Prune Nourry’s girl army, The Terracotta Daughters, has arrived in New York City. This army highlights the impact of gender selection, standing in for all the girls erased by the legacy of China’s stringent one-child policy.
Here are some fast facts on the project:
1) The Terracotta Daughters are a riff on the famous Terracotta Warriors. The nearly 8,000 life-sized terracotta soldiers dating from 209 BCE were discovered in Xi’an, China, in 1974 by farmers. The Terracotta Warriors project is a remarkable work of art, and is considered a national treasure by the Chinese.
2) Nourry’s work addresses how humans – people – are selected and defined. Terracotta Daughters is a follow on to her Holy Daughters project in India. Together China and India represent 1/3 of the world’s population, yet in both places women are woefully under-represented in favor of men.
3) The girl army was crafted by hand in Xi’an, in a factory that fabricates modern reproductions of the Terracotta Warriors. The same clay and construction techniques were used to create the Terracotta Daughters. Wen Xian Feng, the lead craftsman, was skeptical of the project at first, saying, “in the Army it is impossible to see girls.”
4) The Terracotta Daughters are based on 8 Chinese orphan girls who Nourry met in 2012 through The Children of Madaifu organization. The first 8 clay Terracotta Daughters, representing these girls, were sold to raise funds for their education and completion of the larger project.
5) Like the Terracotta Warriors, no two Terracotta Daughters are alike. Each of the 108 life-sized figures is individually crafted and is unique. Among the variations I noticed were face, hairstyle, hair ornaments, collar, hand placement, sleeve detail, and footwear. As Wen Xian Feng sculpted each girl, working from Nourry’s original 8, he “gradually, bit by bit, came to like the project.”
7) After a stop in Mexico at the Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli, the army will be buried in Xi’an in 2015. It is projected that Chinese men will have hardest time finding wives in 2030, the year the impact of the gender imbalance in China’s population will peak. That same year the Terracotta Daughters will be excavated, a ghostly reminder of the Chinese girls and women missing from our world.
8) Nourry has created 8 miniature (tabletop size) Terracotta Daughters. Available for purchase individually or as a set, the proceeds fund this continuing project.
Don’t delay – the Terracotta Daughters are only on view until October 4, 2014. See them at the China Institute’s new downtown location, 104 Washington Street, in New York City.
Credit: all photos by me.