This is a story of hunters, the tonnaroti and of the hunted, their prey – the immense tuna, a seemingly infinite number of Moby Dicks. Sale Sudore Sangue is their story as told by the Sailor Ishmael in question, Francesco Zizola.
The tale told (or the tall tale) in the cavernous space of the Exmà is not for the faint of heart. It is a visual diary of an accumulation of days and months and years. We taste the pervasiveness of salt from the sea and the sweat from exertion as it stiffens men’s clothes, and drips to the seamen’s mouths, ears, eyes. We stand on the rocks of the Sardinian coast and look toward the sea as our men mount their trawlers before dawn, as the grueling sun browns the skin on the seamen’s face and forearms, their muscles straining from wrestling matches with nets, weights, trapped (ammagliati) fish. We wait on board for the scuba divers to resurface from rescuing the unwanted and unintended prey from their traps.
For five years, the author has lived and worked in symbiosis with the tuna hunting (or fishing) season, documenting and collecting the minutiae and the big picture – knives, nets, the earnestness and pride of the tonnaroti, the seascape from below and above. Francesco Zizola’s visual diary ebbs and flows with the currents of the sea, the direction of the wind, and the politics of the men of the Sardinian tonnare. All play a role on the stage of one of the last tonnara in the Mediterranean Sea.
In the waters off Portoscuso and Porto Paglia, the Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus) have been passing for thousands of years and for all those years, the tonnaroti have been laying their traps, guided by their Rais (our Ahab) with techniques passed down the lines from Arabian trappers to Sardinian fathers and their sons. Traps as long as four kilometers and shaped like a Mirò painting.
Following the intricate labyrinths of the tonnara, Sale Sudore Sangue pulls you forward, into its’ strategically laid out nets, into the chambers that chronicle the struggle of the hunted. From the large nets where the tuna circle and circle to their final struggle as the nets close in on the tuna as they are led to their brutal and blood-soaked end – their death chamber and their death dance – the mattanza – where man wins the final conquest in the battle with a mythic beast.