Continuing our theme “Women Who Did” for this year, our second amazing woman from history is Frida Kahlo, the Mexican painter who suffered and survived not only childhood Polio, but also a bus accident that left her in a full body cast and bed ridden for two years. Despite spending the rest of her life in constant pain, Frida lived that life abundantly, boldly, and with an enviable strength.
It’s women in aviation week this week, and as it happens it’s also Bostik Blogger’s ‘Flying’ theme this month, so having already learned all about Amelia Earhart recently, we looked at someone different this time – Élisabeth Thible, the first woman to fly in an untethered hot air balloon. From Wikipedia:
Élisabeth Thible, or Tible, born in Lyon was the first woman on record to fly in an untethered hot air balloon. On June 4, 1784, eight months after the first manned balloon flight, Thible flew with Mr. Fleurant on board a hot air balloon christened La Gustave in honour of King Gustav III of Sweden’s visit to Lyon.
We decided to make hot air balloon tea-light candless, which looked really pretty floating about in our indoor lemon tree… until they got nice and hot and started melting the foam sheets and the glue! So we decided that perhaps a candle wasn’t the best idea. Fortunately we were able to pop out the tealight candle and fill the holder with birdseed – which isn’t much use on our indoor tree, but will be once we transfer it outside!
It may not seem like it now, but we are in the last dregs of winter and spring is just around the corner. Soon we will not have to worry about scraping ice off the car in the morning, and neither will we have to wear layer on layer of clothing to avoid shivering all day long.
As the weather begins to improve, children will be eager to get outside and play – and rightfully so. While we may live in an age where games consoles, smartphones and tablets are king, nothing compares to getting outside.
“I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.”- Frida Kahlo
One thing to be said for self-awareness is that, with luck and a bit of effort, you’ll like what you see. Being good to others, kind to others, and loving towards others starts with being good, kind and loving to yourself. Frida Kahlo spent a lot of time on her own after the accident that should by rights probably have killed her or left her paralysed. She spent the rest of her life in a lot of pain, and as a result, a lot of it alone.
Frida Kahlo painted over 50 self-portraits in her life, many of them depicting her “message of pain” (read more about the stories behind her self portraits at ArtyFactory – it’s not all happy reading so I’d recommend a pre-read). Some of the portraits were about her, rather than of her – for example What the Water Gave Me is a picture of her legs and feet in the bath, surrounded by lots of other floating images.
“In the water Frida paints floating remints of her life; an island which holds a volcano that erupts a skyscraper, a dead woodpecker perched upon a tree, and small skeleton that rests upon a hill. From this island a tight rope begins which creates a diamond-like shape within the center of the tub and wraps around the neck of naked female figure who is floating, Ophelia-like. From this female figure that may in fact be Frida herself, the rope returns back into the hand of a faceless man that seems to be watching the woman he strangles as he lounges on the edge of the island. Also floating in this bathtub is an empty Mexican dress, a seashell full of bullet-holes, a couple that resembles Kahlo’s parents and from her earlier paintings My Grandparents My Parents and I and two lesbian lovers that can also be seen in her earlier painting Two Nudes in A Forest” 1.”
“About Me” Activities
I’m really blessed to list among my friends, the fantastically talented artist Donna Jones MBE. I asked Donna if she would be happy to come over and show us how to paint some self portraits (which she did, but I had to go out so I didn’t get any pictures of her painting with the kids, which is a huge shame!)
Donna, knowing that we’re learning about Frida Kahlo and surrealism (which Frida didn’t believe she was, because “I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.” 2 turned up with the 3 activities for the kids to do.
1. Self-portrait painting
For some reason the kids weren’t keen on looking in the mirror, so Donna drew outlines of faces for them, and they painted/coloured them. Between you and me, you wouldn’t be able to identify the kids on the street using these as self-portraits but that’s not the end of the world. They did the activity and are quite happy with the results.
2. Message in a bottle
Donna has a whole art project around poems in bottles which have been sent all over the world to be buried and ‘found’ at some point in the future. She brought some bottles for the girls, and got them to write about themselves: who am I, how old am I, what’s my favourite colour, my best friend and so on. I thought that’s a really good activity for self-reflection. It’s like a time capsule you can look back on later in life. What a sweet and simple idea. You can bury it somewhere, if you like, (I’m not so keen on throwing it in the ocean these days!) and add a phone number or email address, to see if anyone ever unearths it!
Ours is going into the memory box where the girls can look back on it one day.
3. Picasso faces
Not strictly Frida, but still a self-portrait and still surrealist, Donna cut out parts of faces and had the kids arrange theirs into Picasso-esque self-portraits.
Interestingly, during all this self-portraiting, the kids were talking to Donna about bullying and what to do when you’re being bullied and so on. I thought it was an interesting lead-in, reflecting on self, and diverting to external opinion.
These final two activities weren’t with Donna, but I’m adding them here as they fall under the ‘self-portrait’ and ‘about me’ category of activities.
4. Frida Khalo Shadow Boxes
We don’t have a lot of magazines that are good for cutting up, but I had the kids go through the ones we have and choose images that resonated with them – that said something about who they are. They chose things from the two magazines I could find, and then I printed a bunch of pictures from Google and let them choose which ones they felt were relevant to them. We used square deep box frames from The Range and I printed one of our recent photos (for each frame) then the girls used regular Bostik White Glu to stick the pictures to the wooden frames.
5.Expressing Feelings in Healthy Ways – from Heroine’s Club book
This activity requires a conversation about feelings and healthy ways to express them. It’s one of those nice activities where you can work and talk at the same time. The book suggests starting with the body outlines already drawn, and then using a marker pen to write the feelings we feel in the head and heart spaces. Around the body write down ideas on how we can express our feelings in healthy ways.
