TEL AVIV, Nov 9 — A statue of controversial Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev was erected secretly in Tel Aviv yesterday in an apparent protest against legislation opponents say will restrict artistic freedom.
The larger-than-life statue of Regev in a short-sleeved flowing white dress appeared in the square outside Israel’s national theatre, Habimah, with a small sign nearby reading #InTheHeartOfTheNation.
The sculpture faced into a huge mirror in what many saw as a reference to the magic looking-glass in the Snow White story.
The work, by Israeli artist Itay Zalait, drew the attention of the press and passers-by who came to get a glimpse before its inevitable removal, as it had been set up without a permit.
The outspoken Regev has drawn the ire of Israel’s cultural establishment with a long series of statements and acts.
Most recently she promoted a bill that would cut public subsidies to cultural organisations accused of not showing “loyalty” to the state.
Zalait was circumspect on the statue’s meaning, even suggesting that rather than a critique of Regev, its name — “in the heart of the nation” — could represent the public “consensus” around her.
“Others saw it as a reference to her famous saying that the Sudanese are a cancer in the heart of the nation, which represents the discourse we’ve been exposed to for a few years,” he told AFP.
Israel’s right-wing government has been seeking to expel Sudanese and Eritrean migrants who have arrived in the country illegally.
Hani, an art teacher from Tel Aviv, brought her class to see the work as a protest over Regev’s “loyalty” legislation — “something we can’t accept since we think that art is art, and art needs freedom.”
Regev herself thanked Zalait and praised the work for “posing the mirror to the world of Israeli culture”, which she accused of being elitist and excluding different voices.
“The values of cultural justice are my take on the Snow White story and the timeless question: mirror mirror on the wall, what are the worst wrongdoings of them all?”
In 2016, Zalait erected a golden statue of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to spark a debate on freedom of speech. — AFP