QUEER VOICES

Artist Honors Murdered Transgender Woman With Stunning Butterfly Wings

Rubem Robierb dedicated "Dandara," the latest in his "Dream Machine" series, to the "strength and bravery" of the trans and gender-nonconforming communities.
Artist Rubem Robierb is the creator of “Dandara,” a new sculpture that will be displayed at New York's Tribe
Artist Rubem Robierb is the creator of “Dandara,” a new sculpture that will be displayed at New York's Tribeca Park through May 2020. 

“RuPaul’s Drag Race” veteran Peppermint and the ABC News’ Sam Champion were among the notables on hand to witness Monday’s unveiling of a breathtaking sculpture honoring the transgender and gender-nonconforming (GNC) community in New York. 

Titled “Dandara,” the fiberglass sculpture resembles a pair of butterfly wings and will be displayed through May 4, 2020, in Manhattan’s Tribeca Park. The sculpture, which measures 13 feet long and 10 feet high, was created by Brazilian artist Rubem Robierb as part of his “Dream Machine” series, honoring those who have “lived or died fighting for their own dreams, or for the dream of others.”

“In tribute to the strength and bravery of the trans and GNC community, ‘Dandara’ has an important message and meaning,” Robierb, who has been married to Champion since 2012, told ABC. “I felt that New York City was a place to showcase this on a public scale.”

Robierb with his husband, ABC News' Sam Champion. 
Robierb with his husband, ABC News' Sam Champion. 

The sculpture takes its name from Dandara dos Santos, a transgender Brazilian woman who was beaten and killed in 2017. Brazil is considered to be one of the world’s most dangerous places for transgender people. Last year, the advocacy group Transgender Europe found 125 trans people in Brazil had been killed between January and the end of September, a global high. 

According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 22 transgender or gender-nonconforming people have been killed so far this year in the U.S. Though it’s impossible to know an exact count, advocates tracked the killings of at least 26 trans and gender-nonconforming people in 2018. 

The installation and ceremony were presented by Mastercard, which also donated $5,000 to GLAAD’s Transgender Media Program in honor of the occasion. Speaking at Monday’s event, Peppermint said she was “so happy to be able to go back and redeem [dos Santos’] story,” as seen in video footage of the event posted on social media.   

"RuPaul's Drag Race" veteran Peppermint at Monday's dedication ceremony. 
"RuPaul's Drag Race" veteran Peppermint at Monday's dedication ceremony. 

“Hopefully,” she added, “this will be the beginning of other queer people, trans people, trans young girls, and gender-nonconforming people, to have a space where they can come, and know that their dreams can be realized.”

In an emotional essay for Forbes, journalist Dawn Ennis said the “Dandara” unveiling was “a perfect way for us to kick off November,” which happens to be Transgender Awareness Month.

“Even though they were detached from my body, these wings lovingly crafted by Robierb’s hands felt as much a part of me in that moment as my own arms and legs,” said Ennis, who is trans. “They were mine, as much as the changes I’ve made to conform my body to match my authentic gender identity.”

“To my mind, they fit me better than anything I’ve ever worn,” she added. 

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