Archive for January, 2014

FRIDA KAHLO Y DIEGO RIVERA: EXPOSICIÓN CONJUNTA EN PARÍS / FRIDA KAHLO AND DIEGO RIVERA: EXHIBITED SIDE BY SIDE IN PARIS

  • En una de las muestras de arte más concurridas en Europa de los últimos tiempos, el Musée de l’Orangerie de París acaba de hospedar, entre el 9-X-2013 y el 13-I-2014, la exposición ‘Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera – L’art en fusion’, dedicada a los dos más conocidos artistas plásticos mexicanos del siglo XX.

    frida1   orangerie1

 

Esta muestra, que ya fue anunciada con antelación en esta bitácora (entrada del 28-IX-2013), ha granjeado un indudable éxito, generando filas interminables alrededor del museo (ubicado en el prestigioso Jardin des Tuileries, a la vista de la Torre Eiffel, y conocido sobre todo por albergar la célebre serie de ‘Los Nenúfares’ de Claude Monet).

Como es sabido, la relación entre Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) y Diego Rivera (1886-1957) no fue sólo artística sino personal: tuvieron una tempestuosa historia de amor, casándose en 1929, divorciándose en 1939 y volviendo a casarse el año siguiente. Si Diego correspondió a ‘las pautas tradicionales masculinas’ recurriendo a diversas relaciones extramatrimoniales, Frida también tuvo como amantes, entre otros, tanto a León Trotsky como a la cantante Chavela Vargas. Los dos vivieron un drama humano en el que también entró la precaria salud de Frida, doblemente víctima del polio como niña y, a los 18 años, de un accidente de circulación que la dejó media paralizada y sólo capaz de pintar desde la cama.

No obstante, es muy infrecuente que sus obras se exhiban juntas, y el gran desafío de esta muestra fue, precisamente, el de colocar la producción artística de los dos en un no siempre fácil diálogo. Pues la verdad es que, por muy cercanos que estuvieran en lo relacional, en lo que a su práctica pictórica se refiere Frida y Diego eran muy, muy diferentes. Si Diego se distinguió sobre todo por sus enormes murales (representados en la exposición por reproducciones) que adornan algunos de los más destacados edificios públicos mexicanos, y por sus temas políticos y sociales, la obra de Frida fue de cariz intimista, concentrada en el retrato y autorretrato, en las sensaciones de su cuerpo, y en la turbulencia emocional que tuvo su orígenes en la relación.

Se trató de una exposición cuidadosamente organizada, con la participación de responsables del Museo Dolores Olmedo de México DF, origen de buena parte de las obras expuestas. La opción elegida fue no mezclar indiscriminadamente obras de los dos artistas, sino alternar entre ellos en ‘bloques’ correspondiendo a salas o muros dedicados al uno o al otro. En un gesto ejemplar, los letreros explicativos aparecían en tres idiomas (francés, español e inglés), y las obras fueron complementadas por una amplia selección de material biográfico y fotográfico referente a los dos, y por una última sección que encaraba la ‘Fridamanía’ o el culto póstumo a Frida. Un muy generoso catálogo abarca las obras de la exposición y más, siendo enriquecido por artículos de especialistas.

En muchos aspectos, el contraste entre las obras ‘públicas’ de Rivera y las ‘privadas’ de Kahlo resulta tan extremo que, teniendo en cuenta también su no siempre pacífica vida íntima, uno podría privilegiar la noción de rivalidad y preguntarse si alguien sale ‘ganador’ de este encuentro entre titanes del arte. En dicho caso, sería quizás difícil no optar por Frida, y en este marco no deja de ser significativo el hecho de que es ella, y no Diego, quien protagoniza el cartel oficial de la muestra. En el catálogo también, es Frida la que luce en la portada, siendo el rostro de su marido destinado a la contraportada.

Catalogo Frida

Catalogo Diego

 No cabe duda de que haya una fuerte componente de mexicanidad en la obra de las dos, desde los alcatraces que evoca Diego hasta la presencia en Frida de motivos referentes al atuendo tradicional mexicano. A la vez, es innegable cierta influencia europea en la sensibilidad de los dos: el padre de Frida fue alemán, y Diego por su lado pasó años formativos en Europa. No obstante, las obras, poco conocidas, de la primera fase de Diego acusan la fuerte influencia de géneros europeos, del fovismo al cubismo, y por muy mexicanos que sean los temas de sus murales, se puede vislumbrar cierta influencia ideológica del realismo socialista soviético. Si la originalidad es la calidad que más se busca en un artista, la preferencia debería inclinarse por la obra de Frida, con sus características de autointerrogación de la mujer, integración del mundo natural (la repetida presencia de animales como chango o perro), o la representación en sus lienzos de un tema hasta entonces tan insólito como la enfermedad.

