My Favourite Rebel: León Ferrari


León Ferrari (1920-2013) was a pioneering conceptual artist who stood up against the military dictatorship (1976-1983) and the Catholic Church’s complicity in human rights abuses in his country, Argentina, and who produced many committed artworks that rebelled against conventions. I chose him as my favourite rebel as he proved that art and artists can play an important role in raising difficult questions about society. In his lifetime, Ferrari challenged censorship and attempted to bring about accountability in Argentina after a period of extreme violence.

Ferrari’s life was dramatically altered by Argentina’s last coup in 1976, after which the military took control until 1983. The dictatorship was an incredibly violent period where many of those considered opponents of the military regime were kidnapped, tortured, killed or were ‘disappeared’ by the state. Enforced disappearance was a practice where opponents were taken by military forces and were never seen again.  Following the coup, Ferrari’s life was at risk because of his art and politics and went into exile in Brazil in 1976. It was in Brazil that he learnt of the disappearance of his son, Ariel, by the dictatorship.

Ferrari used his art to speak out against what was happening in Argentina. In one series of artworks called Nosostros no sabíamos (We didn’t know) (1976-1992), he collected newspaper clippings describing the discovery of the bodies of the disappeared in Argentina. This series confronted those who attempted to deny people were disappearing in Argentina during the dictatorship. Ferrari collected and reproduced the few articles that passed through censorship and which spoke of disappearances and killings. After the return to democracy in 1983, Ferrari continued to use his art to seek justice for the crimes of the dictatorship. In 1995, Ferrari illustrated Nunca Más (Never Again) an official report first published in 1984 on the people disappeared by the military. Ferrari made a series of collages to accompany the report’s republication in the Argentine newspaper Pagina 12, where he protested the lack of accountability for the dictatorship’s abuses and also highlighted the Catholic Church’s complicity in human rights abuses during this time.

2“León Ferrari, La autopista del sur (Southern Highway), 1982-2000, Artwork © León Ferrari. Image © Essex Collection of Art from Latin America”

Ferrari’s approach to making political art was something that he begun in the 1960s. His artwork La civilización occidental y Cristiana (Western and Christian Civilization) (1965) depicted Christ’s crucifixion on a US fighter jet and was made to speak out against the war in Vietnam. This artwork proved to be controversial for many in Argentina and led to the closure of Ferrari’s 2004 retrospective exhibition in Buenos Aires following a petition by members of the Catholic Church in Argentina. Archbishop Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, criticized the work as blasphemous.[1]  The courts succeeded in closing the exhibition only to reopen it after many people came out in support of the artist and his right to free speech. Some of Ferrari’s works were destroyed by groups protesting against the offence it caused them.[2] Ferrari said, of Bergoglio’s reaction to the exhibition, that ‘Bergoglio did me a kind of favour’ by publicising the exhibition through his opposition.[3] This incident highlighted a series of complex problems relating to free speech, art and religion in contemporary Argentina.

León Ferrari died in 2013, aged 92, and by the time of his death he was recognised as one of Argentina’s foremost artists whose contributions to art internationally are lasting. In 2007, he was awarded the Leone d’Oro at the 52nd Venice Bienale which was awarded ‘on grounds of aesthetic quality and ethical values.’[4]

3“León Ferrari, Sin título (Untitled), 2001, Artwork © León Ferrari. Image © Essex Collection of Art from Latin America”

Ferrari is my favourite rebel as he proves that artists can challenge the social and political landscape which surrounds them and they can strive for change. The accounts of censorship during the dictatorship and attempts to silence Ferrari in democratic Argentina remind me that it is fundamental that artists are able to express themselves freely. Past students and staff of the University of Essex were lucky to have been able to see two exhibitions of León Ferrari’s work at Art Exchange, one in 2002 and another in 2006. Current students are still able to see some of the 15 works that the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) holds in its space in the Constable Building at the Colchester Campus.

[1] León Ferrari, León Ferrari: obras = works 1976-2008, 1. ed (México, D.F: Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes : Editoreal RM, 2008). p.134.
[2] ‘León Ferrari, El Artista Argentino Que Enojó Al Papa Francisco – BBC Mundo’ <; [accessed 26 April 2016].
[3] “Es una especie de favor que me hizo Bergoglio” ‘León Ferrari, El Artista Argentino Que Enojó Al Papa Francisco – BBC Mundo’. (My translation)
[4] Ferrari, p. 134.

My Favourite Rebel: Malala Yousafzai


(Photo taken from

The term rebel is often seen in a negative light, which is certainly not always the case. When asked who my favourite rebel is, I immediately thought of someone who has inspired me, someone who fought for an amazing and worthwhile cause; the person that I call my favourite rebel is none other than Malala Yousafzai. For those of you who don’t know, this is the woman who fought, and almost died fighting, for the right of female education.

