Buenos Aires has played host to a multitude of women’s marches, protests against gender violence, and calls for equality in recent years. For instance, October of 2016 saw women, along with the LGBTQ+ community, take to the streets in protest against sexual violence and crimes against women, which have increased by 78 percent since 2008 in Argentina. Look closely, and notice that the streets the protestors walk are lined with their own, silent protestations: feminist murals, and male street art painted in solidarity with the Feminist movement.
What is immediately striking about the work of feminist muralists working in Buenos Aires (such as Alice Pasquini, Cuore and the other ‘Wall Sisters’ or Hermanas Paredes) is the body positivity of their images; their representations of women are markedly free from sexualisation or objectification. For instance, Pasquini’s ballet dancer, which adorns a blackened wall in Coghlan, hangs off a masculine figure who stands in the background, while her legs curve away from his figure, one foot pointed against the inside of her knee. It is an image of collaboration between the male and female dancer, yet the female figure takes the foreground: she is elegant and strong, rendered beautiful because of her skill, not because of her body.
Similarly, many of Cuore’s murals centre around women interacting with natural landscapes: arranging the planets as they spin on a giant axis (which can be seen on a house in Coghlan), sitting crossed legged on the floor with a visible bulge of pregnancy, or floating above sky-like layers of paint (a mural which was part of the festival of Ciudad Emergente at Centro Cultural Recoleta in 2014).
These pieces of female urban art provide necessary juxtaposition and respite from the all-too-common depictions of monsters and men which populate the walls of Buenos Aires. The THG crew for instance, a group of street artists working around San Isidro, create fantastical, surreal murals of cyclopses and many-horned creatures, yet their work hardly ever features any female figures.
Indeed, walking the streets of Buenos Aires, the murals of scantily-clad, alluringly-arrayed women become an oppressively aggressive presence, imposing the male gaze onto the roads and walls of the city, coercing citizens in daily acts of voyeurism. In La Boca for instance, the walls are plastered with images of male heroism: sailors and firemen as they haul mermaids or drowned women to safety – a fantastical reference to the naval history of the port – and images of male footballers who play to a crowd of adoring blue and yellow fans.
However, in one of the city’s most epic murals, on Avenida Almirante Brown, which leads down to the river in La Boca, the female figures command attention for their political potency alone. Covering the lower walls of a disused bank, images of protest proliferate in burnt orange, grey-blue, and pastel pink. One woman leads a march of saucepan-banging protestors, as she presents a flag which states ‘Popular Assembly’, alongside a banner which reads ‘Basta De Criminalizar la Protesta Social‘: ‘Stop criminalizing social protest’. While not overtly feminist, the mural does represent a feminist utopia of sorts for street art: free of sexualized imagery, representative of both men and women, political and beautiful in equal measures.
With street art proliferating over the city, more and more women are starting to represent their own bodies and lives on the walls of Buenos Aires’ streets, and in so doing, they begin to re-inscribe the city as a feminist space.
These murals can be seen all over the city of Buenos Aires, particularly in La Boca, Coghlan and Palermo.