Valeria Cherchi, Some of You Killed Luisa

Curator: Jenny Nordquist


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 to this day.

In all, 162 people were kidnapped for ransom in Sardinia between 1960 and 1997. 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.

This project is an attempt to decode the complex structure of the Sardinian kidnapping phenomenon. It starts with a personal study 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 upon 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.

The story is told through screenshots from family videos and from news broadcasts related to kidnapping cases. It also includes my own photographs from the research process in Barbagia, as well as photographs inspired by the memories and stories of the kidnapped.

Finally, there is a written account of my investigation, including my struggle to break through the wall of silence caused by the ever-present law of omertà.


Valeria Cherchi (1986, Sassari, Italy)

An Italian photographer born in Sardinia and currently based in Milan. Completed her BA in Industrial Design and her MA in Fashion Photography. In 2016 she took part in the International Masterclass at ISSP mentored by Simon Norfolk. Her practice focuses on long-term projects regarding social and cultural issues. Her research is driven by the need to explore topics such as time, memories, and history connected to her personal experience. She is interested in real and tangible character-driven stories, often told by combining photography and text.