On Wednesday morning Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, woke to a surprise – seven sculptures have popped up across its center. The sculptures are a result of an art intervention protesting the lack of women’s monuments in the city.
MONUMENT #1 is a series of sculptures by the Bulgarian artist and designer Erka, created in collaboration with Fine Acts. The work seeks to raise awareness about the lack of monuments honouring notable women in Bulgaria - a EU member state.
According to official data from the Sofia municipality, there are no monuments of women historical figures in the city, and less than 6% of all memorials (most of which plaques) are dedicated to women. None of Sofia's existing memorials commemorate important events for the women's rights movement at the beginning of the 20th century.
The brightly-coloured busts were placed at some of the most central locations across Sofia during a covert early-morning action on Wednesday, March 22.
For this art intervention Fine Acts teamed up with the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC), the country’s leading human rights group, and got the support of the ad agency Tribal Worldwide Sofia.
“The sculptures are a portrait of me. I wanted to take a strong personal, public stance as a contemporary woman and artist and say - enough. However, they are also anonymous, as they do not bear my name, just a sign: “The first monument of a woman in Sofia”. In these sculptures I am every woman. With this work I want to give women what they are entitled to but have been denied for decades - a place, visibility and recognition”, says the artist.
“Our mission is to bring together activists and artists from across the globe to work on collaborative art projects that instigate social change. What we observed in Sofia for just a couple of days was an art intervention that shone a spotlight on a problem that somehow remained unquestioned for decades, stirring up a huge public debate and getting thousands of people engaged”, says Fine Acts’ Co-founder and Director Yana Buhrer Tavanier.
The problem with women-free public space is not reserved to Bulgaria.
Currently UK’s Invisible Women campaign aims to challenge the staggering inequality in numbers of civic statues of women and men.
A recent campaign in New York protests the fact that presently there are no statues honoring real women in Central Park. Women are only represented in the park by statues of Alice in Wonderland or Mother Goose, as well as by angels, nymphs and allegorical figures. The campaign advocates placing a statue of women’s rights pioneers Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in the park.
An edict passed by the Kreuzberg district in Berlin, Germany, requires that streets and public places be named for women until parity is reached with men, part of a longstanding debate over official efforts to undo entrenched gender roles in German society.
“The lack of monuments, honouring historic women, enhances the wrong perception that women have no valuable accomplishments or that they have not contributed to the development of society”, says Svetla Baeva, Campaign Director at the BHC.
The seven sculptures are to be exhibited at a prominent Sofia gallery in April, and later auctioned. All proceeds will go towards funding the placing of the first monument dedicated to a woman in Sofia.
Citizens are invited to sign a petition, addressed to the Sofia municipality, demanding the adoption of a strategy for closing the gender gap in public sculpture in the city. Hundreds have already supported the call to honor women who have contributed to development of the city and country. An ongoing poll is collecting information on the public’s favourite for the first monument.