Terracotta Daughters

The last part of the triptych, Terracotta Daughters questions gender selection in China. Taking her inspiration from the famous Terracotta Army of Xi'an, Prune Nourry made 8 hybrid sculptures, combining the style of the Terracotta Soldiers and the portraits of 8 young Chinese girls. With the help of artisan-copyists from Xi'an, she then created an army of 108 unique combinations from the eight original molds.
Following a World Tour (Shanghai, Paris, Zurich, New York and Mexico City), the Army was buried in a secret location in China, in a performance entitled "Earth Ceremony" held in October 2015. The participants became witnesses to the birth of this "contemporary archeological site".
The excavation of the Army will take place in 2030, when, according to Chinese demographers, the male/female imbalance will have reached its peak.


India and China alone represent 1/3 of the world population and both face a similar gender imbalance. This sociological phenomenon is due to the preference parents give to having a son. The number of single men has been increasing ever since the 80’s, notably through the misuse of ultrasounds to select the sex of the child. This practice has led to disastrous consequences for the situation of women in Asia (kidnappings of children and women, forced marriages, prostitution, population migrations...).

The work process for each of Prune’s projects always begins with a research trip where she meets specialists on the societal subject of interest. It is at the University of Xi’an that the most eminent sociologists study the question of gender preference in China, notably Professor Li Shuzhuo. Prune interviewed him in June 2012 during her first research trip for this project. Li Shuzhuo initiated the Care for Girls government campaign aiming to ameliorate the condition of girls within Chinese families.

It is also in Xi’an that the Terracotta Warriors, the familiar symbol Prune has chosen as the inspiration for her project, are located. The artist points to the beauty and cultural richness of the Chinese artifacts dating back to 210 BC. The army, which was discovered in March 1974 by farmers digging a well, was meant to protect China’s first emperor Qin Shi in the afterlife. The warriors are now a source of national pride, exhibited all around the world, and registered as a UNESCO site. Estimated at more than 8,000 and measuring between 1.8 and 2 meters, each soldiers is unique.

Emulating the style and ancient techniques used to conceive the Terracotta Warriors, Prune collaborates with local Xi’an artisans specialized in the copies of the Terracotta Soldiers to create the Terracotta Daughters project.

Prune sculpts 8 life-size Terracotta Daughters modeled after 8 Chinese orphan girls. The clay used in the process is the same as the one dug up over 2,000 years ago for the original warriors. For this project, the artist learns the local copyists’ technique based off of the ancient practice.

Once the 8 original sculptures completed, the craftsmen use the molds interchangeably to create an army of 108 life-size Terracotta Daughters. The faces are then individually personalized and signed by the craftsmen, as was done with the ancient soldiers, to make each Terracotta Daughter unique.

The army, along with other artworks derived from the project, were presented in an exhibition in September 2013 in Shanghai at the gallery Magda Danysz. The exhibition design is mostly focused on the installation of the 108 life-size sculptures displayed in accordance with the archeological site after which they are inspired. The other artworks include the 8 original Terracotta Daughters, bronzes, plaster molds, as well as a video – between artwork and witness of the process. This exhibition will then be followed by a world tour throught 2014 with shows in Paris in April, Switzerland in June, curated by Tatyana Franck (Curator of Picasso at Work: Through the lens of David Douglas Duncan at the Museo Picasso of Malaga, the Museum of Art and Industry La Piscine à Roubaix, and the Museum of Art and History of Geneva in 2012), New York in October as commissionned by FIAF's Crossing the Line festival. The final show took place in Mexico at the Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli.

Prune met the 8 orphan Chinese girls that inspired the artworks for the project through the non-profit organization The Children of Madaifu, which was founded in 1999 by Marcel Roux, former Vice-President of Doctors without Borders. She photographed the girls during her visit of their respective villages in August 2012, and uses the portraits as models for the sculptures.

With the idea of continuity in mind, Prune works hand-in-hand with The Children of Madaifu to support the education of the 8 little girls for a minimum of 3 years thanks to the sale of the 8 original sculptures. In addition, each of the little girls will be invited to the exhibition in Beijing in order to meet their terracotta double. The girls will also receive a 30-cm artist proof of Prune’s Mini Terracotta Daughter.

Thus, each collector who acquires one of the 8 unique original terracotta sculptures supports the project, as well as 3 years of the education of the little girl depicted in the artwork.

2015: Returning to China - the burial of the Army during the Earth Ceremony

After the World Tour, the Army was back in China, in order to be buried there until 2030, a key date for the project.
A mysterious place in China was chosen and on October 17th, during a celebration entitled the « Earth Ceremony » which brought together key people who took part in the project, the Army was placed under the earth. It was buried in the exact same conditions as the soldiers were buried in Xi’an, but using nowadays materials.

A few days after, on October 20th, the Chinese government was announcing the end of the one-child policy in the country.
In 2030, the Army will be excavated, thus creating a «contemporary archeological site».

This date was chosen as a symbol, as Chinese sociologists have identified 2030 as the year where the gender imbalance between male and female will be at its peak. But it will also be time for a renewal.

From 2015 to 2030, the 8 original sculptures will be lent to different museums around the world to “spread the word” about the buried Army.
A movie about the Terracotta Daughters’ adventure will soon be released.

Terracotta Daughters 2012-2030



Trailer to the future full feature Terracotta Daughters documentary.