Memoir VII: The Reincarnation of Mother Nature

The oldest question known to mankind is what is the meaning of life? You see, we don’t really have an answer for it. We try to give that question an answer. For example, we come up with things such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Birthdays. But they just mask the fact, we don’t have a bulletproof answer for the question.

Besides the question, I believe the very essence of life is impossible. The earth has approximately 7 billion people, that’s approximately 7 billion people living on a ball of rock, rotating around a ball of extremely hot hydrogen and helium. This very planet, that we inhabit is so perfect. It’s as if, the earth is the porridge that Goldilocks tried, it’s just right.

With regards to myself, I consider myself to be impossible In a non-egotistical way. Sometimes I look at my past achievements and think, how the f#@% did I pull that off. But I believe in a world where normal is average’s best friend, you really have to separate yourself from the crowd by being impossible. I sound like Les Brown there

Even when I entered this world, it was a bit impossible. My mother told me I was late She said, “I was too comfortable” and that I had to be removed via C-section (Cesarean Section). When I think about it from my mum’s perspective or anybody who has had a C-section, I have to give them their dues. Because I have looked at the side effects and bloody hell (no pun intended). I can’t think of the male equivalent of a C-section. Because firstly, I don’t want to and secondly, it doesn’t exist.

But besides the blood, the screams and agony. Childbirth is truly a beautiful and fascinating concept. Because for 9 months, a woman’s body undergoes a physical change for the sake of another being.

I remember when I was 15, I did something bad It was probably due to coming home late or something and my dad said to me in a fit of anger, “I brought you into this world and I can take you out of it!”. When I heard this, I experienced multiple states of confusion.  At one point I was thinking, “Someone is being a bit too extreme” 25 to life, because of me being disobedient, a bit silly in my opinion. Then at one point, I was gritting my teeth and screaming in my head, “You didn’t carry me for 9 months and have a C-section” At this point, the emoji with the rolling eyes was dotting around my head

It’s interesting looking back at that memory because my dad could have said instead of “I”, “Your mother and I”. However, he didn’t and that got me thinking. Do we as men or to be specific black men, appreciate the most precious jewel of the world, a woman? or in a black man’s case, a black woman?

The late James Brown once said, “This is a man’s world. But it wouldn’t be nothing. Nothing! without a woman or a girl” and rightfully so. I wouldn’t exist without a black woman. Even when I look back as far as primary school, I’ve always had the help of a black woman. I am, who I am, because of them. Catholicism says the holy trinity consists of; the father, the son and the holy spirit. But in that trinity, where is the mother? If we look at Catholicism it has a prayer dedicated to the mother of Jesus, Mary. Food for thought Looking at the English language, it has many phrases good and bad that use the word, “mother”. For example; “mother tongue”, “mother country” and “mother nature”. Someone who incorporated all three of these terms in their work was the legendary artist, Frida Kahlo.

Born 6th July 1907 in Coyoacán, Mexico. Frida was the daughter of Guillermo and Matilde Kahlo, she was the third out of four daughters. During her childhood, Frida did not like her mother. On the other hand, she was very fond of her father. Guillermo Kahlo was a photographer, prior to Frida’s birth, he set up his own business.

1913, Frida contracts polio and it affects her right leg, the growth of her leg is stunted. At school, she is ridiculed, her peers call her “peg-leg Frida”. After this incident, she starts wearing skirts with lengths that touch the floor, to cover her leg.

1922, 15 year old Frida is now attending classes at the National Preparatory School in Mexico City. As a matter of fact, she was one of the 35 girls who made up the first intake So, she was quite intelligent. It is at this point, Frida is pursuing a career as a doctor. In addition, around this time she became intrigued by Mexican politics. She even became a member of “Los Cachuchas”, a political group that discussed socialist and nationalist ideas related to Mexico, it is here she becomes an avid reader. Lastly, it is at this school that she encounters her future husband, Diego Rivera, who too is also an artist.

September 1925 and this is the month were everything changes. While travelling home by bus, the bus collides with a tram. Frida sustains multiple injuries, a broken pelvic bone to a broken spinal column. Bystanders at the time said that Frida screamed so loud, that it resembled that of a police siren.

She was confined to the hospital for several months and it was here, she began to paint. A canopy was attached to Frida’s bed, with a mirror covering. The mirror played an instrumental role during this period because it helped when Frida did her self-portraits.

By 1927, Frida had regained her health. 1928, she encounters Diego Rivera again and as the saying goes, “Sparks begin to fly”. Frida had established herself as an artist in her local community, she showed Diego her work and he loved it. It was through Diego’s admiration, that Frida decided to pursue a career as an artist instead. Moreover, Frida’s passion for politics did not vanish after her injury, during this year she joined the Mexican communist party.

