An art installation that was displayed throughout August in Johannesburg, South Africa, generated controversy because it was a giant representation of a walk-in vagina.
Reshma Chhiba, the 30-year-old artist who created it, explained that she made the art piece to make a statement about women power. The installation is more than just a walk-in female genitalia, but also a talking yoni, the Sanskrit word for the female private part.
Besides being large enough for people to walk inside, the art installation has a high-pitched scream as people enter, perhaps a representation of the pain women feel when sexually violated. It also lets out a sneering laughter, maybe an indicator of the glee that women who are sexually satisfied feel.
"It's a screaming vagina within a space that once contained women and stifled women. It's revolting against this space ... mocking this space, by laughing at it," the artist explained to AFP.
The installation measures 12 metres and has red padded velvet and cotton canal. When entering, visitors initially step onto a tongue-like padding. Around the opening is thick, black acrylic wool that mimics pubic hair.
The site of the installation was originally a women's jail built in 1909 and had as its inmates some of the country's leading anti-apartheid activists such as Winnie Mandela who was two times jailed in that facility in 1958 and 1976.
Ms Chhiba insisted that she did not create the installation to generate controversy, but because of the nature of the subject, the art piece has been criticised by some South Africans.
Benathi Mangqaaleza, a female security guard at that facility which is now a tourist site, found the art piece pornographic. "It's the most private part of my body. I grew up in the rural areas, we were taught not to expose your body, even your thighs let alone your vagina," she said.
Andile Wayi, a 24-year-old gardener, shared Benathi's disagreement with the art piece.
In response to these criticisms, Ms Chhiba said, "You don't often hear men talking about their private parts and feeling disgust or shamed ... And that alone speaks volumes of how we've been brought up to think about our bodies, and what I am saying here is that it's supposed to be an empowering space."
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