 Frida con chango

A fin de cuentas, ¿se tratará, como afirma el título de la muestra, de una ‘fusión’ artística, o más bien de un perpetuo conflicto estético? Si el balance parece inclinarse por Frida, el fuerte talento de Diego tampoco es de negar. Podría ser lícito sacar de esta exposición un concepto de la relación entre hombre y mujer que, para su época, era más que profético y que anticipaba el terreno presente y futuro de la interactuación entre los géneros. Así sin duda será, en el siglo XXI en que no deja de crecer la icónica fama de la extraordinaria artista llamada Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo de Calderón – o, simplemente, Frida.

Frida y Diego entrada

***

In one of the most popular of Europe’s recent art events, the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris hosted, between 9 October 2013 and 13 January 2014, the exhibition ‘Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera – L’art en fusion’, dedicated to the two best-known Mexican plastic artists of the 20th century. This exhibition (earlier announced on this blog – see entry for 28 September 2013) proved a major success, giving rise to crowds snaking around the museum, located in the famous Jardin des Tuileries within view of the Eiffel Tower and best-known as home to Claude Monet’s celebrated ‘Les Nymphéas’ (‘The Waterlilies’).

 Orangerie Nenufares Monet

As is well known, the relationship between Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) and Diego Rivera (1886-1957) was not just artistic but also personal: they lived out a tempestuous love story, marrying in 1929, divorcing in 1939 and remarrying a year later. If Diego fulfilled the ‘traditional male expectations’ with numerous extramarital affairs, Frida too had her lovers, including among others León Trotsky and the Mexican diva Chavela Vargas. Theirs was a human drama coloured by the precarious health of Frida, a victim twice over: of polio as a child and of a traffic accident at the age of 18 which left her semi-paralysed (she painted from her bed).

Nonetheless, it is rare to find the two artists’ work exhibited side by side, and the great challenge of this event was, precisely, to place their artistic production in a (problematic) dialogue. The fact is that, for all the closeness of their relationship, in their painterly practice Frida and Diego were very, very different. Diego is best known for his enormous murals (represented in the exhibition by reproductions), which adorn some of Mexico’s most important public buildings, and for his political and social themes; Frida’s work, by contrast, is intimate in nature, centred on the portrait and self-portrait, her bodily sensations and the emotional turmoil arising from the relationship.

The exhibition was meticulously organised, with the participation of representatives of the Museo Dolores Olmedo in Mexico City, which supplied many of the exhibits. The chosen option was not to mix up the two artists’ works indiscriminately, but, rather, to present them in separate ‘blocks’, dedicated to one or the other and occupying whole rooms or walls. In an exemplary gesture, the explicatory boards offered commentary in three languages (English, French and Spanish). The paintings were complemented by a full selection of biographical and photographic material relating to both, and by a final section devoted to ‘Fridamania’, or the posthumous cult of Frida. A comprehensive catalogue assembled the works from the exhibition and more, with articles by specialists.

In many aspects, the contrast between Rivera’s ‘public’ works and the ‘private’ art of Kahlo appears so extreme that, if one also recalls their rarely peaceful personal life, it might be tempting to prioritise the notion of rivalry and ask whether one or the other emerges the ‘victor’ from this meeting of titans of art. Should that be the case, it could prove difficult not to opt for Frida, and in this connection it is significant that she, not Diego, is the subject of the official exhibition poster: the catalogue, too, features Frida on the front and Diego only on the back.

frida2

There is, of course, a powerful Mexican presence in the work of both, from the arum lilies (alcatraces) evoked by Diego to the motif in Frida of traditional Mexican dress. At the same time, one cannot deny a certain European influence in the sensibility of both: Frida’s father was German, and Diego spent formative years in Europe. However, the works in the exhibition from Diego’s (little-known) earlier phase bear the imprint of European genres, from Fauvism to cubism, and however Mexican the themes of his murals, one may divine a certain ideological influence of Soviet socialist realism. If originality is the quality most to be sought in an artist, preference is likely to incline towards the work of Frida, with its female self-interrogation, its integration of the natural world (in the repeated presence of animals such as dogs or monkeys), and the presence of a theme then as rarely evoked artistically as illness.