August 1929, Frida and Diego got married. The marriage was met with such perplexity because at the time Frida was 22 and Diego was 42. Their statures contrasted each other, Diego was a giant and Frida was this “petite person”, everybody especially Frida’s parents found the marriage to be odd. In fact, they were referred to as the elephant and the dove.

During the 1930s the couple would go back and forth between Mexico and The States, this was because of Diego’s work, he was contracted to paint many murals in The States. In 1930, Frida and Diego tried to conceive but unfortunately, Frida’s first pregnancy had to be terminated, this was due to her fractured pelvis, she sustained during the bus accident. 1932 and the couple were still resilient, they tried to conceive again but this time, Frida’s second pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. 1934 and the couple try yet again but their hopes are met to no avail, Frida’s ovaries had not fully matured termed “infantilism of the ovaries”. As a result, her pregnancy had to be terminated. To add to that, during this year, she had her appendix removed and the toes of her right leg were removed too.

Frida’s misfortune would not cease, in the following year she discovered that Diego was having an affair and it was with her younger sister, Cristina Kahlo. (Que the phrase, “Men are Trash!”)

Frida depicted this betrayal, in the piece “A Few Simple Nips (painted 1935)”. Looking at the piece, we see a naked body of Frida with multiple stab wounds. She intentionally uses her nudity to show the viewer her vulnerability, the fact that Diego stabs her naked and not clothed, emphasises how betrayed she feels. Moreover, if we look at Diego, he is depicted with one hand in his pocket and the other clutching a knife. In addition, he is looking at the body and smirking. Frida implies to the viewer, that Diego probably enjoyed having this affair, he found pleasure in inflicting emotional pain on Frida. Lastly, the frame, it signifies that the couple’s relationship is on full display for the public to see. With the frame being bloody too, it shows the viewer that they are now watching a relationship that is damaged.

A few sample nips

Despite the painting, in 1936, Frida and Diego resolved their issues. They were not back together, both would go on to see other people, but they were cordial Frida also had another operation on her right foot. Moreover, during that year, the Spanish civil war began. Frida and Diego raised money for the Mexicans fighting in the Spanish civil war

Frida always supported her mother country, she cherished her heritage and it was evident with pieces such as, “My Grandparents, My Parents and Me (painted 1936)”. The child standing in the garden is Frida, she is holding a red cable. The manner she holds the cable signifies the connection that both her parents now have is due to her and her siblings. Her grandparents’ heads are in the clouds, this symbolises the connection Frida has with her grandparents transcends this physical realm, and in fact, she is spiritually connected to them.

my-grandparents-my-parents-and-me-1936

September 1937 and four of Frida’s paintings were included in an exhibition at the Galeria de Arte, located at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

The artist’s momentum starts to build,1938 and Frida has her first exhibition in New York. To her own surprise, the exhibition is a massive success. She secures “the bag”

1939, Frida and Diego are now divorced. It was during this period, Frida threw herself at her work, she felt lonely but at the same time she refused to be tied down by Diego, she refused his financial support. The artist decided to cut her hair and even began wearing men’s suits. Which at the time was “unladylike” Frida was making a statement to Diego and her contemporaries, that she was an independent and free-thinking woman.

It is the turn of the 1940s, surrealism is booming, and it has an effect on her work. Although Frida and her work are not referred to as surrealism, but who cares, her work is gaining traction. 1940, Frida travels to San Francisco in order to receive treatment for her back, while there she discovers she has a severe kidney infection and anaemia. In addition, in December 1940, Frida and Diego decided to get married again.

Moreover, during this year Frida produced one of her most known pieces, “Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (painted 1940)”. This piece has multiple themes. Frida is wearing a thorn neckless, which could be paying tribute to Christ’s crucifixion. When Christ was killed, he was mocked and called, “the King of Jews”, he was given a crown of thorns. Perhaps the thorn neckless symbolises how she feels about Diego treating her, in their first marriage. Below her thorn neckless is a dead hummingbird, the shape of its wings echoes the shape of her own eyebrows, in Mexican culture the hummingbird is a symbol of healing, perhaps it reflects Frida’s hope she has for a better life. However, this is contrasted with the presence of a black cat on her shoulder, which is a symbol for bad luck, so she could be doubting this new chapter of her life. On Frida’s right shoulder is a monkey and it is playing with her thorn neckless but in the process causing Frida more pain, the monkey could be representing Diego. Lastly, on top of her head are butterflies, the butterflies could be showing the transformation Frida might be expecting in her life and hope.

frida-kahlo_self-portrait-with-hummingbird

By 1943, Frida was teaching at the School of Painting and Sculpture which was known as “La Esmeralda”, Mexico City. She was different from the other teachers, she truly enjoyed teaching. She wanted her students to be more than just the average artist, she would occasionally tell her students to go outside and just paint. Frida’s health overtime would continue to deteriorate. However, this did not deter her from doing her job.  During her bedridden days, she would hold classes from her home.