For me and many others, growing up I was never restricted when it came to education. Instead, it was encouraged in my family and now in my final year at university I am incredibly grateful that I was never made to feel like I didn’t belong in education, just because I was a girl. However, all around the world there are countless girls who grow up being told that they do not deserve education, just because they are female. They are brought up to feel like education is something they have no right to and this is completely wrong.

Malala Yousafzai has spent years of her life fighting for female education and has even survived a gunshot to the head in her fight for the rights of female education. Despite being only 18 years old, she has achieved so much and inspired so many. She is truly deserving of being the youngest person to receive a Nobel Peace Prize.


Malala Yousafzai changed my perception of what a rebel is and taught me that the term rebel shouldn’t just be considered in a negative light, which I was guilty of doing before and I am sure that countless others have done so too. She has shown that a true rebel is someone who fights for what they believe in and they fight to make a difference in the world all for a good cause.

I am so glad that we can celebrate these rebellious heroes together!

My Favourite Rebel: Joan of Arc

For many people, Joan of Arc represents a hero, the ultimate female warrior. She was a true rebel.


Rebels are those people that challenge convention, that fight with their entire life for what they believe in, that are brave and do not back down when they do not succeed. To me, Joan of Arc had all of these “rebel” qualities.

Joan’s quest started in 1425, when she was just 13 years old. History tells that Joan started having visions from God of where she was to lead the French army, in order to obtain victory in their war against England [1]. This happened in a small town called Domrémy, Eastern France. Around the age of 16, Joan’s father tried to arrange a marriage for his daughter, but Joan was highly against it and even went to the local authorities to convince them that she could not be forced into marriage [2]. Joan was successful in convincing the authorities and as a result she did not have to marry. To me, this just proves that Joan was someone who spoke her mind from an early age, she resisted when someone tried to force her into something that she did not want to do by taking some action and she fought for what she believed in; all this despite women being seen predominantly as the ‘weaker sex’ at that time and arranged marriage at 16 being the norm.

At this point in history, most of Northern France was occupied by the English. So Joan, still at the very young age of 16, travelled to a small village called Vaucouleurs, in order to speak to the garrison commander Robert de Baudricourt about her visions. No matter how hard she tried though, the commander did not take her seriously [3].

But Joan didn’t give up; she went all the way to Chinon to speak to the dauphin Charles (the oldest son of the king) [4] and this time the dauphin listened to her. Joan, despite being a woman, was given permission to lead the battle against the English that would resolve as a victory.

After that, you would think that Joan would be celebrated as a national hero but, even though France miraculously recovered to a stronger position against the English, Joan was captured in 1430 and put in prison. A trial followed that accused her of witchcraft and cross-dressing. Joan was burned at the stake in 1431.


This is the story of a truly inspirational young woman who, with no previous experience, lead an entire army to obtain victory where before all hope looked lost. She proved that women are just as capable as men and should not just be married, doing housework, like the stereotypes would have dictated. She rebelled against the norm, because she believed in herself and she fought for her right to be listened to, to selflessly fight for her country.

Despite the horrific death that she ultimately endured, Joan of Arc continues to inspire me as a symbol of female heroism. She has undoubtedly left a bold stamp throughout history and is a perfect example of a rebellious hero, as well as a role model to thank for the freedom that women have today.



[1] Pernoud, Régine. Joan of Arc by Herself and Her Witnesses. New York: Stein and Day, 1966. Print.

[2] Cerrone, Michael Joseph. For God and Country. Manchester: Sophia Institute Press, 2015. Print.

[3] Devries, Kelly. Joan of Arc: A Military Leader. Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing, 1999. Print.

[4] Encyclopedia Britannica, “Saint Joan of Arc | French Heroine”. Last Accessed: 10 Jan. 2016.

[5] Joan, Marina Warner, and Walter Sidney Scott. The Trial of Joan of Arc. Evesham: Arthur James, 1996. Print

My Favourite Rebel: Emmeline Pankhurst

Every year since I turned 18 I have voted, but I have always taken this right for granted. It seems absurd nowadays that someone could tell me that, because of my gender, I don’t have the right to vote. However, had it not been for Emmeline Pankhurst and all of the Suffragettes’ determination and sacrifices, then women today may still have not been seen as equal to men and may still have not been able to exercise their opinions about who should be running the country in which we live.


All of the work that Pankhurst did cannot really be summarised in one post, however I have tried to include her key achievements and the reason why she is my favourite rebel.

In 1903, Pankhurst founded a women-only group focused on voting rights, the ‘Women’s Social and Political Union’. The WSPU’s slogan was “Deeds Not Words” and its members were the first to be christened ‘Suffragettes’.


