A huge sculpture of a vagina on a hillside in northeastern Brazil has fuelled an ongoing cultural war between leftists and conservatives – including close allies of far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro.
Called “Diva”, the vivid 33-metre concrete and resin sculpture by artist Juliana Notari is located on the site of a former sugar mill that has been turned into an open-air museum in Pernambuco state.
Unveiling the installation last week, Notari said it depicted both a vagina and a wound questioning the relationship between nature and culture in a “phallocentric and anthropocentric society”.
“These issues have become increasingly urgent today,” she wrote on her Facebook page, accompanied by a series of photos of the vast, bright red sculpture, which took a team of 20 artisans 11 months to make.
Em meio a tantas rochas no meio do caminho desse ano distópico, finalmente termino o ano com a obra Diva pronta!! Foi um...Advertisement
The artwork triggered a hot debate on social media, with more than 25,000 people commenting on Notari's Facebook post – both supporters and critics of the work.
“With all due respect, I did not like it. Imagine me walking with my young daughters in this park and them asking ... Daddy, what is this? What will I answer?,” one commenter wrote.
In response, a female poster wrote: “With all due respect, you can teach your daughters not to be ashamed of their own genitals.”
Bolsonaro's political guru, Olavo de Carvalho, took to Twitter to lambast Notari's work – seemingly proposing a giant penis sculpture as a way to challenge it.
His comments drew nearly 700 retweets, many laden with outspoken criticism against leftists.
Bolsonaro has long criticised art he deems to be left-wing, and in 2019 he tried unsuccessfully to freeze funding for movies with LGBT+ themes.
Months later, his culture secretary was fired after posting a video in which he appeared to copy a speech by Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels.