Laura Anderson Barbata

La Extraordinaria Historia de Julia Pastrana

The project began in 2005 as La Repatriación de Julia Pastrana which I initiated while Artist in Residence at OCA Office of Contemporary Art, Norway.  The project involved research, correspondence with University Scholars and The National Committee for Ethical Evaluation of Research on Human Remains in Oslo, Norway with the objective that Julia Pastrana be removed from the Schreiner Collection in Oslo, Norway and repatriated to Mexico for burial.

After almost 10 years of work and enlisting collaborators such as scientists, journalists, scientists and the Governor of Sinaloa, Mexico, authorities in Norway transferred custody of Julia Pastrana from Norway to Mexico. Julia Pastrana was repatriated to her home state of Sinaloa and buried following the ceremonies and traditions of the faith she practiced during her life. She was buried at the Panteón Municipal de Sinaloa de Leyva, in her home state of Sinaloa on the 12th of February, 2013.

This multi-dimensional project also includes the production of a video animation: Julia Pastrana. Su vuelta y sus raíces (2013), works on paper, zines, drawings, photographs, performances, workshops, lectures, and the upcoming book by Lucia Marquand Press: The Eye of the Beholder. Julia Pastrana´s Long Journey Home.

Pastrana, (1834-1860) an Indigenous woman born in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico. She was a gifted singer who performed in English, Spanish and French. Julia had a mezzo-soprano voice, played the guitar and was a graceful dancer. She was known to love people and to give generously to charity. She performed for audiences all over Europe and the United States. Julia Pastrana suffered from one of the most extreme cases of congenital generalized hypertrichosis terminalis on record and from severe gingival hyperplasia. Due to her condition, her face and body were covered with thick hair and her jaw was disproportionately large. After her death, her body was embalmed and was exhibited extensively throughout Europe and the United States for over 100 years. Her body was kept at the Schreiner Collection at the University of Oslo, Norway until the 9th of February, 2013, when official custody of Pastrana was transferred to the Government of Mexico and the State of Sinaloa, represented by Laura Anderson Barbata.

La Extraordinaria Historia de Julia Pastrana is supported by the National Fund for Culture and Arts through the National System of Arts Creators (2014-2017)