Yarn bombing and bureaucracy

[Image explanation and translation: six window strip with Mafalda. Mafalda calls out, “bureaucracy!” in the first window. Windows two through to five she sits on a chair, looks around, reads a newspaper, stares blankly into space and waits. Window six her tortoise arrives and she greets him with, “your lettuce leaf”.]

In a square in San Telmo, a relatively old (and fairly touristy) barrio in Buenos Aires sits a bench with a statue of Mafalda. The statue was installed there in 2009 honouring the work of Quino (whose house is just across) and in recognition of the place the comics hold in the collective memory of the argentina’s reading classes. Each day bunches of people sit by her and have their pictures taken. And not all the hard-earned cynicism from a life being lived stops me from being one of them.

One of the (many) things I love about Mafalda is the variety of relationships she has with people around her. The comic would collapse pretty quickly if she weren’t surrounded by a group of friends and family that supported, challenged and annoyed her in about equal measures (shades of Buffy anyone?). Which is why I felt compelled to leave by her side, a crocheted tortoise and a note bearing the legend, “Porque Mafalda siempre tenía amigos” (because Mafalda always had friends).

How is that for a first in daytime yarn graffiti?

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Me voy a Buenos Aires

Mafalda sitting on a chair comforting a feverish and bandaged up globe placed by her side.

Were you aware that there is such a thing as a Tango conference? Up until recently, neither was I. Seven days straight of workshops and evenings with milongas. So of course, I booked me a ticket far enough in advance and got organised. I’d more or less relegated that to the class of things that are making me happy even though they are far, far away. People would say, “Well now, aren’t you excited?” and I’d say “yes” and think but it’s a while away still. And I’d got so used to doing that that it wasn’t until last week that I really realised that I’m going. And soon!

I have never been to Buenos Aires and you know, my ignorance is wide-reaching and fathomless and the only thing that I know I have to see is the house of Quino (and the statue of Mafalda). For those of your who don’t know who they are – Quino is Joaquín Salvador Lavado – an argentine cartoonist – and parent to Mafalda – the protagonist of a comic strip he created. In my head, Mafalda is in Spanish what Calvin and Hobbes are in English. It was the first comic strip I read in spanish. And I think it would be fair to say that it was the comic strip that made me want to learn more spanish. Reading (and understanding) One Hundred Years of Solitude (by Gabriel García Márquez) was what started me down this path of learning the language. Mafalda was what made the getting there seem both worthwhile and achievable. My spanish is still not good enough to read the comic strip without a dictionary at my side… so I have a ways to go, but it’s fun getting there!

Some of my favourite strips include Libertad. Libertad is the most radical and overtly political of the characters in Mafalda’s universe. And she is also the tiniest, (freedom being this little ball of hopeful cynicism is kind of a running gag) and totally awesome! And the strip below is perhaps my absolute favourite with her in it. There are others that are more political and what not, but this one is genius.

[Image description and translation: Single panel four-window comic strip with Libertad and her Dad. Dad indicates the potted plants in the corner as he kneels on the floor and asks Libertad if she likes them. Libertad responds “In pots no, I like plants to be in the ground proper”. Dad, “Yes, of course, but that is impossible. I live in an apartment”. Libertad, “You asked me if I liked the plants, not if I liked your life.” The end!]

And then of course there the one where Mafalda asks that the world stop spinning because she’d like to get off! I feel like that a lot. At any event, I get to take a bit of a break and step off the merry-go-round for a bit – a tango conference in Buenos Aires isn’t a usual stop, but one that I’m quite looking forward to!