In the end, should we speak – as the exhibition’s title suggests – of an artistic ‘fusion’, or is it more a matter of a perpetual aesthetic conflict? If the balance inclines to Frida’s side, Diego’s major talent cannot be denied. It may be legitimate to take away from this exhibition a concept of the relation between man and woman which was more than prophetic for its time and anticipated the terrain of today’s and tomorrow’s interaction between the sexes – thus pointing towards a twenty-first century marked by the ever-growing and iconic fame of the extraordinary artist called Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo de Calderón – or, simply, Frida.  

 

 

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“ÉDUCATION ET SÉCULARISME: PERSPECTIVES AFRICAINES ET ASIATIQUES” – publication from 2013 conference (SARI research group, France)

In May 2013 the University of Cergy-Pontoise, near Paris, hosted a conference on ‘Education and Secularism’, thus bringing to the fore two of the major challenges of today’s globalised world. The conference, held under the auspices of the Cergy-based research group SARI (Societé d’Activité et de Recherche sur les mondes Indiens), brought together scholars of diverse provenances in a multicultural context to present and discuss aspects of secularism, education and the interaction between the two in India, the Maghreb, sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere.

Cergy photo for blog

 This event has now borne fruit in the volume ÉDUCATION ET SÉCULARISME: PERSPECTIVES AFRICAINES ET ASIATIQUES, co-edited by SARI members Evelyne Hanquart-Turner and Ludmila Volna and published by Éditions L’Harmattan of Paris (2013 – ISBN 978-2-343-01916-1). It is published as part of the collection ‘Discours identitaires dans la mondialisation’ (general editor: Michel Naumann).

 A notice of the book may be found at:

 http://www.editions-harmattan.fr/index.asp?navig=catalogue&obj=livre&no=41678

Education et Secularisme cover

The articles are based on their authors’ papers from the conference, and appear (there is one exception, in English) in French, having been translated where necessary from English. All articles have an abstract in English; there is an introduction by the editors. Here is the table of contents:

Education et Secularisme contents1

Education et Secularisme contents2

The authors are as follows:

  1. Jacques Coulardeau (Synopsis PAIE-CEGID-Nice-Boulogne-Billancourt)
  2. Michel Naumann (Universiy of Cergy-Pontoise, President of SARI)
  3. Ana García-Arroyo (University Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain)
  4. Shruti Das (Berhampur University, India)
  5. Subhendu Mund (IIT Bhubaneswar, India)
  6. Belkacem Belmekki (University of Oran, Algeria)
  7. Vijay Kumar (Maharsi Dayanand University, Rohtak, India)
  8. Neema Ghenim (University of Oran, Algeria)
  9. Dhana Underwood (University of Liverpool, England)
  10. Michel Naumann (Universiy of Cergy-Pontoise, President of SARI)
  11. Debashree Dattaray (Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India; article in English)
  12. Sumedha Dhani (Maharsi Dayanand University, Rohtak, India)
  13. Fewzia Bedjaoui (University of Sidi Bel Abbes, Algeria)
  14. Cruz L. Bonilla (University of Granada, Spain)
  15. Christopher Rollason (independent scholar, Luxembourg)
  16. Jitka de Préval (University of Paris I – Sorbonne Nouvelle)

On a personal note, I believe I may remark that Chapter 15 (pp. 197-2010) is my own paper from the conference, ‘“Shalimar the Clown”, de Salman Rushdie, récit laïque: une éducation séculaire et syncrétiste’ (pp. 197-210). The original English version of this paper, ‘Salman Rushdie’s “Shalimar The Clown”: A Secularist Manifesto?’, is available on-line on my personal site at: http://yatrarollason.info/files/RushdieShalimarCergyEN.pdf  – see also entry on this blog for 4 June 2013 (includes abstract in English).

 In addition, I translated (from English to French) the paper by Shruti Das (Chapter 4), ‘Un programme scolaire multireligieux pour une éducation séculariste: la restructuration du “National Curriculum Framework” indien en 2005’ (pp. 49-66; original title: ‘Multi-Faith Curriculum for Secular Education: Restructuring the National Curriculum Framework 2005’).

