Hidden World of Girls: Stories for Orchestra


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“We met through our boyfriends, Peter Barnowsky and Robert Mapplethorpe…. In the Summer of ’68, we became friends. At first Patti and I spent our afternoons drawing. When I started to photograph her, it seemed as easy as sharing colored pencils. It was simple. Patti liked being photographed…. Patti and I were friends the way children are friends. With Chirpy little voices, we daydreamed a future. I found a cassette Patti and I made in ’69. We were making a long-since lost 8mm movie in my tenement apartment in Brooklyn.”

-Judy Linn from her book of photographs, Patti Smith 1969-1976

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"> Never on Sunday: The Hidden World of Elena Fonseca by The Kitchen Sisters

Davia Nelson: I wonder if we could begin by you telling me what you had for breakfast?

Elena Fonseca: I had coffee, toast, butter and some jam some; and of course, fresh orange juice. In Uruguay 80% of people drink Mate, a sort of tea, an infusion, you put some dried herbs in a sort of Calabaza. People drink Mate first thing in the morning, then they have breakfast.

My name is Elena Fonseca. I’m Uruguayan, I was born in Montevideo and I now live now in Montevideo too. I am the host of ‘Never On A Sunday’, a women’s radio programme, which is one hour long, every day from Monday to Friday. Six o’ clock in the afternoon to seven.

My husband was a Diplomat so we travelled a lot; we stay in different countries; Spain, Canada, Switzerland. So my children, I have six children, were brought up in different places.

When we left, Uruguay  was one of the most peculiar places in Latin American, because we had a tradition of very stable democracy. In 1910-1920, we had several Presidents who established a sort of welfare state in Uruguay. We were called Latin America’s Switzerland. We had a sort of equality, there were not many rich people, not poor people. When we went to Spain as diplomats, we left a country which was this way.

Life Under A Dictatorship

When we came back for good, we had a dictatorship. Civil and Military. Our dictatorship started in ’73 and ended in ’85.  Chile, Argentina and Uruguay had dictatorships at the same time, Brazil had it ten years before.

What happened with women? Women were involved in Tupamaros and the Guerrilla. They wore weapons and had the same responsibilities as men, and the same way of fighting. If we compare the three dictatorships; Chile, they shoot them; Argentina, they disappear them and in Urugauy they went into jail. Communists, Socialists, Tupamaros they were persecuted the same way. Our President now, Juan José Mujica was in jail for fourteen years in very bad conditions. One moment they say Uruguay was the country with more political prisoners, in percentage of our population.

Military thought that men should spend bad time being alone, in separated cells; and in women were all together, twelve, for teen in the same cell that they would fight. Why? Because women always fight, they cry, have a scene and so on.  Nothing happened that way. They had a sort of statement among women in jail; the enemy was outside, not inside. They were not going to fight.

Maintaining Spirits Through Adversity

There were very cultivated women who were in jail. They thought well, lets go and make a Theatre. Of course, everything was not permitted, they had to make it when they [prison guards] didn’t look at them.  Theatre was really important for them, to be out of themselves and to create things and to make sceneries with nothing. They created that way of surviving, and of course  they help women who were not as strong as others. Some of them gave classes; English classes, French classes, etcetera. There was a sort of University in a way. One of my friends learnt Latin and German in jail!

Very few people went crazy. Although, there was physcologists who really  wanted to poison their lives, to poison their minds.  To say, “yes I know, you’re missing your children, but they are not in the country” , which was not true.  Their Grandmothers and Grandfathers were taking care of them. In ’85 they were all freed because there was an amnesty. Some of them went to jail at eighteen and said ” okay, I won’t be able to have children if I go at forty or fifty”. That idea was in their minds.  Most of them had children when went out, they were still able to procreate. 

The End Of An Era

When the dictatorship ended, the dictator was so involved in itself, they had no relation with people because they don’t want people to talk, and they didn’t know what people thought about. So, they call for a referendum. Yes or no, if they want us to say or not. They were sure that everybody would say yes, because of course dictatorships are always surrounded by those people who say yes and yes and yes. 

I remember the day of the votation. We had enormous anxiety because no one knew what the other person in the line thought. No one dared to speak; you could go to jail because of speaking. At seven o’clock, the news started, the General put his gun on the table, and he said,” we have to recognise that we lost, the no won”. 

We weren’t able to applaud  or something else. That time began a way of expressing ourselves which was not identified by person. We opened the windows and started to put all the stuff of the kitchen, pros and pans. Make a sound!  By night, nobody saw you, nobody identified you, and  all the neighbourhoods we full of that. This was a sort of knowing that you were which many people more. That time was beautiful.

Question Everything

My group is called Cotidiano Mujer. We started wanting to make a women’s magazine, a feminist’s magazine. At that time, when women were in jail and women were outside, we had no way to connect with feminism. We called ourselves feminists, it was not a good word in Uruguay at that time. We found ourselves a lot of twenty women who came from exile, from the prisons, from here inside, but we thought more or less the same.

