Giant vagina sculpture fuels culture wars in Brazil

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Artist Juliana Notari said the sculpture questioned the relationship between nature and culture in a “phallocentric and anthropocentric society.”

RIO DE JANEIRO — A huge sculpture of a vagina on a hillside in northeastern Brazil has fueled a cultural war between leftists and conservatives — including close allies of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.

Called “Diva,” the vivid 108-foot concrete and resin sculpture by artist Juliana Notari is 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.

Artist Juliana Notari installed her artwork, titled “Diva” at the Usina de Arte art park in Pernambuco, Brazil.Juliana Notari

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.

“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 lambaste 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 criticized art he deems to be left-wing, and in 2019 he tried unsuccessfully to freeze funding for movies with LGBTQ 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.

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