Mural artivism: Breaking the walls of gender inequality
Date : 03 June 2021
As part of the Generation Equality campaign, seven distinguished local artists – from Albania, Georgia, Kosovo, Moldova, North Macedonia, Turkey, and the curator of the initiative from the United States of America – are starting a conversation on gender equality through mural art in Europe and Central Asia.
A mural is a painting on the wall in a public space that has the unique power to reach broad audiences and engage citizens in dialogue on social issues that are vital to the city or community. From ancient times until now, vibrant murals promote new urban narratives and social change through art.
To foster a rich dialogue, each muralist selected young aspiring artists to help them with the mural. This intergenerational experience provided the artists with an opportunity to usher the next generation into a more sustainable and just future for all.
For decades, New York City has been home to an array of contemporary street art that visualizes public protest and civil rights movements. Alice Mizrachi, a New York City muralist and women’s rights advocate, curated the initiative and guided the artists in their creative process. She brought the vibe of the city to the project, as well as her robust experience in mural art creation.
Mizrachi facilitated four artist workshops that introduced the artist and youth cohorts, while unpacking conversations with muralists about providing a safe and equitable space for artists to collectively organize impactful messages in their communities.
This Mural Artivism initiative is one of various global activities being undertaken as part of the ground-breaking “Generation Equality: Realizing women’s rights for an equal future” campaign, which demands equal pay, equal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work, an end to sexual harassment and all forms of violence against women and girls, health-care services that respond to their needs, and their equal participation in political life and decision-making.
By decorating walls, artivists seek to figuratively break down the walls of inequality! Collectively, these change-makers of all ages and genders can tackle the unfinished business of empowering women through the new multigenerational campaign.
Franko Dinaj, 28, was born in Vlora, southern Albania and he graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Tirana. Since he was a student, he has engaged in various artistic activities focused on social issues such as children’s rights, poverty, and climate change. Dinaj sees art as his strongest "weapon" to serve the public and directly communicate causes to people.
Sharing responsibilities contributes to a better future for society."
“I wanted to challenge gender roles and defy gender stereotypes that exist in our community and show the power of both women and men. I like the fact that we are talking about gender equality; it is very inspiring. My message is that sharing responsibilities contributes to a better future for society, to a stronger and more equal future generation. Putting this intimate moment in a very public space enables young students passing by to see that they can start the change," says Dinaj.
The intergenerational team of artists who worked on the mural are Franko Dinaj and Gerald Ago.
The mural is located in Tirana, Albania.
Tina Chertova, 35, is a handmade craft designer from Tbilisi, Georgia who has been fighting for women’s rights in her country for more than a decade. Her main goal is building a better future for new generations and making essential information accessible to any person who is in need.
She has created works for various festivals and projects, among them the Urban art festival Fabrikaffiti, Georgia “Made by Characters” JWT Metro, “Who is dating who” (on LGBT rights), “#13 June” memorial of the flood in Georgia, the comic series “Social workers for safe families” as well as the “Dreamer” statue to commemorate the 8 August war.
Chertova is the author of the social project Dreamingstan, which fosters the development of feminism in the country and she has contributed to developing initiatives providing visual information about human rights. She is the owner of the family start-up Chertova, which provides handmade toys for charity events and orphanages.
I believe that this project will bring a lot of positive thoughts and actions in the future and will help to provide equal rights for everyone in Georgia.”
Her mural Breaking rules for an equal future, tells a story about individuals who break social clichés by living their life without gender biases in their career choices, lifestyles, and care work.
“The blonde girl who is perceived as not smart because of the colour of her hair is a businesswoman. A boy is a florist. An old lady on a bike manifests that it is okay to be active even if the age expectations of society are different. A boy who adores his dog says that it is not a shame to love animals. A woman architect in a wheelchair challenges the barriers imposed by male-dominated professions. A man who goes to the grocery store by himself and buys products shows that it is okay for the man to carry out household duties.”
The intergenerational team of artists who worked on the mural are Tina Chertova, Hanga Modzmanashvili-Kemecse and Rusa Tavartkiladze.
Lebibe Topalli, 39, is a mural artist from Ferizaj, southern Kosovo, who worked hard to achieve her dreams and got more than she expected. She has been part of many collective exhibitions and seven solo exhibitions in Turkey, Kosovo, Albania, Switzerland, and France. In 2004, she produced the first mural in the city of Ferizaj with the name Integration to Europe, which connected other women painters. She also serves as President of the Art Association Zef Kolombi in Ferizaj.
Topalli is the founder and director of the International Festival of Murals “Mural Fest Kosovo”. In 2016, she won the “Artist of the year” award by the Municipality of Ferizaj. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she started painting murals in public spaces in the city and her work got a lot of attention from local and international media.
“Land has always been considered the most valuable possession and the source of financial survival. Unfortunately, according to custom, despite the valuable contributions of women and girls to land cultivation, inherited land has always passed down to a family’s sons. A man who assists a woman appreciates her, his daughter, and respects all women's rights. This image is defined by the equal sign, which stands for equality and justice for all,” says Topalli.
By using art as a means for social change, I hope to tackle gender stereotypes and views on women artists."
The intergenerational team of artists who worked on the mural are Lebibe Topalli, Dëbora Hetemi, Antika Veseli dhe Endrina Luzha.