Sometimes they ask us, “Why did you close yourselves to just women?”. We needed to think between us, just by us, to name everything. What is prostitution? Women who go on prostitution or men who are the clients, who should be blamed. What it maternity? To have a child like us, or to care for a baby? We went in touch with other Latin American people and European and North American people and thus we started broaden our ideas and our targets. 

Never On A Sunday

Then came the radio programme. I have a group behind me. We are in touch every day. Everybody comes, ” Do you know what happened that place? Do you know what she went through?”, so I’m very rich in that kind. And of course I spend three or four hours with the news of all the world. We try not to have the classical information of the agencies, to have different information. 

Our programme is called ‘Never On A Sunday’. Not because we don’t have a programme on Sunday. At the beginning a very well known person, Melina Mercuri, died. We loved her so much, we said “okay, fine, let’s put our program Never On A Sunday”, because of her, because of her film. The music of the programme is the music of the film, in which she works as a prostitute, in Greece, in Athens, in porto elpidio. She said “Fine, I work everyday, [but] never on a Sunday”. And on Sunday she went with her friends. 


More information on Elena and Cotidiano Mujer can be found here: http://www.cotidianomujer.org.uy. Never On A Sunday (Nunca en Domingo) can be heard on CX22 Radio Universal from 12pm (PST).

This piece was produced by intern Sam Robinson in collaboration with the Kitchen Sisters. Thanks to Amelia Hazen whose song ‘Weightless’ features and the other artists whose music was used.


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">http://www.kitchensisters.org/girlstories/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/radio-margarita.jpg Lula Mae Hardaway, Stevie Wonder’s mother, and the photograph taken by Shadi Ghadiran that we have used as our banner for this blog.

Today, on International Women’s Day, we present this portrait of her work.

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"> videos and slide shows on the New York Times site. They’re incredible. And visit wnyc.org and npr.org beginning this Sunday for more information about the radio programs.

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Stories are tinder. They can light a fire. As we begin a new year creating radio stories and multimedia documentaries we are more committed than ever to the telling of stories that hold promise of change, democracy, hope and imagination.

In the coming year we begin a new NPR series, Hidden Kitchens World, global kitchen stories of land, community and food. We have just received an NEA matching grant for this new collaboration and we need your contribution to meet this match. We will also be developing a highly interactive Hidden Kitchens phone app to further spread and collect these stories and create new ways for people to collaborate with us from around the world. Crowdsourcing stories has long been a Kitchen Sisters tradition and continues to be at the heart of our work.

During this past year we began some new collaborations–with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, where we chronicled their “Women Who Rock” exhibit and began documenting the lives of pioneering women musicians; with The Believer magazine’s annual music issue; with illustrator Wendy MacNaughton; and Pop-Up, the live-magazine phenomenon that showcases some of the country’s most interesting writers, filmmakers, photographers and radio producers, where we sneak previewed two upcoming stories, “Show the Girls the Snakes” and an excerpt from “Atomic Wine: A Trace of Bomb in the Glass” from our new Hidden Kitchens World project.

Much is on the horizon. Along with working on more stories of women and girls, we are writing a new book, Notes From the Kitchen Sisterhood: The Power of Storytelling, and producing our first audio book, 40 Years of Chez Panisse: The Power of Gathering written and read by Alice Waters and Friends. We are also collaborating with Obscura Digital and the Cabrillo Festival for Contemporary Music on “The Hidden World of Girls: Stories for Orchestra,” a multimedia evening of new music, radio, and images in July 2012.

All this comes to pass with your collaboration and support. The year ahead is a rugged one. Funding for public radio projects, especially the work of independents, is deeply threatened. Your participation is vital and so appreciated. There is barely one of you who receives this letter who has not contributed a story, an image, a contact, air miles, music, cheese, financial support or encouragement.

We thank you deeply for this creative collaboration and the power it gives us to build community through storytelling. All of your donations are tax-deductible. You contribution, no matter what size, makes it possible to do this work.

We send you and your family wishes for peace and possibilities in the complex and shining year ahead.

Forward ever,

Davia & Nikki
The Kitchen Sisters

Illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton


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"> dancehalls of Jamaica to a racetrack in Ramallah, Tina Fey takes us around the world into the secret life of girls and the women they become.

Sound-rich, evocative, funny, and powerful–stories of coming of age, rituals and rites of passage, secret identities. Of women who crossed a line, blazed a trail, changed the tide. These specials are produced by Peabody Award-winning producers, The Kitchen Sisters (Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva), in collaboration with NPR reporters and foreign correspondents, independent producers and listeners around the world.

You can listen to and download the specials here:

Hour One:

The Hidden World of Girls with Tina Fey-Hour 1 by The Kitchen Sisters

Hour Two:

The Hidden World of Girls with Tina Fey-Hour 2 by The Kitchen Sisters

UPDATE: Podcast versions of the specials are available here (link will open in iTunes).

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"> Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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Funding for this series comes from:

National Endowment for the Arts National Endowment for the Arts Corporation for Public Broadcasting

Further Support Provided By:

NPR Kitchen Sisters


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