It’s a fantastic talking activity to do with children.
There’s a lot of power in being self-aware, so giving kids the tools to know who they are is a valuable life skill.
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Sometimes life collides in several places at the same time, creating a series of thoughts or actions that can change us forever. This is the story of such a change for me – how I realised that womanhood is a gift, and how I grew to love being a woman.
I don’t recall ever hating being a girl. I was ‘lucky’ in that I was raised fairly free of the limitations of feminity. We were always dressed in beautiful, home-made, pastel coloured dresses with lace trimming that I hated as soon as I hit puberty, but we were never discouraged from climbing trees, or riding bikes, or participating in sports. The only ‘it’s okay, you’re a girl’ thing that I remember from my childhood is an inability to do well at mathematics, and being told that it was because I am a girl. I didn’t go on to do a doctorate in maths. In fact, I still suck at it. Whether that’s just a quirk of being me, or some latent reaction to being told I couldn’t, I will never know. I can do my budgets, bake my cakes, work out the tire pressure for my car. I do okay. I never really needed to know what a is equal to anyway.Read more: Teaching Girls About Women – What Woman Is
Since we’ve been learning about Frida Kahlo, I thought we’d put some geography on the ‘lesson plan’ and learn about Mexico. Frida Kahlo was very proud of her place of birth and while she travelled with her husband Diego and lived in some of the major cities in the USA and travelled to Paris, France, her heart was always in Mexico.
She dressed in the peasant wardrobe of one of the local regions, and even when she moved in ‘high society’ of the time, she preferred the more rustic wardrobe of her national dress – not necessarily because of the fashion but because of the pride she felt in portraying her homeland.
The next craft project for our Frida Kahlo learning was to make a bold and colourful beaded necklace from oven baked clay. How do these beads tie in with our Frida Kahlo based theme? Well, we’ve taken creative licence, for sure. What we know is that Frida Kahlo liked wearing bright, bold colours, and liked bringing the essence of Mexico to the world. Have a look on Google for Mexican art and you’ll see a lot of prime colours (we added green) and a lot of delicate patterns. That’s what we were going for with these bead necklaces. If you look at images of our current heroine, you’ll see that she often wore big, bulky neck adornments too, so I reckon she’d have approved of our finished product.
The new 2018 series of LOL Surprise Dolls are out and we have been sent a few to have a look at.
LOL Surprise sent us two dolls for Ameli and two dolls for her best friend – which lucky enough, happens to be her little sister, so that worked out conveniently for us.Read more: New! LOL Surprise Lil Sister and Confetti Pop Dolls
Supporting our Frida Kahlo learning, we’ve been looking at Mexican folk art. A simple Google of the term brings up pages and pages or examples, so we identified a few things that were clear to us when looking at Mexican art:
- It is bright and colourful
- There’s incredible attention to details
- They use a lot of dots
- There are a lot of skulls used in art.
Using this information as a basis, we made ourselves some Frida Kahlo and Mexican folk art inspired air drying clay pendants and I’ve got to say, I don’t normally count myself as terribly artsy, but I’m really happy with how these turned out.
We’re learning about Frida Kahlo at the moment and two of the things that stands out about Ms. Kahlo are the fact that she was fiercely patriotic and proud of her heritage, and the bold, bright colours she wore.
Often wearing flowers and using them in her paintings as a celebration of her national heritage, their symbolism of fertility and fecundity was also pertinent to Kahlo who was unable to have children herself as a result of the accident in her teenage years. 1
Frida Kahlo contracted Polio as a child, and this left her with one leg thinner than the other, so much so that she was quite self-conscious about it. This also played a part in her wardrobe choices into adulthood. Frida might have hobnobbed with the high-society of New York and San Francisco and even, later, Paris, but she never adopted the ‘flapper’ style dresses that were popular at the time, choosing to stick with the long skirts and maxi dresses of the matriarchal Tehuantepec society of her Mexican heritage.
I find my children concentrate better when their hands are busy, so we were able to chat about Frida Kahlo, patriotism, disease, and the obstacles that come up in people’s lives while we folded tissue paper into carnations for Frida Kahlo inspired headbands.
To make the headbands, you require a rectangle of tissue paper per flower, some sellotape to hold it together and – I had hoped to use elasticated headbands, but I couldn’t find any locally – pipe cleaners with hairclips.
To make the flowers, fold the tissue paper lengthwise to make a long narrow strip, then fold it in half down the middle. Starting at the closed end fold the paper about an inch, then flip the unfolded bit underneath and fold an inch again. Repeat over and over, creating a zigzag out of the paper. When it’s all used up, pinch the bottom closed bit together and use a bit of tape to hold it all together (you could also sew a stitch in it, but we don’t have the patience for that just now!)
Pull apart the top part of the zigzagged tissue carefully (tissue paper tears easily) to create a fan, then gently separate the layers, pulling them as far out as they’ll go, creating your paper flower.
For the ‘headband’ we twisted together two pipecleaners, making a loop at the end of each (the ends can be quite sharp, so bending it inwards should help protect little skulls from being stabbed!) Once it’s all twisted together, create a gap between the twists, and place your flower in it, then twist it back together again.
Put a hairclip or pin through each end – through the loops – and use those to clip the ‘hairband’ into the hair.
Click on the image below for more on Frida Kahlo and other inspirational women in history
- Davies, L. 2010, March 2, Frida Kahlo and Flowers, http://www.anothermag.com/fashion-beauty/1812/frida-kahlo-and-flowers ↩