August marks Woman’s Month in South Africa. In celebration, we at Shoprider are shining the spotlight on an inspirational woman from history– one who embodies life with a disability. Meet Frida Kahlo: Mexican artist and cultural icon. Her artworks voice a story, a complex portrayal of identity with brushstrokes. Her artistic abilities defined her identity before her disabilities did.
At Shoprider South Africa, we do not claim Frida Kahlo’s story for disability, but rather insist that people living with disability have stories that matter. This is Frida’s.
Frida Kahlo was born on 6 July 1907. At the age of six, she contracted Polio, which initiated her lifelong mobility struggles. Later, when she was 18 and set for a career in medicine, a tragic bus accident altered the course of her life. A broken spinal column, a broken pelvis, and a pierced abdomen left her in a body cast for a large portion of the year. Her days were now smeared with debilitating pain that would set the tone for her life. Like many of our Shoprider South Africa clients, her impaired mobility sentenced her to a wheelchair, as well as medical corsets for the rest of her life.
Her pain directed her toward a reflective introspection that would define her work. During recovery, the easel and paintbrush become her new companions. She began to paint her pain - not necessarily away, but into her paintings.
Kahlo presented her artworks to a famous Mexican painter, Diego Rivera, who subsequently became her avid advocate, intimate companion, and husband. In addition to his devoted artistic support, their relationship was fraught with upheaval, infidelity, jealousy, and heartbreak. They divorced after Rivera had an affair with Kahlo’s sister, but they later remarried.
Fiercely political, Frida Kahlo championed Marxist views, feminism, and indigenous Mexican culture. Kahlo represents a woman of passion, rather than a wheelchair. To us at Shoprider, she represents a life of individuality.
Kahlo’s art and life were intimately intertwined. Weaving her experience with her paintbrush, her works portray the scope of human experience, including pain, infertility, violence, desire, and disability, as well as referencing politics and Mexican culture. Her style was a vibrant and passionate fusion of Mexican folk art and surrealism.
Well known for self-expression in her many self-portraits, she said, “I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone because I am the person I know best.” Self Portrait with the Portrait of Doctor Farill engages with her wheelchair disability, while The Broken Column depicts her fractured body following the devastation of the bus accident. The Two Fridasexplore the nuances of her torn identity after her divorce.
Our Shoprider favourite is the exotic Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird.
Frida Kahlo died in 1954 at the age of 47. She did not sell many artworks in her lifetime but gained a posthumous cult following. Her focus on the female body, self-expression, and identity makes her an icon before her time.