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Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors | Hirshhorn Museum. anokarina/flickr, CC BY-SA

Global series: Talking sex, changing cultures

Artists have long served as social trailblazers, growing the boundaries of what’s publicly acceptable and using their work to create dialogue about uncomfortable subjects – including, notably, sex and sexuality. In the developing world, where sexual mores and gender roles are often more traditional, this ruffling of features is particularly vital, and not a little risky.

Our ongoing series, “Talking sex, changing cultures”, looks at how musicians, painters, filmmakers and dancers are spurring social change, from Brazil to Vietnam and beyond.

For Brazil’s female funk MCs, the personal is political

Deize Tigrona at the 2016 Back2Black music festival. Midia Ninja/flickr, CC BY-SA, CC BY-SA

By singing frankly about sex, drugs and life on the streets, the women of Rio de Janeiro’s male-dominated favela funk scene are redefining what feminism sounds like, one (salacious) song at a time.

The pioneering artists who opened Vietnam to queer culture

Truong Tan’s catalogue for his first solo exhibition in 1994 documents his tentative exploration of performance art and frequent use of ropes. Photo by Truong Tan used with permission. CC BY-NC, CC BY-NC

LGBTQ rights remain a work in progress in Vietnam, where until 2000 it was illegal for gay couples to live together. On the vanguard of change are queer artists, who’ve been pushing the boundaries of public acceptance for decades.

In Trinidad and Tobago, Carnival goes feminist

Are you feelin’ it? Andrea De Silva/Reuters

Some deride a new Carnival trend in which women revel in the streets wearing swimsuits and feather boas. But Trinidad’s “bikini mas”, which channels a long-standing tradition of female self-affirmation, is a both an act of rebellion and a survival tactic.

What happens when real women take over Indian screens

Lipstick Under My Burkha challenges India’s patriarchal society as well as the film industry’s bias against women.

The “risque” storyline of Lipstick Under My Burkha, Alankrita Srivastava’s new feminist film, has Indian censors in a tizzy.

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