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.