The Perfect Union

Every year in the coldest weeks of the winter season, strange sculptures begin to appear in the fields all over the island. It is the moment for grafting.

Wild olive trees grow throughout the island and they produce perfectly tiny olives with a thin and bitter skin. However, though the oil from wild olives is supposedly superior to that of domesticated varieties, the yield is much, much lower. And so the grafting game begins. First a small branch is cut off of a tree that produces well and placed into a small incision in the wild tree’s trunk. Then the incision is covered with clay to prevent the joint being exposed to rain, wind or cold. Lastly, the entire trunk is masterfully wrapped in torn tarps of all colors and sizes. And thus, the appearance of contemporary art in the fields of rural Sardinia.

In a few short years, the young branches have grown into fruiting limbs, while the gnarled body of the original tree continues to develop downward. It is perhaps one of the clearest examples of a skillful human manipulation of nature. And the visible fusing of two elements of the same plant (strong, healthy roots with plentiful, fruiting branches) seems the perfect marriage. For now the awkward unions conspicuously line the edges of fields, seemingly self-conscious and imbalanced. But in only a few years - what gracefully arching boughs, what tender fruit!

Words Kyre Chenven / Photos Ivano Atzori

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