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Terra-cotta warriors get female companions
2006-10-15 19:09:01 Xinhua English

BEIJING, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) -- China's 2,000-year-old terra-cotta warriors are getting some female company thanks to a Norweign artist who's living next door to the farmer who found the famous array of clay soldiers on the outskirts of Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

Conceptual artist, Marian Heyerdahl, has so far created 70 replicas of the terra-cotta warriors in female form each of them carrying a special message.

"Every one of them has a personality and each is telling a story. I made them to express my love of peace, as women suffer the most in war," said Heyerdahl, who is the daughter of famed explorer Thor Heyerdahl.

Like the original soldiers made more than two millennia ago, Heyerdahl's soldiers each have a different facial expression but none are of stoic, brave men. The women's faces in her warriors often express the horror's of war.

"Some have their mouths open as if they're screaming, others have their eyes closed in fear, some are smiling and some are pregnant," said the artist who turned 49 during the three months she's been in Xi'an working on the project.

As daughter of Thor Heyerdahl (who gained world-renown for his Kon-Tiki Expedition), she said she was raised exploring famous archeological sites. Yet she still often used the word "fantastic"in talking about her experiences in Xi'an.

"It's just fantastic to be here, it feels like I'm working on an archaeological site. Just dig below my feet and I'm sure you'llfind something. My neighbour is the man who dug the well and discovered the first warriors in 1970s."

Heyerdahl is working with a factory that makes life-sized knockoffs of the warriors, which stand almost two meters tall and are sold as novelties around the world. She said the factory has likely sold more replicas than there are originals. The museum across the street from her studio houses thousands of original terra-cotta warriors.

On her first visit to China more than five years ago, she bought one of the knockoffs which now stands guard over her studioin Norway. The statue is also the inspiration for her current project.

"I was sitting there with my husband and a nice glass of wine looking at the big, impressive general, when I noticed his uniform looks like a woman's skirt. I realized it wouldn't be hard to turn him into a woman and my husband thought it was a fantastic idea."

Now, almost five years later, Heyerdahl is working with the still-wet statues as they come out of the factory molds. From behind the warriors retain their original uniform and hairstyle but she re-sculpts the fronts of the statues.

"I add breasts and change the hairstyle to a woman's and give the pregnant ones big tummies. Some have their mouths open and other have their eyes closed. From the back they look like the original warriors but from the front they deliver a different message."

That message, that women not only die in war but the mothers of sons, fathers, husbands and brothers who are killed, is one that Heyerdahl hopes will make people stop and think.

"Everyday there's killing around the world. War has always been a problem, whether it's 2,000 years ago or right now or in the future, war is horrible," said Heyerdahl who is not at all optimistic about the future.

After her warriors are kiln dried and painted she plans to first exhibit them in Beijing. They'll be on show in January in Space 798, the largest gallery in Beijing's alternative art community which has adopted the name 789.

"In Beijing, I'll also add some multi-media elements which will include a DVD of war that will be seen on screens in the stomachs of a number of the statues," said Heyerdahl.

Heyerdahl is looking for sponsors to take her project to other parts of the world. She said she wants to show in Xi'an and there's been interest from an anti-war exhibit in the Republic of Korea and inquiries from the United States.

"I just want to get my message out there," said the artist sounding both excited and exacerbated. Enditem

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