Annastasiia Provozin, 24, is a self-taught feminist artist from Chisinau, the Republic of Moldova, who creates illustrations to support and empower vulnerable groups of society and to inform people of existing problems such as gender inequality, human rights violations, discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community and climate change.
Provozin is relatively new to mural art and got involved in it thanks to “Urban Spirit”, a public organization in the Republic of Moldova that aims to develop urban culture. She believes that art is a powerful tool to bring about social change and that public art is especially effective because it creates a space for dialogue within the community, which can lead to positive change.
I want to show what the world could look like if we all celebrated diversity.”
“In my work ‘The time for equality is now!’ I want to show what the world could look like if we all celebrated diversity and created a space for every human to feel respected, protected, and happy. Living in a world with so much gender inequality and discrimination takes a lot of energy, and this energy could be used to do something great instead. I wish this world were a better place for every girl and woman so they could live without fear and develop professionally in any field they want,” says Provozin.
The intergenerational team of artists who worked on the mural are Annastasiia Provozin, Valery Pushkarev, Vitaliy Shevchuk, iZZY iZVNE (Inna Beregoi).
The mural is located in Chisinau, the Republic of Moldova.
Goran Kostovski-Indog is an art director, illustrator, designer, street artist and activist from North Macedonia. Over the years, he has collaborated with many organizations, corporations, musicians, and artists. He has worked on various artistic and awareness-raising activities and campaigns, creating, and researching visual identities. In 2011, he created a DIY (Doing Yourself In) platform and the unisex clothing private label Celebrate Life, which promotes positive messages and urban culture. In 2020, inspired by the pandemic and the need to spark a discussion about the importance of mental health awareness, he started a podcast.
He started making street art in 1996 as a form of expressing his views about society, reflect his values, and use art to make an impact.
Streets are my gallery. It is a form of therapy, and I am leaving a message for a better world.”
The mural “Equality” (Еднаквост) was born as a joint work with elementary school students and reflects on the importance of acknowledging positive role models of women from local and global women’s movements. It uses optimistic messages and well-known feminist symbols to convey the message of equality, which is the keyword written in the mural. The complementary (small) mural aims to deconstruct harmful gender stereotypes that girls and boys face from a very early age.
Unfortunately, the work on the mural was interrupted after it was damaged in its initial phase of production. The work is in progress.
Gökhan Tüfekçi aka ‘Kara Gözüktü Kaptan’, 33, is an independent mural artist from Ankara, Turkey . He was always searching for a medium where both the artist and observer can be on equal ground. Tüfekçi opened his first solo exhibition in Ankara in 2019, as well as joined several street art festivals in İzmir and İstanbul.
“As a street artist, I was excited about the Generation Equality Mural Initiative’s ambition to inscribe women’s fight for equal status, for breaking free from our collective memory through street art – which has historically developed with similar dynamics,” says Tüfekçi.
The mural is inspired by the Russian matryoshka dolls, which are wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside another. The set consists of a motherly figure, often the largest doll, and an additional five to seven dolls, which traditionally lack hands and arms.
“The mural depicts a matryoshka doll embracing the world with its arms and hands – hinting at women’s important status in society. Meanwhile, the arms and hands represent women’s free will. The wishing tree behind the doll is adorned with fabric, each representing women who have come before this generation and their shared commitment for a violence-free and equal world for generations to come. The mural aims to inspire and empower women who want to break free from the constraints of society.” says Tüfekçi. “For generations, women have been pushed aside and have lost their identities due to traditional norms confining them into certain roles.”
For generations, women have been pushed aside and have lost their identities due to traditional norms confining them into certain roles.”
The intergenerational team of artists who worked on the mural are Gökhan Tüfekçi, Tuğçe Doğu and “High Risky”.
The mural is located in Ankara, Turkey.
United States of America
Alice Mizrachi is a New-York-based mixed-media artist who explores both the spiritual and physical dimensions of being human a woman. Her practice includes work as a muralist, fine artist, educator, and curator. Grounded in deep compassion for the human experience across borders, Mizrachi’s embraces the empowerment of self and others through artistic expression, as well as advocacy for women, youth, and the environment.
Mizrachi has worked as an arts educator, developing curricula and presenting on panels for a variety of organizations, including BRIC Arts, The Laundromat Project, The Studio Museum in Harlem, HI-ARTS, the Miami Light Project, Brown University, and The Devos Institute of Arts Management, among others. Her artwork has been featured at the Museum of the City of New York, the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the Albright-Knox Museum.
I hope the community that interacts with this mural creates a dialogue about how we can continue to elevate and uplift women.”
For this initiative, Mizrachi created the mural “We are one world; every human is the other human”, which celebrates Ellen Stewart, who founded the MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in downtown New York City in 1961. The MaMa is widely considered the oldest surviving, most influential and most prolific of all ‘off-off-Broadway’ stages.
“I am excited to paint this portrait of Ellen because she was an advocate for gender equality and worked towards globalizing the theatre community. Highlighting this legendary woman on the back of her building is a great way for me to show gratitude towards what she has contributed to the art and culture of NYC. I hope the community that interacts with this mural creates a dialogue about how we can continue to elevate and uplift women who have accomplished greatness and used their platform to promote equality and inclusion for all,” says Mizrachi.
The mural is located in New York, USA.
 All references to Kosovo should be understood to be in the context of United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 (1999).