52 Reasons to Love Sicily
#15. Joyful Folk Art
The craftsmanship and tradition of Sicilian carts radiate a rainbow of joy. And today especially, for the Feast of Saint George (April 23), colors and ritual meet, for San Giorgio is the protector of cart drivers and their horses. So, when you encounter a cart, like this one pictured, you’ll often see San Giorgio depicted on it (note his image on the bed of this two-wheeler). Painted in the western Sicilian style, this work of art possesses an accent of yellow and more geometric designs that recall the mosaic tiles of Palermo’s Arab-Norman Cappella Palatina and Monreale and Cefalù cathedrals. In addition to the painting, the woodwork and the iron works (the axel, etc.), are also an essential part of the craftsmanship.
Such wagons where used for centuries to transport goods throughout the island. Drivers were known for their melismatic songs, which were often employed to entertain each other at rest stops and to stay awake while traveling during the night, when it was cooler to protect the fish, fruit, vegetables or other such perishable goods they carried.
The designs, which take on a more baroque style on the east side of Sicily, were a way to display how successful a driver was at completing his missions, for the more distinct the designs and the more elaborate the decorations his horse or mule possessed, the more successful one could gather he was. Perhaps it’s because he aptly venerated Saint George!