Kazakhstan squirrel art installation sparks backlash over costs

  • Published
Media caption,

Huge rodent pops up in Almaty. Video courtesy of Mayra Izmailova - FUNK Creative Agency

A 40ft (12m) tall squirrel is causing controversy after popping up in the city of Almaty in Kazakhstan.

The rodent, which is made from straw and wood attached to a steel frame, is part of an art project for a festival commissioned by city authorities.

It reportedly cost 23 million Kazakh tenge ($67,000; £51,000) to create and was paid for in part with public funds.

As a result the installation sparked a backlash, with some suggesting the funds could have been better spent.

The oversized squirrel, which can be seen in images shared on social media clutching an equally oversized nut, is part of the Art Energy festival held in Almaty that features more than a dozen individual pieces.

The local city hall reportedly contributed 15 million tenge to the installation, which has led some to question the priorities of local government.

"She looks more like a rat," said social media user Tagir, adding that the funds "could have helped those who need money for operations".

Another user said the installation was a "disgrace" and a waste of "our taxes".

Others suggested that the squirrel was a fire hazard.

Image source, Paul Bartlett
Image caption,
The creators of the artwork said it was supposed to symbolise life in the city of Almaty

However, some users praised the artwork, saying that it brought "joy and delight" to local children.

The installation was created by South African sculptor Marius Jansen van Vuuren and UK artist Alex Rinsler, who has produced similar works for other projects including a straw fox placed on display in the Chinese city of Shanghai.

Mr Rinsler said the Kazakhstan squirrel was designed to symbolise nature's evolution from rural to urban life, and in particular to symbolise life in Almaty.

"Squirrels are our urban neighbours," he said, adding: "Like us, they adapted to life in the city, and, like us, they need the resources to survive and thrive."

The controversial squirrel is expected to stay put for at least the next nine months.

You might also like: