Opiemme – an Italian poet and visual artist created a new site-specific mural ”Dolphins” for ”Vedo a Colori” in Civitanova Marche, Italy. It is dedicated to Sibilla Aleramo (1876-1960), a well-known feminist writer, poet and publicist, who spent her early youth in this town. The work is a part of Opiemme’s ”Vortex” series.
Born in Alessandria in Northern Italy, Sibilla Aleramo moved with her family to the region of Le Marche in the late eighties of the XIXth century. Her carefree adolescence was interrupted by a marriage with her father’s worker who raped her when she was 15. The unhappy life of this couple, at better times, was marked by mutual indifference while in worse periods – by numerous acts of domestic violence. Aleramo described her condition in terms of slavery, spiritual emptiness and social alienation. After a long time of being listless, with ”hands manacled and mouth silenced”, she was awakened by some new ideas and moral support coming from Italian female intellectuals and feminists. After a long period of internal dilemmas and fluctuations, similarly as for Nora Helmer, the protagonist of the famous Henrik Ibsen’ s play, she decided to fulfill her ”dream of liberty” by escaping the abusive relationship and living on her own away from her husband and his family. As Aleramo bitterly noted ”the law is on the side of the stronger [p. 371].” According to the severe rules of patriarchal society, having left her husband she was forced to abandon her beloved little son. These difficult experiences were described in her first book – ”Una Donna”/ ”A Woman at Bay” (1906) – which raised important doubts concerning the middle-class domestic life and gender roles in Italy.
On the highly symbolic and meaningful mural, Opiemme shows the very start of the writer’s life path. The phrase in the top-left corner of the work, ”the wind ruffles my thoughts”, was created by the artist to mirror the context of her experience at the real and metaphorical level. The vortex of dolphin-shaped calligrams in the middle of the monochrome work is formed of Aleramo’s words expressing her first impressions after seeing the marine landscape of Civitanova Marche. The figure of dolphin symbolizes intelligence, intuition, renewal as well as freedom, hidden power and fulfilled dreams.
The sea was a bad expanse of silver, the sky an infinite smile resting upon my head (…) My lungs drank in with avidity all that free air, that salty breath. I would race up and down in the sun on the shore and face the waves as they curled on the sand.
[A Woman in Bay p. 20]
The Roman proverb „Per aspera ad astra” in the top-right corner of the mural reflects Aleramo’s difficult road from passivity to activity, from subordination to self-determination, from objectification to empowerment.
The tribute to Sibilla Aleramo is not the first work of Opiemme dedicated to a female author. In Gdansk, Poland, the artist created an impressive in terms of form and size mural commemorating the outstanding Polish poetess, Wislawa Szymborska, whose works were awarded by the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996.