Rebecca Swan


Carmen by Rebecca Swan

Artwork Detail

Carmen Rupe (10 October 1936 – 14 December 2011) was a New Zealand-Australian drag performer, brothel keeper, anti-discrimination activist, would-be politician, and HIV/AIDS activist.

In Wellington, Carmen ran Carmen's International Coffee Lounge and the Balcony strip club. Despite the fact that the law criminialised homosexual acts, Carmen challenged the overt discrimination and prejudice against people in the gay and transgender communities.

The above information is taken from accessed 29 March 2019.

On page 75 of Assume Nothing, Carmen is quoted stating; ‘I went to Sydney in 1959 when I was in my early twenties. That’s when I started dressing up in women’s clothes, becoming a drag queen, a female impersonator and a transsexual. I haven’t worn men’s clothes for forty years now. I’m a transsexual but I haven’t had the lower surgery. I got me forty four bust done in the early 1970’s, which I’m still so proud of. The sex changes were being done in Cairo, Egypt. I was going to fly over to get mine done but one of the presidents of Egypt got assassinated and they’ve asked me not to come over for a while, and I’ve never had it done. I’m sixty four so I won’t bother now. It doesn’t really worry me.’

Rebecca Swan
Production date
silver gelatin selenium toned
776 x 835 x 60 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of the artist, 2019
Accession no
Copying restrictions apply
New Zealand Art
Display status
Not on display

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