Being Kahlo

Jack Brockley | Nov 12, 2019

Ilgin Cingöz re-enacts a Frida Kahlo self-portrait.

Frida Kahlo stares. She smiles, but only slightly, and her attitude sends a cautioning vibe. Red ruffles crown her dark hair, and thick eyebrows attract attention to her dark brown, staring, daring eyes. It’s a look straight from the artist’s self-portraits. Yet, it’s not Kahlo. It’s Ilgin Cingöz, an 8-year-old student at Akşemsettin Primary School in Ankara, Turkey. 

By expressing her inner-Kahlo, Ilgin is learning skills that, someday, may help her achieve her goal of becoming a pastry chef. Her performance earned the cover of the December 2019 Kiwanis magazine. 
Ilgin, 8, displays a sketch of artist Frida Kahlo. “Art, in short, makes me very happy,” Ilgin says. “My drawings are displayed in school exhibitions. I also do folk dancing. Because I’m good at it, I’m usually the group leader.” Five years ago, her career hopes would have been nearly hopeless. Her school had a bad reputation. With help from the Kiwanis Club of Ankara, that has all changed. Its innovative curriculum, which draws on the creative arts to complement traditional courses, has reaped appreciation from Turkey’s Ministry of National Education and inspired a young Turkish girl’s admiration of a celebrated Mexican artist. 
Though disabled as a child with polio and injured in a traffic accident as a teenager, Kahlo overcame a lifetime of pain and medical problems to achieve artistic respect that led to exhibitions worldwide. 
As a student at Aksemsettin, Ilgin has re-enacted several of Kahlo’s self-portraits.
“It seems that Frida suffered a lot in her life. But she never gave up on her painting,” the second-grader says. “Despite everything, she was a very powerful woman, and that’s what I like about her.” 

For the re-enactment, she studied photographs and paintings “a lot” and read a biography. “I tried to get to know her,” she says. “I loved her dresses and hair clips.” 

Ilgin says the drama studio lessons have helped her schoolwork in other classes. 
“I can express myself with ease,” she says. “I participate actively in all classes. I feel very happy.” 
Someday, Ilgin hopes to be a pastry chef. 
“My mother makes delicious cakes, and I like to help her.”


Vision Partners

Be a Partner