14 febbraio 2023
by Rita Lofano

The Giants of Putignano


Crazy old Carnival

he sold his mattress

to buy bread, wine,

tarallucci and cotechino.

And stuffing himself with

a pile of sweet fritters

his belly has got so fat

that it looks like a ball.

He drinks and drinks and suddenly

his face turns red,

then his belly bursts too

while he eats more and more...

And so, the Carnival dies

and give him a funeral,

from the dust he was born

and to dust he returned.

Carnival nursery rhyme, anonymous [often attributed to Gabriele D'Annunzio, though unconfirmed].

Turvy and topsy. A mask on top, a dance below. The Carnival of Putignano is topsy-turvy. The town’s masked parade has been going for 629 years: a fantastical procession of flying carts, clowns and devils, sacred figures and irreverent forms. The Carnival of Putignano is a world heritage event, whether UNESCO agrees or not.

It is the very profane and pleasure-loving time of Puglia Felix, which goes from Boxing Day to Shrove Tuesday, the funeral of the Carnival that never dies. In the evening, a procession accompanies a pig made of papier-mâché to the stake - the caro estinto - representative of the end of the period of excesses and merrymaking. What a Dionysian rite; you can almost see the Magna Graecia of the Murge, among the olive trees, the red earth, the vines and their nectar, the sweet ingredient of oblivion: wine.

Here everything is offshoot (Treccani: “In botany, a branch that is bent and buried, after removing a strip of bark to encourage the development of new roots, for the propagation, i.e. multiplication, of a plant), therefore it is an extension, seed and sprout, the multiplication of the existing and, of course, where Carnival is involved, there is fright, and the rite of the offshoots is also the casting out of the devil, the exorcism of fear

It is the very profane and pleasure-loving time of Puglia Felix, which goes from Boxing Day to Shrove Tuesday, the funeral of the Carnival that never dies

So, let’s celebrate, let the carts fly, may the De-Sidera winged fish rise up to the skies, because this is the realm of the impossible, and if what is above is below and what is below is above, then C’era una volta un re (Once upon a time, there was a king) is a DJ and don't get lost in the labyrinth Attenti al loop (Beware of the loop). The carts are transport (Treccani: from the French transport, impetus, irresistible motion, intense emotional state), joy and amazement, because Putignano is a fairy tale above and enchantment below. Gaze wide-eyed at the entrance to the Grotta del Trullo, watch the play of water on stone; do you see the magic, the theater, representation? A few words by William Shakespeare would be absolutely perfect here, he who in his tragedies never failed to include magicians, court jesters and fortune tellers. Pure theater, in its original form, not by chance in Magna Graecia.

‘Once upon a time there was a king,’ a wonderful opening for an enchanting children's fairytale. Stop wasting time, turn off your computer, leave your phone at home, focus on the dream, visit the gingerbread house, admire the 20-meter curtain of lights, let ‘Zia Mara’ (Venier) take you by the hand! On February 21, she will be in Corso Umberto Primo, the special guest of the Carnival.

A mouth-watering program: on February 2, there’s Crazy Thursday; on February 9, it’s Married Women’s Thursday; on February 16, it’s of course the turn of Married Men complete with ‘cutting off the horns’ organized - ça va sans dire - by the Accademia delle Corna; on February 20, the extreme unction and the following day the sounding of the Campana dei Maccheroni; Grand Finale on February 25. How can you resist two months of celebrations? Who knows what Farinella will say, all barley and chickpeas, in her splendid misery, on her day of glory, what a face! [TN: Farinella is both the typical Putignano carnival mask and a local specialty] She'll laugh, she'll get drunk, she'll babble, it's the abracadabra of Putignano. Where everything is possible; Liberation has arrived! It's the first Carnival since the end of the pandemic. More than topsy-turvy, it’s endless joy.

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