Why Frida Kahlo matters?


While, travelling around Europe, I have often stumbled upon little cafes in different cities, draped in Frida theme. Bright colors, Mexican artefacts, Bohemian vibe and her portraits finishing up the ambiance.

Chances are that you have never been to Mexico like me and maybe are not exactly adept in appreciating art. But greater chances are that you would have still heard of Frida Kahlo. I cannot say the same about Carvaggio, Monet or Raphael, who are some of the most phenomenal artists in history. Also, I spelt Caravaggio wrong. Consider yourself an art connoisseur if you caught that.

Famous as an artist mostly, Frida created about 200 paintings in her life, about 55 of which were self-portraits.

They are all vivid, representing the conventionally colorful vibe of Mexico. But that’s not why Frida is one of the most influencing Mexicans until.

She is a phenomenon, hence is. And from little that I have read about her, I have often found myself in awe of a lot many more things about her personality than art.

She exhibits the idea of Stoicism like nobody else.

At this point, it only makes sense for me to sum up the essence of Stoicism before moving on. But firstly, ‘Stoicism’ does not mean to be insensitive to good and bad, happy and sad. It means to accept two aspects of our life- one that we can control and the other that we can’t. What we can control is our own actions, willpower and our view of everything and everyone around us. Anything else, like money, relationships, physical ability and all the zillion things, that are beyond our control, we should accept as they stand.

Long back, when I watched the film on Frida’s life, by the same name, this is exactly what I understood of her. From the age of six, when Frida got polio, leaving her with a limp to being in a nearly fatal accident, which left her with a broken spine and two broken ribs, crushed foot, dislocated shoulder and more fractures and injuries, her physical struggles did not see any end. What required more endurance were the 30 odd operations she underwent in her lifetime, trying to fix her state. Eventually one of her legs was amputated too, leaving her with a prosthetic one. There were many months throughout her life, that she spent, glued to bed.

But every misery that life threw at her, one thing remained constant. She picked it up as an inspiration and translated it into art. That’s what makes her who she is. The poise and the strength which she showed through her life to not use any problem as an excuse but rather embrace it and manifest it into her tools to create.

She made the morbid and morose look beautiful. She made physical disability look strong. One of her best known works include her depiction of the miscarriage she had; which she painted, while lying broken hearted in the hospital bed, where she lost her stillborn baby.

Physical pain was not all that she suffered. Frida was an obsessive and fervent lover who devoted herself to Diego Rivera, the man she adored since she first saw him in her school, where he was appointed to paint a wall mural. They went on to get married eventually but being an infidel, he could not give what she sought. She cheated too. In her own words- ‘There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.’

Looking at her life, it seems almost impossible for a person to endure so much pain, physical and emotional but as she said, ‘At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.’

Looking at her portraits, that she created later in her life, the eyes of the stoic are so evident, so is her fierceness and calm.

She was passionate and creative but pragmatic.

Frida, when started painting after her accident at age 18, realised the urgent need to support her parents financially and not be a liability on them. That is when she approached Diego Rivera, for the first time, to seek his professional opinion on whether her paintings were good enough to bring her real earnings. She was certain of choosing a profession not purely based on passion but clear vision of where it could take her. That is key to success and most of us spend majority of our lives, trying to figure that out. Her confidence and certainty of where she was headed and what she needed, intimidates, a little.

And on a happier note, she was also a bold fashion icon and OKOLOLA salutes that.

Frida defied many social norms of her time. But what I find extremely sexy is that she was wearing a three piece man’s suit back in 1926, when androgynous fashion was not a thing; instead it was more of a taboo to cross gender identity.

She was also one of the firsts to flaunt a unibrow like its nobody’s business. If brows did not impress you enough then let’s talk about her well pronounced moustache, which she embraced with finesse. She loved her Mexican culture and carried it around the world wearing it. I don’t have what it takes to wear a sari and walk around the streets of Berlin, which makes me one of the many and her the only one. This and a lot more is why Frida Kahlo matters. She was not just a ‘surrealist’. She left an impact. She turned misery into her muse.

Here is my little dedication to her

Worth mentioning: My Frida Kahlo hairband is handmade by https://www.instagram.com/ditimistry.in/