When we entered the Cibeles Palace in Madrid Sunday morning, trailed by a few early spring gusts, it was virtually empty, besides employees and a few Madrilenians tucked in corners of the offered reading spaces of the Palace.
After wandering for a little while, my family and I stumbled upon a temporary exhibition on the fifth floor, which I later found out was Feminis-Arte IV, or Aliadas, meaning allies, an exhibition by women artists mainly from Spanish-speaking countries exploring the identity and experiences of women. The exhibition hall’s walls were greyscale, providing a subdued backdrop, but the exhibit pieces, illuminated by lights, radiated passion. They were paintings, drawings, videos, photos of girls and women. Women in pain, in happiness, in wedding dresses, dressed in nothing at all. Women of color, girls’ ordinary lives, or just rows of portraits of girls and women with bright eyes that burst off the muted walls. In that moment, pride swelled inside me for these artists I didn’t know who displayed our exquisite imperfect truth.
There was one Aliadas video piece I clearly remember, 7.1 kilos by Maria José Argenzio. With soothing instrumental flute music, the video showed a ballerina dancing en pointe, zoomed in onto her feet as she elegantly pliéd and danced. Small, round black weights totaling 7.1 kilograms were tied to her peach pink pointe shoes, yet she still jumped, dancing confidently as the weights clattered against the hardwood floor until they began to fall off. I had only recently began to take ballet classes, so even the simplest ballet moves en pointe were hard for me. Yet, this young woman performed beautifully to shed her ugly burdens. The video replayed after it had ended, and I still stared at the projector screen in awe.
Every Sunday at dance class, my dance teacher, a stern Chinese lady in her fifties, would yell at me to jump higher, to point my toes with all the muscles I had in my leg. She’d poke my back and tell me to stand taller, and she’d yank up my right thigh to get my leg higher in passé. For now, people help me carry even my own weight as I strain to take a few wobbly steps en pointe while attempting to be graceful. But, with my slowly developing strength, I will be able to carry myself and more burdens that accumulate and weigh me down. As females, we can endure so much to battle societal expectations, inequality, and stereotypes that hinders our ability to bring out our energy and our hearts through our unique performances in life, so with my own abilities, I can also be the beautiful woman leaping with 7.1 kilos on her feet.
After our visit to the Cibeles Palace, linking arms with my sister as we strolled to Retiro Park, I thought of the famous museums in Madrid memorializing Spanish culture with works of Picasso, Dali, Cervantes, what we and other tourists came for. However, through the palace exhibit sharing common experiences defying borders between nationality, origin, and hometown, this city of Spanish culture was able to welcome me with open arms that windy Sunday morning in March, so I couldn’t help feeling Madrid was a piece of home for me to keep inside myself. Remembering how the Aliadas exhibition artistically conveyed the experiences of girls and women, creating a sense of sisterhood and love between the artists and every single Aliadas visitor, including me, I knew that I was one of many female allies in the world, una de las muchas aliadas en el mundo.
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