Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, has plenty of historic monuments to men. But there are no statues of real, historic women in the city (as opposed to symbols like “a mother”). In the entire city, only 6 percent of memorials, like plaques, honor a female figure at all, according to official city data. But, on March 24, seven new monuments seemed to pop up overnight, Mashable reports.
MONUMENT #1—an art piece by Irina Tomova-Erka—highlights the lack of women’s accomplishments celebrated throughout the city by adding new, neon-colored busts of female figures. Well, just one figure, actually—the artist herself.
"The sculptures are a portrait of me, as I wanted to take a strong personal, public stance as a contemporary woman and artist,” Tomova-Erka says in a press release. “However, they are also anonymous, as they do not bear my name. They are only marked by 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.”
The project is a collaboration between the artist, a human rights organization called the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, a human-rights organization, and the Fine Acts art collective. The busts were placed in central locations around the city during the middle of the night.
In April, the Tomova-Erka busts will be on display in an art gallery. After the exhibition ends, they’ll be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to fund a real monument to a historic woman of Sofia.
Sofia isn’t the only city to have a paucity of statues of famous women from history. New York City has only five monuments to historic women throughout the city—while there are 23 statues honoring men in Central Park alone.
Monuments to female figures tend to honor fictional or symbolic women, like Alice in Wonderland or Mother Goose. In the UK, campaigns pushing better representation of women in public art have led to plans for at least three new statues of women in northern England over the next few years.
Some cities are making slightly faster progress, though—several cities throughout Spain are rechristening streets that had been named for members of Francisco Franco’s fascist dictatorship to honor notable women instead.