Students Find Headless Girls


On November 16, 2010, a group of students from Chamberlain Elementary went to the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden in Washington DC. Our teachers told us to split up into groups of 4 or 5 and they sent us on a scavenger hunt at the museum. Each group had to find a sculpture that it liked. We had 30 minutes to explore, make our decisions and then regroup at a café. Being able to explore on our own made us feel that our teachers trusted us. Our group found a sculpture by Magdalena Abakanowicz, a unique artist who was born in Poland in 1930. The name of her sculpture is Puelluae, meaning “Girls” in Polish. Magdalena got her inspiration as a child during World War II when she saw a group of children who froze to death while being transported in train cars from Poland to Germany during the Holocaust. The Holocaust was a time when a political party in Germany called the Nazis believed that the Aryan race was superior. The Nazis killed between 11 and 17 million people, approximately six million of this number were European Jews.

On the way to the café our group made its decision. Each person gave one reason why they chose the sculpture of rows of bronze girls that had bodies with no heads. We admired this sculpture because the group of girls all looked the same. They didn’t have distinct features and there was no way to tell them apart. The museum brochure said that this represented repetition. The artist was trying to show totalitarianism and how it was inhuman. Totalitarianism is when a ruler takes over and makes people obey his rules. With the heads cut off, the girls’ identities were gone. The artist showed a lot of feelings about sorrow and anguish.

Even with the rain, we forgot all about being gloomy because we were able to experience art instead of just looking at it in a book. We got to sit and talk with friends about the day at Ruby Tuesday's.

Maia McDowell, Kitiya Pendarvis and Christopher Hamilton are 8th grade students at Friendship Chamberlain Academy.