ones I have decided to explore in order to outline these women’s individuality. The purpose of the project is to stimulate a debate about who these women really are. What are they allowed to do? What not? Are they mothers? Wives? Lovers?
We open our lips to breath, to eat, to drink, to kiss. We should always open our lips to speak out, and we should always be listened. By building deep relationships with my subjects I aim to reveal details of their lives, details which operate as hints of their womanhood and priesthood, of their interests and their mistakes.
I used to
I often find myself thinking obsessively about the past. About heavenly childhood times and the fleeting adolescence. I am interested in the objectivity of time and how memories are inevitably altered by our feelings. This project is about the pleasant fright that moves me when a sudden scent travels through my senses, bringing back a repressed memory.
I imagined myself back in the places of my childhood, in Sardinia. Gradually I started assembling them to vernacular pictures of my family and images of my diary. As a result the memories are just partially true: they merge with the imaginary and with fragments of some beloved people’s stories. In this way they originate a deep but not true emotion: as a matter of fact someone else’s perception arises in addition to our own. I wanted this to happen in such an intimate way that it is not possible to tell apart my own memories from my parents’ and friends’ one.
While the work is about my self-knowledge and my relationship with memory, it is also a means to evoke the transience of time as duration. The images want to recall an important state of life by blending the conscious with the unconscious and altering the rules in favour of the instinct.