Like many Suffragettes, Pankhurst was arrested on a number of occasions over the next few years for her part in protesting for women’s voting rights. She even went on hunger strikes, resulting in violent force-feeding.

In 1913, in response to the rise in hunger strikes from Suffragettes, the government passed what became known as the ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act. Seeking to thwart the hunger strikes, the ‘Prisoners’ Temporary Discharge for Ill Health Act’ was enacted; the law now said that prisoners who were released for health reasons could be rearrested and taken back to prison once they’d recovered.

But Pankhurst kept on fighting in new and different ways. She encouraged women to join the war effort and fill factory jobs, so that men could fight on the frontline and in 1918, these contributions from women during wartime helped convince the British government to grant them very limited voting rights, with the ‘Representation of the People Act’. Later that year, another bill gave women the right to be elected to Parliament.

Pankhurst died on 14 June 1928, shortly after women were granted equal voting rights with men (being allowed to vote aged 21). She died having succeeded with this impossible fight.

Pankhurst is my favourite rebel because her life was so influential. No matter what the obstacle, she just continued to fight for what she believed in to change the world for women forever. Pankhurst’s and the Suffragettes’ work paved the way to allow women like me being able to vote, attend university and be born equal to my brothers. The Suffragettes have taught me that I have the right to be heard just like men and that I should use my voice to help change the injustice I see around me.

I would really recommend watching the film “Suffragette”. It is based around the Suffragette movement and really illuminates just how hard women had to fight, in order to get equal rights.


Pankhurst’s fight has made me realise that if you want to see a change then, regardless of gender, you really do have the capability to make it happen.

“Women are very slow to rouse, but once they are aroused, once they are determined, nothing on earth and nothing in heaven will make women give way; it is impossible.” – Emmeline Pankhurst

One Month of Rebels with a Cause: #MyLifeMyWorld

This April, we want to celebrate the boundary breakers, the convention challengers, the people with guts; we want to celebrate rebels with a cause.

To do so, we will be showcasing blog posts written by you, our students and our staff, about your favourite rebels. Whether it be someone that has shaken history to its core and improved life for the better, or someone that has contributed hugely to a specific culture or field, we want to know about them and why you view them as your favourite rebel.

Enjoy reading about your fellow student and staff inspirations over the coming weeks and also feel free to submit your own piece by emailing

Let’s celebrate your heroes together this April. #MyLifeMyWorld

Martin Luther King




Malala Yousafzai

Winston-Churchill_el cajon de grisom


Make 2016 Count

As we enter the new year, we’d like to say a massive THANK YOU to all of December’s #MyLifeMyWorld participants. 30 students, and one very important cat later we have visual snapshot representing the variety of issues that are important to our students.

However, with over 12,000 students and thousands more staff, this small sample is just a drop in the ocean of the possible issues that could have been chosen.

We must also remind readers that the opinions expressed are of our students and academics, exercising their freedom of speech and not necessarily representing the views of the University. Whilst many will agree, or disagree, with a number of these views and opinions we have only scratched the surface of what could be changed in the world.

We’ll be kicking off our next #MyLifeMyWorld campaign soon, so watch this space – and in the meantime whatever you decide to work towards in 2016, just make it count!

My Life My World Participants

Finding World Peace

Day 31: “If there is one thing you would protest about in 2016, what would it be?”

Today we spoke to Abdullah:

“I really would love to see a world that lives in peace and where people are happy. I don’t want to see these atrocities happening in the world. We live in the 21st century and it’s really awful to see all these atrocities are still happening, so my wish is to see peace and justice in this world.”


Abdullah on peace

Stop Terrorism from Destroying the World

Day 29: “If there is one thing you would protest about in 2016, what would it be?”

Today we spoke to Anna-Maria and Yalcin:

“All of Europe and so many other places in the world are suffering from terrorism. Whether people are directly affected, are worrying that they might be harmed in their home countries, or scared of being discriminated in society because of their religion or race and how people sometimes make incorrect associations between these things and terrorism. It is unfair to put people in the same bucket as a minority of terrorists and it’s stopping the world from interacting peacefully. We’re already so mixed all over the world, so people can’t discriminate. Yet people from all of the world are suffering because of these few bad people.


Anna Maria and Yalcin against terrorism

Welcome Refugees and Help Them

Day 27: “If there is one thing you would protest about in 2016, what would it be?”

Today we spoke to Ophelia:

“I believe helping refugees feel like they have a home all over the world is really important, because people should be encouraging tolerance and acceptance. We all have a past of war and of countries being torn apart by conflict and we have all needed help at a certain time from other neighbours, so I think we should definitely do the same for them now. I don’t think the fear and paranoia of terrorism, which is such a small percentage of what the world is made up of, should mean that we mistreat refugees. So, I definitely feel like we should be welcoming them.”


Ophelia on helping refugees