MAKING HER SELF UP – FRIDA KAHLO AT THE V&A, LONDON

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by Carmina Masoliver

Ever since I studied Frida Kahlo in class, I have been a fan. Self Portrait with Monkeys (1943) and The Broken Column (1944) always stood out in my mind from those years, the monkeys offering a protective symbolism, and the latter painting signifying a kind of strength through suffering. Like Kahlo, I enjoyed painting self-portraits, and I found it difficult to paint other faces with the same accuracy.

More of a conceptual artist myself, the stories behind visual art have always intrigued me. Whenever I visit galleries, my eyes are drawn as much to the text as they are the images. This is why the excellent biopic Frida (2002), starring Salma Hayek, made an enormous impression on me and it’s also why I knew that the V&A exhibition Making Her Self Up would be unmissable.

it is certainly worth remembering what Kahlo stood for, namely her rejection of capitalism.

Like other revolutionary figures – think: Che Guevara t-shirts – it has been argued that Kahlo has been commodified and made into a pop culture icon in a way that dissociates from her as an artist and a human being. Whilst I couldn’t resist a pair of Kahlo earrings from Mexican designers wajiro dream on a recent visit and own a tribute cushion cover from an Etsy store, it is certainly worth remembering what Kahlo stood for, namely her rejection of capitalism.

Kahlo was radical in her politics, and this extended into her personal life as a bisexual woman, her lifelong disability due to polio, the tragic accident in 1922, and her honesty about her experiences with miscarriage and abortion, which continue to be topics that are brushed under the carpet even today, 64 years after her death.

we can only assume her way of dealing with the hurt from his affairs (including one with her own sister) was to have her own, thus reclaiming her autonomy and sexual agency.

She suffered not only physically, but also emotionally. Her tumultuous relationship with fellow artist and communist Diego Rivera, is perhaps a historic example of how some politically progressive men can fail at upholding egalitarian and feminist values when it comes to personal relationships. The couple divorced, only to remarry, and we can only assume her way of dealing with the hurt from his affairs (including one with her own sister) was to have her own, thus reclaiming her autonomy and sexual agency.

The exhibition helps to tell Kahlo’s story, a story that has been told so often that it surprises me when people have not heard of her, or do not know about her life or her work as an artist. Yet, there is always more to discover, and the collection at the V&A allows us to learn yet more about her. Having been locked away for fifty years following Kahlo’s death, various personal artefacts and clothing are uncovered here for the first time outside of Mexico.

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Kahlo’s The Broken Column, 1944

Inside the exhibition you will see photographs alongside some of her paintings, as well as artefacts that are more emotionally difficult to look at, such as the medical corsets she had to wear, some decorated by Kahlo. It was being bedridden that ironically created the works that we see today, with Kahlo having a mirror installed above her bed so she could paint her self-portraits more easily. There’s film footage of La Casa Azul (The Blue House), and incredible outfits on display that combine her signature long skirts and traditional shawls.

Kahlo, in both her portraits and real life, rejected traditional beauty standards by wearing her facial hair with pride, yet would always paint her lips and thread flowers and fabric through her hair. Whilst at times the exhibition seems to exhibit too many fine details from her life, and I’m wondering if we will see a spike in sales in her favourite lipstick, there is something to gain both for fans who are familiar with her work, and those just beginning to discover her world.

Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up has been extended until Sunday 18th November. Limited tickets can be bought on the day at 10am from the Grand Entrance on a first-come, first-served basis.

Featured photo credit: Carl Van Vechten (public domain)


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NUS CONFERENCE OCCUPATION – SOLIDARITY FOR LEGAL ABORTION IN NORTHERN IRELAND AND STUDENT SEX WORKERS

by Thai Braddick

I was elected as a delegate to NUS National Conference last year in October by students in UEA SU. I received the highest number of votes, and am proud to say that it was because I am a socialist who values and appreciates all intersections of my electorate. Today at the NUS National Conference, delegates were meant to be debating motions in the Welfare Zone, but the debate on motions W106 ‘Decriminalisation of Abortion in Northern Ireland’ and W107 ‘Students and Sex Work’ were both filibustered aggressively, with continued procedural motions and DPC and chair misconduct. These actions were taken to intentionally prevent conference being given the chance to support people in Northern Ireland’s right to choose to have an abortion and to support student sex workers through campaigning to decriminalise sex work.

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WHO ARE THE DUP?

by Zoe Harding

Content warning: article mentions terrorism, (anti) abortion, homophobia, racism

So, the election was fun, right? Even if you didn’t vote Labour (and fair enough if you didn’t), watching Theresa May fall from an unassailable lead in the polls all the way to a humiliatingly hung Parliament, in a blizzard of vague soundbites, invasive and inadequate policies and flailing attempts to smear the opposition, was still rather viscerally satisfying in its own way. Early Friday morning saw a weird sense of relief from many who expected a Tory landslide.

Unfortunately, early Friday morning turned to mid-Friday morning, and then suddenly dove back into the bad old days, with the announcement that a desperate May government had decided to form a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in order to form a government.Continue Reading

HIJACKING STUDENT POWER – WHY THE NUS GOVERNANCE REVIEW MATTERS

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by Lucy Auger

On the last day of NUS National Conference, an extensive governance review was passed amid confusion and accusations of political bias from NUS’ Democratic Procedures Committee. The review was comprised of four sections, each relating to four ‘principles for a good democracy’, and in total, sixteen amendments were submitted by delegates, many of which contained fundamental changes to the vision that the review had set out.

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NUS WOMEN’S CONFERENCE, STUDENT DEPORTATION AND MIGRANTS’ RIGHTS

by Lucy Auger

Content warning: article mentions physical and emotional abuse, abortion, xenophobia, gendered Islamophobia, deportation

Last week, over a hundred women+ students travelled from student unions all over the country to NUS Women’s Conference to elect a new NUS Women’s Officer, and set the direction for the NUS Women’s Campaign for the incoming year. I attended conference as a delegate from UEASU, and sat down with NUS President Malia Bouattia, and NUS Women’s Officer Hareem Ghani after having won her re-election.

This article provides an account of key events at Women’s conference, including motions passed and issues raised at plenaries and workshops throughout conference. I have also published comments given by both Malia and Hareem in response to the questions I asked about NUS, Women’s Conference, and the Women’s Campaign in the context of student deportations and migrants’ rights campaigns.Continue Reading

WE WON’T WAIT – SOLIDARITY WITH STRIKE4REPEAL

By Ellen Musgrove

‘We call upon the Government to take direct responsibility for what is a violation of human rights. We believe a national strike is not only possible, but an incredible opportunity to show the sheer power of our movement, and to put pressure on the government to call a referendum. In the past 5 years, support for repeal has grown to a level that the government can no longer ignore.’

Strike4Repeal

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HOW THE PRO-LIFE MOVEMENT IS REBRANDING ITSELF

by Tara Gulwell

Article mentions pro-life rhetoric, and abortion

The American Catholic college I attend, Loyola University New Orleans, has been experiencing a fierce debate on campus recently. After fierce backlash against the controversial moves of the pro-life group Loyola Students For Life (LSFL), which you can read about here, the group had to concede in a public statement that The Vagina Monologues was “an empowering work of feminist art meant to bring awareness to discrimination, sexual abuse, and other important issues affecting women.”

Not quite the opinion you’d expect from a bunch of religious pro-life students, right?Continue Reading