Street Art That Empowers Women

Creative duo Lediesis puts feminist posters on Italian streets to encourage women's emancipation.

super women
One of Lediesis' superwomen in Trastevere, Rome. Photo: Lidija Pisker.

They are witty. They are intriguing. They use street art to support women. They are the Lediesis.

Two anonymous artists have been decorating the streets of Italian cities with paintings of ‘super women’ who wink at passengers, since early 2019. Their ‘paste up’ posters — their own sort of artistic feminist manifesto — have become very popular in Italy, especially after they started promoting them on their Facebook and Instagram pages.

I have recently become one of the fans and, curious to find out more about their background and motives for making this type of art, I have conducted an interview with them. This is what I’ve found out.

Who are Lediesis?

We are two friends: one has completed academic art studies and her goal has always been to be able to express herself and live through art. The other comes from the world of communication, but has always been involved in art. After all, art is communication!

Our strength lies exactly in joining these two apparently distinct worlds to create something unique together.

Why the name Lediesis?

The choice of the name that the hashtag uses plays with both social language and musical language (both of us have also had experiences in that area). Moreover, already from the pronunciation of Lediesis (ladies), it is clear that we want to pay homage not only to great ladies, but also to all sisters. In short, many shades in a single word.

Why did you decide to be anonymous? Are you planning on revealing your identity in the future?

For us, anonymity is not only a necessity, but above all — a value. It is not important who we are: what matters is the message we want to convey with our works. We are not actresses or front girls of a band. We are artists and what we express is in the work. Staying in the shadows is a form of protection of our privacy, but it is also a means of emphasizing what we do.

We are all surrounded by cravings for protagonism, we see it everywhere. But we are not interested in showing who we are, because for what we do it is irrelevant. We like to think that our superpower is precisely invisibility, because it makes us much more free.

How and when were your ‘super women’ born?

The idea of ​​super women was born as a joke in January 2019 during a visit to Arte Fiera in Bologna. We wanted to create something that would put women at the center of attention, who in this time in history are becoming more and more aware of their abilities. And so, one idea pulled the other in a completely natural and instinctive way.

Without any expectations at all, but just for the sake of sharing them, we made the first foray into our city, Florence, one of the leading cities of Italian street art. It was March 8, 2019 [International Women’s Day], and we attached eight female icons to as many blind windows in the historic center for a tribute to women and for a moment of reflection for all.

Where in Italy can ‘super women’ be found? How many are there until now?

Honestly, we did not expect the media success we have had. This encouraged us and we traveled Italy from north to south to create the traveling exhibition SuperWomen #Super8X8Città.

We started in Naples, where we were also on display at the National Archaeological Museum. Then to Venice, Milan, Bologna, Florence, Rome, Naples, Bari and L’Aquila. At the moment we have no idea how many works have remained because many have been removed and taken away or vandalized, especially in Florence. For us it is a bit of a worry because Florence is our city and we want to embellish it, but we know very well that street art is ephemeral.

On the contrary, in Venice, Bologna and Rome our ‘super women’ resist and are protected as a heritage of the city. Romans always go to take selfies with our Super Sora Lella or Anna Magnani (Lediesis’s ‘super women’ that can be seen in the streets of Rome).

Exhibition of Lediesis’s works titled ‘Stop for a new hope’ was held in Florence during November and December last year. Photo: Lidija Pisker.

How do you decide on which walls, neighborhoods and cities are right for your paintings?

In Tuscany, and especially in Florence, beauty and harmony are everywhere. Living in this atmosphere has formed and educated us in grace and elegance, so we have developed a certain sensitivity in creating a work on the street, trying to pay the utmost attention to the context in which we operate. We are very attentive to the places that we attack, preferring windows or blind arches of the historic centers that frame our ‘super women’, because they enhance both our works and the place where we intervene.

How do you decide which women to paint? What are their superpowers?

We never follow a thought-out choice, just our instinct. Our search for change is reflected in the painting and in the selection of the characters we decide to paint: free and enlightened women who give a positive message of individual growth that is also reflected in the spiritual growth of society. The painted heroines have left, each in her own field, examples and thoughts that deserve to be shared, remembered, paid homage to.

What moves us is the purpose of making every person think, no matter the gender. We all have superpowers. We just need to realize this and act accordingly. Even with small gestures, we can change the world. The revolution begins with ourselves — when we realize our possibilities and consequently our responsibilities.

All your ‘super women’ wink at passers-by. Why?

All of them are playful, they wink at the passer-by who stops to observe them, establishing an intimate, friendly and complicit bond with them as if to say “you too are super, discover your superpower!”

You also painted some men. Do they also have the superpowers of super women?

We painted Martin Luther King, Pietro Bartolo and judges Falcone and Borsellino in collaboration with Fondazione Il Cuore si scioglie for the campaign The time is now, to help fundraise for their solidarity projects. We have selected a group of characters who have distinguished themselves for their social commitment: heroes of our times, ordinary people who can change the world by acting in the first person.

Other men we have painted are Priscilla, who represents not only a tribute to the late singer, actor and artist, Manuel Frattini, but also the joy of feeling like a woman. And Freddie Mercury in the legendary role of the housewife of the video for I want to break free on the occasion of the Florence Queer Festival and the Florentine exhibition.

Talking to Lediesis made me fall in love with what they do even more. The best part of their work is that it is serious yet funny and sharp, but not bitter. On their social media pages, they wrote “joking can save the world” (“il ruzzo può salvare il mondo”).

“We share a similar vision of life and the path we are following and we have the same drive of wanting to convey an important message through lightness and without taking ourselves too seriously,” they explained to me.

This summer, ‘super women’ should be traveling to Bari to be exhibited at the Civic Museum of Bari, they revealed. If they haven’t winked at you yet, it might as well happen in Bari.

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