 I can vouch from the conference that the papers and debates were of a consistently high standard and stimulating nature, and therefore feel able wholeheartedly to recommmend this volume of essays that represents its outcome: much about multiple and surprising traditions of secularism and forms of education can be learned from its pages!

**

Note added 15 May 2014.

The English-language version of my paper on ‘Shalimar the Clown’ has now also been published in India. For details, see entry on this blog for 15 May 2014.

MALALA IS NOT ALONE: THE TRAGIC SACRIFICE OF 15-YEAR-OLD AITZAZ HASAN IN PAKISTAN

By now, the world is aware of 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai’s struggle for education in Pakistan, in the face of the constant threats to schooling in the country from the Taliban and other Islamist groups (see entry on this blog for 31 October 2013). A tragic incident has now occurred to remind education’s defenders that Malala is not alone and that other schoolchildren are implicated in the fight for Pakistan’s soul.

 **

 On 6 January 2014, in Malala’s home province, a 15-year-old schoolboy named Aitzaz Hasan single-handedly thwarted a suicide bomber who was about to blow up his school, but died in hospital following a head-to-head struggle with his adversary outside the school gates.

 The incident occurred in the village of Ibrahimzai (Hangu district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province). The bomber was a Sunni militant aiming to blow up the Government High School in the mostly Shi’ite village: the attack has been claimed by the illegal (and Taliban-connected) organisation Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and appears to be part of the Sunni extremists’ ongoing campaign against fellow Muslims who happen to be Shi’ites.

 Aitzaz, who was the son of an émigré worker based in the United Arab Emirates, has been declared a national hero. His school has been renamed after him, and the office of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said he will be posthumously awarded the country’s Star of Bravery decoration. Pakistan’s army has placed a wreath on his tomb.

 Malala Yousafzai has praised the boy martyr and has offered a donation from her worldwide education fund to Aitzaz’s family. On 10 January, she said:  “I feel saddened that violence took another child’s life in my country. I feel proud that I belong to a country where many brave and courageous people like Aitzaz Hasan are born”.

 See:

http://www.thenational.ae/world/south-asia/pakistan-to-name-school-and-stadium-after-hero-schoolboy-who-saved-hundreds-thwarting-suicide-bomber – The National (UAE), 13 Jan 2014 – ‘Pakistan to name school and stadium after hero schoolboy who saved hundreds thwarting suicide bomber’

 http://www.dawn.com/news/1079410/father-hails-teenage-son-for-saving-hundreds-of-lives –  Dawn (Pakistan), 10 Jan 2014 – ‘Father hails teenage son for saving hundreds of lives’

 http://www.voanews.com/content/activist-malala-hails-pakistani-teen-hero/1827538.html – Voice of America, 10 Jan 2014 – ‘Activist Malala Hails Pakistani Teen Hero’

INDIAN JOURNAL OF WORLD LITERATURE AND CULTURE, Vol 9 & 10 (July 2013) – INCLUDES TRIBUTE TO CARLOS FUENTES

Now released is the latest issue (Vol 9 &10, July 2013) of the Indian Journal of World Literature and Culture (IJOWLAC, ISSN 2229-7521), edited from Bubaneswar (Orissa) by Dr Subhendu Mund.

IJOWLAC jul 13 portada

It includes a homage piece by myself to Mexico’s greatest modern novelist, Carlos Fuentes (Christopher Rollason, ‘Carlos Fuentes, 1928-2012: A Tribute’, pp. 6-7). This text was earlier published on this blog on 17 May 2012 (see entry for that date).

IJOWLAC jul 13 p 6-7 Carlos Fuentes

Also to be found in this latest IJOWLAC are, inter alia, the following:

*Critical articles by: Gur Pyari Jandial (Shauna Singh Baldwin and Manju Kapur), Deepanita Dey and Priyanka Tripathi (Anita Desai’s ‘The Zig Zag Way’), Rano Ringo (Michael Ondaatje’s ‘Anil’s Ghost’), Evelyne Hanquart-Turner (Ruskin Bond)

*Book reviews, notably (by Paul Sharrad) of G.J.V. Prasad, ‘Writing India, Writing English : Literature, Language, Location’

*Interview with US writer Octavia Butler (by Nibir K. Ghosh)

*Poems by a number of contemporary Sri Lankan poets, introduced by Rajiva Wijeshina.

This wide-ranging issue finds IJOWLAC keeping up its well-established high standards. Contact: subhendumund@gmail.com.