Frida Kahlo in Indian Saree
I had come across this fascinating image of Frida Kahlo in saree when researching about Nayantara Sahgal, a famous Indian writer, and daughter of Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit who was the sister of Jawaharlal Nehru (India’s first Prime Minister). Nayantara(R) is seen here with her sister Rita and Frida, the revolutionary artist of Mexico.
Nayantara had just graduated from Wellesley College in the summer of 1947, same year when India got her independence and had visited Frida during her trip to Mexico with her sister Rita. They had shared Indian saree drape with Frida she is so gracefully and beautifully sitting in, in this black and white capture from the hands of history.
Nayantara came from a family of activists who had all joined India’s revolution to gain independence and had been sent to prison several times for standing by the cause. Frida was a revolution of her own. In the image we can see three women significant to the political and cultural history of the world. Rita appears with her dreamy and playful eyes, Nayantara with her confident, happy and sharp look, and Frida the lioness of art with her usual dynamic and trailblazing presence.
They share this close moment carrying a theme of sisterhood draped in foreign wear by the native, and a native love for the foreigners. In fact, the whole existence of labels called native and foreigner completely dissolve in the light of this intimate and eternally connecting image of these wise women.
Nayantara and Rita can be imagined as younger sisters who want to play/ women of a new India, and Frida as the elder sister looking after them/ woman who teaches us to explore our identities, souls and bodies irrespective of the social pressures and norms. Was there ever a more fitting image?
This is the moment in history we can rejoice and learn from. Here are women beating borders and cultural and language barriers, and coming together to share their playful moments of new and creative things. This is a quick glimpse of the artists that they will grow up to be, ones who will write words and paint canvases to teach the next generations of women how you gain freedom, how you keep it, how you transcend from it.
In our small moments of sisterhood connections, whether a brief but insightful online conversation, or reading a contemporary poetess’s work and sending her words of encouragement, or supporting a young local artist by visiting her opening show, conversations over coffee about how we can better prepare our young girls and boys for challenges of future,
these small moments of sisterhood connections can set off a chain of creative, uplifting, empowering and inspiring worlds, even more than half a century from now, similar to how I felt when I saw this photograph of these three women from the past.
“A philosopher I admire wrote that a coward is not a coward “on account of a cowardly heart or lungs or cerebrum … he is like that because he has made himself into a coward by his actions … A coward is defined by the deed he has done.” I would wake up sweating, throw off my sheet, and stare into the hot, empty darkness. What if there was a collective will to cowardice, when men and women in their millions, a whole nationful, did cowardly deeds? Was there a way out of that? And how naive the cast-iron idealism I had been brought up with, believing we were moderate, tolerant people, steeped in civilized ways. I should have been differently taught, told how casual we are about cruelty, depravity. I had grown to adulthood nourished on monumental lies.”
― Nayantara Sahgal
“I don’t give a shit what the world thinks. I was born a bitch, I was born a painter, I was born fucked. But I was happy in my way. You did not understand what I am. I am love. I am pleasure, I am essence, I am an idiot, I am an alcoholic, I am tenacious. I am; simply I am … You are a shit.”
― Frida Kahlo
― Frida Kahlo