Cijaru was born in front of a glass of wine in the historic Da Carlo bar in Porto Badisco, about 7 km on the south coast of Otranto and just a few meters from the place where all the cultures of the Mediterranean met as early as the Palaeolithic in veneration of the Great Mother Earth, the Grotta dei Cervi. From here we set off between two taralli, an olive, and a glass of Negroamaro to understand what we wanted to be and what we would do.

Like our past ubiquity and our nomadism, we decided to be local with a foreign eye, to always be here but elsewhere. After all, how could we have recognised our land if we had not lived there for over twenty years? By travelling, discovering and studying what we had seen in passing, perhaps as less attentive “tourists”. And so, always with an open suitcase, we began to travel, without a headquarters or an office, but only as an entity between a bar, a historic place to drink a glass of wine or have a coffee, such as Ortale, between a Byzantine crypt, such as San Pietro in Otranto, and a dolmen such as the Scusi in Minervino, 8 km inland.

And when we walked from top to bottom, thanks to those who opened their doors to us, we found a temporary place, the Torre Matta, where we could tell the story of our journey from North to South, from South to South-East, from West to East.
Like a long walk or a drive, Cijaru is a journey, ours first and foremost but also the one made by those who come to visit us and discover that we are not only in Italy, but also in Albania, Greece, Turkey, Pakistan and elsewhere.

Of course, the journey is a map, it is drawn by territorial boundaries and to orient ourselves we used google maps but while we were driving towards Santa Cesarea about 25 km on the south coast of Otranto on a clear day we could see the Acrocerauni mountains, the Albanian snow and listened to the Greek radio. Yet google maps kept giving us the Otranto-Santa Cesarea route. Maps are marked places, objective and irrefutable, some would say, but our journeys were in Italy but at the same time outside those borders like the journey marked on Villa Sticchi, an early twentieth-century Moorish-style villa.

So we decided to tell our story by geographical and historical stages, stages not marked like those of the sea, impossible to contain in precise borderlines. Stages that are once again oriental, matriarchal, Mediterranean, ancestral, feminist, hybrid-like those not marked on Google maps.

Stop 1
Porto Badisco, Bar da Carlo; Grotta dei Cervi (7km south coast of Otranto)

Nel grande canalone che degrada verso l’insenatura di Porto Badisco, si poteva udire in tempi remoti un suono In the great gully that slopes down towards the inlet of Porto Badisco, in ancient times an ancestral sound could be heard, that of a shell. An ancient wind instrument was used in rites in honour of the goddess Mare. We are in the Grotta dei Cervi, a natural coastal cave, an ancient place of call for the various Mediterranean peoples, as evidenced by the ancient depositions found that served as offerings of all kinds in stone, bone, and ceramic. Since its discovery on 1 February 1970, it has been recognized as one of the most important monuments of post-Palaeolithic wall art in the Mediterranean. On its walls are hundreds of realistic figurative pictographs with groups of archers hunting deer, agricultural and pastoral work, and symbolic abstracts depicting social scenes with the tree, star, comb, and cymbal figures. The representations made in red ochre, the oldest, and in brown, from bat guano, date back to the Neolithic period, between 4,000 and 3,000 BC. Some symbols refer to propitiatory hunting practices or to the initiation of children who left their handprints in the oldest cave, perhaps to demonstrate their courage and membership in the adult community.

Stop 2
Minervino, Dolmen degli Scusi (7.9 km south-west of Otranto)

Walking along a narrow country path through olive groves and aromatic plants, a primordial stone structure appears before our eyes, enveloped in an intimate and rarefied atmosphere. The Otranto hinterland is dotted with ancient stone structures, probably linked to funerary rites and cultural functions. The dolmen (from the Breton word to or tuol, table, and men, stone), generally consists of a stone slab resting horizontally on stones driven vertically into the ground so as to form a real environment. Dolmens, together with menhirs and mirrors, are now considered megalithic altars, burial monuments, or just symbols of fertility.

Stop 3
Otranto, Chiesa di San Pietro (500 m from the Castello Aragonese, direction Lungomare)

Squeezed between dense white houses and a labyrinth of small streets, the church of San Pietro with its central plan stands on the ancient promontory of the bay of Otranto. Built-in the IX-X century AD. San Pietro is one of the most important examples of Byzantine architecture in Italy. Inside it preserves admirable frescoes, including the Washing of Feet and The Last Supper, dating from the 10th century, an expression of Oriental stylistic elements, functional to the Greek Orthodox religious rite that took place here. The small church bears witness to the cultural influence of Constantinople, the ancient capital of the Terra d’Otranto.

Stop 4
Otranto, L’Ortale; Mosaic of the Cathedral (1 km from the Otranto Sud entrance coming from Maglie)

The mosaic of Otranto Cathedral was created between 1163 and 1165 by the presbyter Pantaleone who, through millions of polychrome tesserae, represented the Tree of Life, of good and evil. A path of images and signs indicating the stages that every human being must complete in life to achieve salvation and spiritual rebirth. It represents the summa of the encyclopedic and enlightened knowledge of the Middle Ages, through the representation in images of French and Breton poems of chivalry, Mediterranean Jewish tales, Arabian legends, bestiaries, and apocryphal gospels, stories from the ancient Testament, cabalistic symbols, allegories, and moral teachings.

Stop 5
Otranto, Torre Matta (300 m from the Aragonese Castle, direction Porto)

Nella baia di Otranto si staglia l’imponente struttura dell’ultimo baluardo di difesa dell’antica città. La Torre Matta The imposing structure of the last bastion of defence of the ancient city stands out in the bay of Otranto. The Torre Matta is part of the defensive system of the ancient city walls of Otranto. Built on a circular plan at the end of the 15th century and later reinforced according to the architectural structure called “casamattate”, from which it takes its name, the rondella tower was incorporated in 1500 by a pentagonal bastion. Transformed into a “butto” over the last few centuries, it was subjected to extensive restoration work and now houses a sculpture centre where international artists are invited to revisit and re-examine a past in the making in a contemporary key.

The social promotion association cijaru was born from the collaboration of its founders: an art historian Davide De Notarpietro and a curator and theorist Francesco Scasciamacchia, who come from Otranto (Lecce) and share the same goals and projects in the research of the historical and cultural roots of Apulia, Salento and the Mediterranean geographical areas. Through transversal projects between history and contemporary art, cijaru aims to enhance and promote the local historical-artistic heritage and its intangible culture through contemporary art projects carried out in a participatory and collective way with the communities concerned.
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