2014-03-07

Argentine Women - Working Towards Equality

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Argentine Women - International Women’s Day 2014

With International Women’s Day this Saturday (March 8th), thinking about women who changed the attitude and view towards their gender through art is almost impossible to avoid.

Every year since the early 1900’s thousands of events are held throughout the world to celebrate this day: not only to remind everyone of the long term relationship women have with the fight for their equality but also to inspire women and celebrate what has been achieved. To underline the importance of this day more than 26 countries, including China and Russia, have declared it a national holiday on which celebrations and events are held to honour women and their achievements.

Some of the most influential and inspirational women who fought for equality and change did so through art. The songs, poems and paintings produced by these women can give us a great insight into the past.

Argentina has a long tradition of women that have gained the respect of their contemporaries. They faced the rejection of being the speakers of a gender supposed to be weak and passive and acted during moments in history where nobody was allowed to think differently without facing the consequences.

Alfonsina Storni (1892 - 1938) was one of the most important Argentine and Latin-American poets of the modernist period. Her most notable works were “La inquietud del rosal” ("The Restlessness of the Rose") and “El dulce daño” ("Sweet injury") among others in which she focuses on what sees as the repression of women by men. Starting in 1930, her style of writing changed into a more feminist style which is clearly noticeable in her piece “Mundo de siete pozos” (1934). In October 1938, Alfonsina Storni sent her last poem “Voy a dormir” (“I’m going to sleep”) before committed suicide. She apparently headed towards the sea at La Perla beach in Mar del Plata, 400km south of Buenos Aires haunted by solitude and breast cancer. Although it is believed that she jumped from a breakwater, popular legends say that she slowly walked out to sea until she drowned. Her death inspired Ariel Ramírez and Félix Luna to compose the song “Alfonsina y el Mar” ("Alfonsina and the sea"), which has been performed by many famous singers.

 

One of these singers was Mercedes Sosa (1935- 2009), known as La Negra. She was an Argentine singer who was popular throughout Latin America and many countries outside the continent for her roots in Argentine folk music and political protest songs. She was best known as the "voice of the voiceless ones" during the time that politically opinionated artists were banned during the 60´and 70´. Her career spanned four decades in which several Grammy awards were given to her, including a posthumous Latin Grammy award for Best Folk Album. As well as other singers, she performed the song “Alfonsina y el Mar” to honor Storni’s life and work as well as the feminist attitude which was important in her time.

To cover all artistic fields, painting cannot be forgotten. For a more modern and actual view on inspiring women these days, Marta Minujin should be mentioned as a great example for how the female picture changed throughout the years and what a modern lifestyle they can follow nowadays. Marta Minujín was born in Buenos Aires in 1943. She studied at the National Institute of the Arts and now lives and works in Buenos Aires. She was an important member in the avant- gard Di Tella Institute where she started the pop and psychedelic art movement. In 1983, after seven years of dictatorship in Argentina, she created a monument to raise awareness for the lack of freedom of expression which existed at the time.  Assembling 30,000 banned books, she designed the "Parthenon of Books," which was mounted in the centre of the famous street 9 de Julio. Within three weeks all 30,000 books had been taken home by the people of Buenos Aires.

 

Amongst many others, these three Argentine artists made it possible for women today to live in a society that respects them without any limitations on how to dress, act or speak. International Women’s Day is a great reminder for everyone how far we have come in this world.

 

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