Lost voice of Mexican icon Frida Kahlo surfaces

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Few Mexican icons have enjoyed greater recognition than the painter, Frida Kahlo. Only her voice seemed doomed to oblivion.

Until Wednesday, that is, when the National Music Library of Mexico released a radio recording, apparently capturing the artist as she was reciting fragments of “Portrait of Diego”, a text she wrote in 1949 about her husband, the painter Diego Rivera.

The Mexican government announced the discovery with caution, saying that studies suggest the recording is the voice of Kahlo, but acknowledging they were not able to confirm it.

“It’s a finding that has many elements that can be identified as the probable voice of Frida Kahlo, but it isn’t 100% certain,” said Secretary of Culture Alejandra Frausto.

Kahlo, whose spent long periods bed-ridden after a traffic accident in her youth, was the creator of some 200 paintings, sketches and drawings - mainly self-portraits - in which she transformed her misfortune into works of bold color and emblematic strength.

She attained international fame after her death in 1954, and after the 1970s rose as a feminist icon.

Pavel Granados, director of the Fonoteca, the national music library, said the audio was recovered in January from a pilot program by well-known Mexican radio host Alvaro Galvez y Fuentes, dating to 1953 or 1954, shortly before the painter died at the age of 47 after suffering gangrene and depression.

In the audio, less than two minutes long, a youthful, piercingly clear voice, brimming with energy, says of Rivera, “he is a big boy, immense, with a friendly face and a sad gaze. His bulging, dark, very intelligent and large eyes are difficult to contain, almost out of their sockets because of swollen eyelids protruding like a frog.”

Granados said he shared the recording with people familiar with the Mexican artist and that the results were mixed. Some identified it as Kahlo’s voice but others were doubtful.

Investigations will continue, Granados said. “Frida’s voice has been a great enigma...(It has been) a constant search since the Fonoteca started.”

Reporting by Miguel Angel Gutiérrez and Diego Oré; Editing by Delphine Schrank and Dan Grebler