Perhaps thanks to her Sardinian blood, poet Antonella Anedda was able to deliver an extremely effective description of the Sartiglia – the fascinating and mysterious race held on Carnival Sunday and Tuesday in Oristano, “on Sardinia’s West coast, beyond which there is only Spain”.
She explains that “a man called ‘su Componidori’ is dressed by three women, who put a plain wooden mask on his face: smooth, white, and androgynous”.
It is the most solemn moment in the thrilling run-up to the joust among masked knights belonging to the ancient arts and crafts corporations, known as ‘gremi’, which organize the even every year.
The Componidori’s mask, Anedda adds, “cancels the individual’s identity and has no expression. Up until very recently, even the name of the person who would play the Componidori was kept secret”.
His task is to lead the knights in the race, which is won by whomever is able to lance the “sartiglia”, a silver star hanging from a thin thread.
After getting dressed – standing on a table, which is almost like an altar in the event – the Componidori cannot touch the ground until the end of the competition: he climbs directly from the table onto the back of his horse, and “in order not to fall, to fight fear and impotence, he can only count on the strength in his legs. He will live as if in a dream, becoming all the men and the women he has been before, and whose names have blurred together until they got lost”.