Mata Hari: Arcane Exotica?!

“What goes around comes around” Anonymous

Born as Margaretha Geertruida, she turned into Mata Hary (Indonesian for eye of the day) by her 20’s. After the failure of her marriage which she took at the age of 18, Zelle was broke and didn’t know what to do to survive. She moved to Paris and reinvented herself as a dancer; as far as her movements she drew from the women she saw performing in the temples of Indonesia the period of time she was married to her former husband, a Dutch Army Captain. Her exotic style, together with an almost nude look gained her an enormous popularity throughout Europe at the beginning of XX Century. image

Unfortunately once in her 30’s her dancer career was over, and Mata Hary was at the mercy of her numerous lovers for her sustainment. When the First World War broke out she first settle in the Netherlands, which where neutral at the time, but later decided to go back to Paris to once again reinvent herself, in what apparently was for her, the game of life. She was hired by the French Army as a double agent with the aim of grasping information out of the Germans. Mata Hari’s only weapon was seduction, but was quite ineffective as she was only able to pass misinformation to the Allies, because the men who she meet understood her plan. In the meanwhile Paris was taken over by a paranoia about spies of which, ironically, Mata Hari, became a victim. Accused of being a spy for the Germans by the same who had hired her as a double agent ( a certain Ladou), she was brought to trial in July 1917 and soon after put to death, after being described as a woman who left her family to live a life of sexual independence. Eventually, what brought her fame, gave her death. Now she is a legend anyway, probably for her mystery audacity and for being chameleonic.


Athena: the owl

imageimage“When ancient Greeks had a thought, it occurred to them as a god or goddess giving an order. Apollo was telling them to be brave. Athena was telling them to fall in love. Now people hear a commercial for sour cream potato chips and rush out to buy, but now they call this free will”. Chuck Palahniuk.

Athena was a deity born in the Ancient Greek culture. She was the goddess of war, arts, crafts, and wisdom.

The wars in which Athena participated were considered just. Her contribution was strategy as opposed to slaughters and bloodsheds offered by her brother Ares. She was born from the head of her father Zeus (time ) and she represents philosophy therefore one of her attributes is the owl, the bird which sees well at night. Plato in one of his dialogues suggests that the meaning of her name is the mind of god.

She is typically dressed with a sleeveless spartan tunic, and a cloak. On her head there is an helmet, and a shield with Medusa’s face protects her body. She holds a spear and the statue of Nike, victory.

Marianne: Libertè Egualitė Fraternitė

“Kill the king not the man” Thomas Paine

Marianne is one of the most popular symbols of France. She represents the values of the Republic and mostly Liberty and Reason. The female figure was chosen as an icon of the Republic during the French Revolution (1789) in opposition to the male figure traditionally picked as icon of the monarchy. Marianne was depicted in various ways, sometimes aggressive, most of the times calm and statutory, according to the spirit of time and the purpose of the government. Overall Marianne’s prominent features are a Phrygian cap which emancipated Roman slaves used to wear, the tricolor cockarde and a spear. Generally she is depicted as standing. Today her image is combined with the French national motto Libertè Egualitė Fraternitė.


Malala Yousafzai: Out Loud

All I want is education and I am afraid of none
Malala is a young girl of 16 years old but she is already an inspirational figure known the world over.
She comes from the valley of Swat, Pakistan. Her father was her greatest source of inspiration and the staunchest supporter.
At 11 years old Malala wrote a diary for the BBC describing the daily troubles she would encounter while going to school. In 2012 she was shot point blank in the face for being a supporter of girls education. So far she has won numerous awards for her endeavors, a Nobel Peace Prize included. She is in charge of the Malala Fund a non profit organization which advocates a greater access to education for girls in Pakistan and all over the world.

