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Tuesday 1 Nov 2005
Mexico City, Mexico

Frida Kahlo and revolutionary leaders

If I'm honest the only reason I know about Frida Kahlo is because I once read in a magazine (probably Cosmo) that she was Madonna's favourite painter. Hey, I don't claim to be any great intellectual. Anyway, I've been looking forward to visiting her house, the Casa Azul in Mexico City ever since seeing her exhibition at the Tate Modern in London, and it didn't disappoint.

For those of you who didn't read Cosmo, Frida Kahlo had a fascinating if unhappy life. She was run over by a bus on her way to school leaving her permanently disabled and she had a 'troubled'relationship with the great Mexican socialist painter Diego Riviera.

The house itself was stunning, painted bright blue with beautiful gardens, and located in one of the city's wealthiest suburbs it was a real oasis of calm where we could soak up the sun, relax with a coffee and escape the smog and noise of Mexico City.

What I didn't expect was how intimate the house would be. The place was littered with her personal possessions and letters. Even her prosthetic leg, various back braces and other medical contraptions she endured throughout her life were all on display. It certainly explained why she painted the way she did.

But, it was the detail that got me the most. In her kitchen were two clocks, the first stopped at the time of her divorce to Diego Riviera, he ran off with her sister (what is it about these great socialist men that treat their women like shit). The second at the time of their subsequent remarriage the following year.

Her studio was set up as she left it, with her wheelchair and easel overlooking the garden, and the unfinished painting of Stalin she was working on before she died. Her death mask (a Mexican tradition) lay on her bed and just sitting on top of a chest of drawers completely unprotected, was the urn containing her ashes. I can't imagine any other painter's ashes being on display within arms reach, but then I supose it reflects the very personal nature of her work.

As with her paintings, her home was just as emotive and all in all I found it quite a moving experience. The 'Blue House'is also where she and Diego sheltered Trotsky for a while when he was on the run from Stalinist persecution, and his resting place was just round the corner.

In contrast, his house was quite dark and sombre which is apt as it was here that he was murdered by Stalinists in his study with an ice pick. Funny, that he should die in Mexico City's most affluent neighbourhood. Of course, Rob and I did the obligatory comrade pose in front of his grave.

Dead people seem to be a bit of a theme at the moment and with the city gearing up for the 'Day of the Dead'festivities tonight and tomorrow, we're expecting a couple of days hard partying ahead.

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