In 2007 writer Ben Hills and photographer Mayu Kanamori travelled to the small rocky island of Sardinia in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea to record the secrets of the oldest living people in the world. Although this claim to longevity – the 'eternal fountain of youth' – is hotly disputed by the Hunzas, the Cossacks and the Okinawans, it is in fact the Sardinians who come out on top as having the largest percentage of centenarians in the world.
What is their secret? What do they look like? What can we learn from these ‘ancients’ (‘anziani’)? You can find out the answers to these questions and more by reading “The Island of the Ancients” by Ben Hills, published by Murdoch Books, August 2008. However, to see what these anziani look like, I recommend you view Mayu Kanamori’s sensitive and beautiful portraits taken over the two months she and Ben spent in Sardinia. This exhibition at Customs House accompanies the launch of the book on Wednesday August 14.
You will meet Antonio Argiolas, the world’s oldest winemaker (he is on the cover of the book), Raffaela Monne, one of the world’s oldest women at her 109th birthday party and Salvatore Spano who performs folk dancing including a show of prowess by standing on his head. You will also get a feel for the physicality and picturesque quality of this island with its forbidding peaks and gorges and of the villages scattered among them. At one stage five of the world’s oldest people lived here, including the world’s oldest man, Antonio Todde, aged 112.
Through Mayu Kanamori’s respectful portrayals (30 images in all) we see older people through new eyes. They are not separated out and treated as social outcasts. They are respected, loved and honoured as part of the culture, and it appears they have looked after themselves in a way that respects the body. They have certainly done something right! There is something we can all learn from in these wonderful stories and images.
Sandy Edwards, Curator & Director, Arthere
The Island of the Ancients
Photographs of Sardinia’s Centenarians
By Mayu Kanamori
Exhibition dates: August 14 to September 28 2008
Venue: Customs House Library