Madrid feminist mural: Councillors thwart effort to remove artwork

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image copyrightGetty Images
image captionLocals launched a campaign to protect the mural after councillors decided to remove it

A Madrid mural celebrating several prominent women has been saved from erasure after critics sought its removal, arguing it had a "political message".

The 60m (197ft) mural was painted on a sports centre in 2018 in the Ciudad Lineal area of the Spanish capital.

Singer Nina Simone, civil-rights activist Rosa Parks and painter Frida Kahlo are among the women featured.

Last week, the far-right Vox party led an effort to have the mural removed.

The proposal was originally supported by the conservative People's Party (PP) and the centre-right Citizens party, which voted in favour of replacing the mural with one honouring male and female Paralympians.

But the decision outraged some locals, who protested against the removal and launched a petition that attracted 56,000 signatures. The left-wing Más Madrid party tabled an urgent motion to protect the mural on Tuesday.

The motion was approved in a vote supported by councillors from Citizens - which reversed its initial position - and the Socialist party of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionNina Simone, Rosa Parks and Frida Kahlo are among those featured on the mural

Madrid deputy mayor Begoña Villacís said she accepted the community's desire to save the mural, despite not liking it herself.

"Our politics is about doing things, not erasing things," said Ms Villacís, a member of the Citizens party.

But she questioned why the mural only featured women from the political left instead of including figures such as the late UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Why the mural was controversial

"Your ability doesn't depend on your gender," reads the slogan on the mural, which bears the faces of tennis player Billie Jean King and Soviet sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko, among others.

Vox councillors argued at a Madrid council meeting last week that the mural sent a "political message" that promoted a narrow left-wing version of feminism that was not representative of all women.

And Madrid's PP mayor, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, said at the time the decision to remove it was as "democratic as the decision to paint it".

Who is in the mural?

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThe mural was commissioned by the local council in 2018

Civil-rights activist Rosa Parks

  • In the 1950s, Rosa Parks challenged race segregation for black Americans
  • On 1 December, 1955, she refused to give up her bus seat to a white person in Montgomery, Alabama
  • This started a bus boycott that had a profound impact on race relations in the US

Sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko

  • Known as Lady Death, Lyudmila Pavlichenko was a Soviet sniper in the Red Army during World War Two
  • She is credited with 309 confirmed kills of German soldiers following the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941
  • She was eventually wounded by a mortar round and withdrawn from the front line, becoming a poster girl for the Red Army

Singer-songwriter Nina Simone

  • A singer, pianist and civil-rights activist, Nina Simone was considered one of the finest songwriters and musicians of her day
  • Born Eunice Wayman in 1933, her ambition was to become America's first black concert pianist. She won a place at New York's famous Juilliard School but was unable to complete her studies due to lack of funds
  • She went on to become a pop, jazz and blues sensation, recording more than 40 albums

Painter Frida Kahlo

  • Frida Kahlo is widely regarded as one of the greatest painters of the 20th Century
  • She was famed for her intimate self-portraits reflecting pain and isolation
  • She was a member of Mexico's Communist party in her youth and promoted indigenous Mexican culture through her art

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