Malala started her efforts in behalf of education when terrorists invaded her country. She remembers that schools were blasted, music and cinema were prohibited and women were banned from going around freely. 2 options were then available to her, she recalls. Silence and cohabitation with terrorism or speaking out and die. She chose the second and was actually shot in the face. Once recovered she found many supporters in her country and outside. So began to speak about women education everywhere. The subjects of her thoughts are women: from the little girls in Pakistan forced to labour to Indian women in a widespread danger of sexual abuse.
She now acknowledges that women are “facing issues” in every country, not only the developing ones, but also in the modern states. The first time she toured the West, was astonished at the sight of women walking alone along the streets, sitting in parliaments, or having a job they like. Nonetheless she is of the opinion that although gender equality is written in laws, it is still not complete in terms of practical life. In parliaments women are a small percentage, CEOs are mostly men sexism is more subtle and hidden and at the end women are not given the roles that they deserve.
Solution can be achieved by starting to speak about these problems. Malala in convinced that words are a powerful tool for driving change.


Shami Chakrabarti: on Liberty

A dangerous woman” The Sun

Shami Chakrabarti is mostly known for being the director of Liberty, a British organization cross party-no party, that promotes the defense of human rights. Chakrabarti is at Liberty since 2001; ever since she has been declaring that human rights in western societies specifically in Britain are under heavy pressure; a growing hostile feeling is spreading everywhere as a consequence of mass immigration, not to mention the state of fear caused by the tragic events of 2001. Governments have tried to work around human rights and Liberty counteracted by guarding them through influencing the public debate, and raising awareness around them.
In this attempt Liberty under the guide of Chakrabarti intervened in parliamentary work and provided free legal advise and assistance. Chakrabarti made clear that human rights ( that are freedom from slavery, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, of speech, association and belief became object of the Law after WW2 in an answer to the horrors of the Holocaust. The mindset that made the Holocaust possible is still present and people can not afford to lose sight of the potential consequences. Fighting for human rights means fighting for values that apply to everybody, they are not for citizens but for human beings; more so considering that today the world is shrinking and interconnected. People have bashed the package of human rights but everyone believes in it when they need protection. It is necessary to resist political cynicism if one believes in freedom.
Chakrabarti thinks also that gender justice is a human right issue; she endorses women empowerment and thinks that women must be more confident and challenge sexism through sarcasm or formal complain.


Vivienne Westwood: why not look like a goddess?!

“Buy well, choose less, make it last”

Vivienne Westwood is a british fashion designer and a political activist on human rights and climate change.Based in Lodon she has a thriving business that has its center in the famous avenue of King’s Road.
She was teacher for nearly 5 years before becoming a fashion designer. She had been making clothes since her teenage years. Vivienne became incredibly popular in the 70’s when together with her boyfriend Malcolm Maclaren started to design clothes based on the concept of Rock’N’Roll first and than Punk Rock. They thought that this style would attract the attention of people and they thought well. Punk Rock was mostly a cultural choice.Vivienne-Westwood It would express Vivienne pledge to a cultural and economic revolution since the world was and still is mismanaged
by governments. She believes that it is silly to think of fashion as a political crusade but still it combines the vision of how the world could be better with the art. It could be a platform to talk politics and this is why Westwood put slogans in her collections. Fashion in her words inspire a better life and therefore can make people engaged with the world as other forms of cultural expressions; fashion for Vivienne is in itself a potential expression of human dignity and autonomy when thinking about countries or times when people had to wear the same.
She believes in the power of history in making the individual think with its own mind and less dependent from any form of conditioning.

Frida Kalho: Against all odds

         “Feet, why do I need them if I have wings to fly?”

Frida Kahlo, was born in Mexico in 1910. The main episode during her youth was a traffic accident. In the aftermath she had to undergo several surgical operations despite which she never recovered completely from the accident and she was never able to have a child. Frida was forced to bed for a number of months; and in this period of time she began to paint self-portraits; regarding this choice of style later she would recall that her body and her mind were the subject she knew best. In the 30’s Frida married the painter Diego Rivera and followed him wherever he had a commission. So she was able to visit USA and France and in both places at the end of the 30’s she was able to set her own exhibitions. Her style was a mixture of original elements, features from the mexican fine arts tradition and surrealism. She was active in the mexican communist party.
Her self-portraits as well as her personal photographs display a woman not afraid to show her natural hairs in her face and her eyebrows. For this and for her affairs with both sexes Frida become an icon of the feminist movement during the 70’s. Her story is a mixture of sadness, and success.frida