The most popular carnival festivals in Sardinia are those held in Mamoiada and Ottana, two towns in the province of Nuoro, in Barbagia, that have fostered a fine tradition of anthropomorphic and zoomorphic masks carved in wood.
The origins of the Ottana carnival go back to time immemorial; the festival has remained mostly the same for centuries, with various representations of scenes from the daily lives of local farmers and shepherds. Plowing, sowing seeds, the harvest, the domestication of farm animals and their death parade down the central streets of the town, following a somewhat fixed routine starring the “Sos Merdules” (people covered in sheepskin, wearing humanlike wooden masks) and “Sos Boes” (who instead wear bovine masks). Other animals – including donkeys, pigs, and deer – are also a part of the procession.
Similarly, the carnival in Mamoiada gives center stage to the “Mamuthones” (representing shepherds) and “Issohadores” (“rope bearers”) who solemnly march down the streets of the village for an entire afternoon, making the many cowbells on their backs ring.
Here is a selection of the wonderful wooden masks used in these Sardinian carnivals.