The Appropriation of an Icon: Guernica, Remade
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Taylor & Francis
Alister Wedderburn, ‘The Appropriation of an Icon: Guernica, Remade’, International Feminist Journal of Politics, 21(3) 2019: 480-87.
Between 2009 and 2010, a women’s community organisation in the Eastern Cape of South Africa wove a tapestry based on Pablo Picasso’s 1937 painting Guernica. The work repurposes the aesthetic vocabulary of Picasso’s iconic painting, applying it to the group’s experiences of the ongoing AIDS epidemic. Rooted in the everyday practice of the women responsible for weaving it, the tapestry offers a layered, complex response to the gendered politics of national and international HIV/AIDS governance, mediated through a craft and trade that is itself gendered.
This article offers a brief account of the tapestry’s creation, situating it within the wider context of the Mbeki administration’s doubts regarding the efficacy of antiretroviral drugs. It then draws attention to a specific feature of the tapestry, namely the bull, and asks how the tapestry’s appropriation of Picasso’s visual language enables it to produce, bear, and convey meaning about the AIDS crisis as experienced by women in Hamburg.