Memory of Women Whose Heads Were Shaved
Repository: Art al Quadrat
Creator: del Rey Jordà, Gema
Creator: del Rey Jordà, Mònica
Fond or Collection
Repository and Location
Art al Quadrat, https://www.artalquadrat.net/
Date Created: 2017
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: Sagunto, Spain
YO SOY: Memoria de las rapadas is a 2017 art intervention by Valencian performance artists Art al Quadrat, who define themselves as “artists [who are] twins, women and mothers).” In their intervention, Art al Quadrat bring to contemporary public attention the practice of shaving of women’s heads, which was commonly perpetrated by Nationalists against defeated Republican women in the rear-guard during the Civil War. Such violence could also include rape, forcing women to parade naked around a village, and ingesting castor oil or other household chemicals with a purgative effect. These parades were often reportedly carnivalesque in nature, involving music and song. The objective was to shame and humiliate not only women, through their public exposure, but also underline the impotence of male and other female relatives who could not protect them. Women’s mutilated bodies were thus turned into a battlefront where Francoist conquest was aggressively imprinted.
Forced shaving of women’s heads, which has featured historically in many rear-guard scenarios, is a means of fracturing the integrity of an individual’s identity. It casts victims as deviant, confirming in the case of the Spanish Civil War, the non-femininity of so-called “rojas” or “reds”. It also draws a community into the rituals of humiliation, inscribing terror at its heart. In an early work, Dualidad of 2003, Art al Quadrat explored twin identity with a focus on entwined locks of hair. They have also focused consistently throughout their work on gendered violence and the structures which constrain and oppress women. Recuperating the memory of Spain’s Civil War rapadas is thus a logical development in their work, and connects historical memory with a concern for contemporary social justice.
The intervention, YO SOY: Memoria de las rapadas, took place in Sagunto, Valencia, on 5 November 2017. The artists not only embodied the ritual humiliation of women in shaving their own heads, but also requested locks of hair from spectators to effect a symbolic reconstruction of a collective head of hair. In the image, an elderly lady provides a lock of hair for this purpose, which Art al Quadrat present as a restorative act that repairs community. The hair collected was woven into a 1-km long tress displayed at the Museu Valencià de la Il·lulstació i de la Modernitat (MUVIM) in 2018. The painful nature of revisiting difficult memories is evident in the photograph, but the powerful capacity of art of establish reparative emotional connections across time and generations affirms a view of the future which incorporates history without being determined by it.