The culmination of Frida’s operations can be seen in this piece, “The Broken Column (painted 1944)”. This painting shows the agonising pain Frida endured. Her body is pierced with multiple needles, which vary in different sizes. In my opinion, Frida cleverly depicts the sensation, “pins and needles”. You can see from her tears, she is not just uncomfortable, but experiencing excruciating pain. With regards to the spine being grey, it indicates that Frida has had multiple operations on her back. She sees her own spine as something not made from bone anymore but from metal. Finally, the fact her body is in a deserted sandy plain, with a clear blue sky could suggest that she feels alone.

the-broken-column-1944

By 1945, Frida was awarded the National Prize of Arts and Sciences from Mexico’s Ministry of Public Education.

Her second marriage with Diego was also deteriorating during this time. Diego had cheated on her again and it caused a national scandal. The relationship between Diego and Frida was so bad, Cristina Kahlo intervened and pleaded with Diego to end his affair, and it worked.

It is in this piece, “The Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Myself, Diego and Señor Xólotl (painted 1949).”, that Frida finally comes to the conclusion that her relationship with Diego is no longer sexual but in fact maternal. She uses this piece to confront the uneasy truth, that by behaving as his mother, she is less affected by his adulterous behaviour. The painting celebrates her final resolve. Frida is the mother, nurturing the baby, Diego. This can immediately be deduced; the baby is chubby, has short hair and has big eyes, all of these were features Diego had. She is telling the viewer, the baby that she longed for, was her husband. The irony of the situation is really emphasised with the tiny teardrop she sheds.  The couple is embraced by what appears to be an earth-like wet-nurse, which releases a drop of breastmilk. This could be a tribute to the wet nurse that breastfed Frida when she was a baby. Lastly, the connection is cemented by the duality of the universe, which could be symbolic of the good and bad aspects of the couple’s relationship.

the-love-embrace-of-the-universe-the-earth-mexico-myself-diego-and-señor-xólotl-1949

In 1950, Frida was forced to be in the hospital for nine months, she had seven operations on her spine and was forced to wear an iron cast. Even in the midst of all of this, she still painted, with the assistance of a special easel attached to her bed.

After being released from the hospital, Frida was confined to a wheelchair. Around this time, Frida would mix her medication with alcohol and it had a negative effect on her work. Her pieces lacked that fine detail, her brush strokes were less precise.

However, it was not all doom and gloom. 1953, Frida had her first solo exhibition in Mexico. Frida was a patriotic woman; this exhibition was an honour and a massive milestone. She refused to use her poor health as an excuse for her absence and decided to come to her own exhibition by ambulance. Talk about a grand entrance

Shortly after the exhibition, her right leg was amputated. The artist spiralled into a deep state of depression, but even in this state, she used her pain and anguish to still paint.

By 1954, Frida had contracted pneumonia. Even in a frail state, the artist was still passionate about politics. Against doctor’s orders, Frida took part in a demonstration, that was in protest to the USA’s intervention in Guatemala. A couple of days later, on 13th July 1954, Frida Kahlo died in her childhood home the Blue House, just age 47.

Frida’s personality was ahead of her time, she was expressing ideas of fluid gender presentation during a period when it was seen as bizarre. She was an unapologetic communist; in honour of her death, Diego covered her coffin with a communist flag. It was even debated if she was bisexual because of the implied relationships she had with certain women.  If you couple these together, the very existence of Frida’s success during her time should be considered impossible. But she was celebrated and adored.

If you look at the life of Frida Kahlo, it is a story of a woman who was relentlessly struck with tragedy multiple times. But time after time, she would still paint. She recorded her pain through a canvas for the world to see. Frida Kahlo once said, “I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.” I called this memoir, “The Reincarnation of Mother Nature” because you can’t kill Mother Nature. Mother Nature is this gift that is forever eternal and will always give back to the world. Frida could have chosen to retire from art at any point in her life, but she refused to. She constantly gave something back to the world, by using art as her medium. Her resolve was, “I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint.” and for that, she has my deepest admiration and respect.

 

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close