A library in Mexico has unearthed what could be the first known tape of the iconic artist’s voice
For better or worse, Frida Kahlo’s face is one of the most recognisable in the world. But what did she sound like? For the first time ever, you can listen to what might be the painter’s voice.
The National Sound Library of Mexico has unearthed what they believe could be Kahlo reading from her essay Portrait of Diego. The recording is taken from the pilot episode of 1995 radio show El Bachiller, which aired after her death the previous year.
“Frida’s voice has always been a great enigma, a never-ending search,” the head of the national audio archives, Pavel Granados, told a press conference, “until now, there had never been a recording of Frida Kahlo.”
Although experts are still analysing the file to confirm whether it is in fact Kahlo, it’s a huge breakthrough in the search to learn more about the captivating artist, who’d previously only been captured via photographs, silent films, and – of course – her own self-portraits.
The tape was reportedly found in the archives of Mexican screenwriter Álvaro Gálvez y Fuentes, and was recorded for a radio show he hosted focusing on the life of Kahlo’s on-and-off husband Diego Rivera.
In the recording, a melodic voice reads (as translated by Agence France Presse): “He is a gigantic, immense child, with a friendly face and a sad gaze. His high, dark, extremely intelligent and big eyes rarely hold still. They almost come out of their sockets because of their swollen and protuberant eyelids – like a toad’s. They allow his gaze to take in a much wider visual field, as if they were built especially for a painter of large spaces and crowds.”
Kahlo’s tumultuous marriage to fellow artist Rivera was a great source of misery to the painter, who once declared: “There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley (Kahlo suffered a near-fatal bus collision in 1925), and the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.” Her parents also never fully approved of the relationship, describing their marriage as “between an elephant and a dove.”
If the recording really is Kahlo, there could be even more on the way as the library houses 1300 El Bachiller tapes within its collection. The discovery is a further fascinating insight into the life of one of the most beguiling artists of the 20th century.
Listen to the recording below.
Update (June 20): Frida Kahlo’s relatives and former students have dismissed claims that the recording is of the artist’s voice. As reported by the Guardian, Mexican actor Amparo Garrido has come forward to suggest the tape is actually of her. “I feel it’s me and have for a while”, she told radio station Radio Fórmula. “I recorded various things for El Bachiller... I’m almost absolutely sure that I recorded this one.”
Garrido’s son also asserts the recording features his mother’s voice, and suggests Kahlo wouldn’t have even been well enough to record the audio, which is reportedly from 65 years ago. The National Sound Library of Mexico is yet to confirm either way.