Positive Living: Art and AIDS in South Africa, an exhibition curated by Annie E. Coombes, focuses on the struggle for self-representation by those affected by the AIDS virus. It explores the way fine art and the process of print-making, painting and other creative practices produced effective therapeutic treatments for HIV/AIDS sufferers and enabled proactive memory work to be performed as a legacy for bereaved families and children.
The exhibition includes photo-documentary work aimed at alerting the international community, fine artists’ responses to the pandemic and initiatives from within the hardest hit communities in South Africa itself. Many of these initiatives have since been adapted to other medical and mental health contexts globally: intimate Memory Boxes commemorating the lives and loves of lost family members as a personal legacy for those left behind; print and poster workshops promoting safe sex practices; human scale Body Maps from Khayelitsha tracing the trajectory of the virus and individuals’ personal strategies for living with AIDS; large-scale tapestries with imagery borrowed from Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ transposed to the Eastern Cape, transforming the historic iconography to foreground the experience of fighting for antiretrovirals and coping with the day to day management of living with HIV in a seriously deprived economic context.
Private View: 13 November 2015, 6pm – 8.30pm
Open to the public: 14 November 2015 to 22 January 2016
Venue: Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck College, University of London
“Women and HIV/AIDS in South Africa: Medicine, Art and Activism”
7th & 8th December 2015 (Supported by the Wellcome Trust)
7th December 9.30am – 5pm: International Symposium
7th December 6pm to 7pm: Keynote/Public Lecture: Justice Edwin Cameron, Justice of the South African Consitutional Court.
7th December 7.30pm to 9pm: Reception at Peltz Gallery
8th December 10am: Artists Walkabout (informal Q & A with artists) in the Peltz Gallery exhibition, “Positive Living: Art and AIDS in South Africa”, Peltz Gallery, 43 Gordon Square, London WC! HOPD.
Venues: Keynes Library, Clore Lecture Theatre and Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck, University of London.
Keynote Address/ Public Lecture open to all: Justice Edwin Cameron, Justice of the South African Constitutional Court.
Co-Organisers: Professor Annie E. Coombes, Department of History of Art.
Dr. Hilary Sapire, Department of History.
The symposium draws attention to the particular challenges facing women and young people living with HIV in South Africa and the strategies for overcoming these, in the context of rising levels of youth unemployment, increased violence against women and shrinking resources.
Women are often most directly affected (mother and child transmission, economic necessities of sex-work with its increased risks and the economic and emotional responsibilities of family care). A greater degree of collaboration between the clinical, therapeutic and educational. Consequently the symposium aims to provoke conversations amongst stakeholders who generally address separate audiences. Although there has been a longstanding exchange between policy makers, social scientists and medical researchers, this symposium also highlights the engagement of the humanities and visual arts as a critical component of any response to HIV/AIDS.
South Africa has historically been promoted as a model for other HIV/AIDS campaigns with Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) being hailed as “The world’s most effective AIDS group”. (New York Times, 2006) Consequently another aim of our symposium is to disseminate a wider understanding of the South African campaign and to provoke a discussion with health professionals, journalists and artists about the comparative relevance of those educational, self-help and communication strategies originally devised to meet the HIV challenge in the South African context.
The symposium together with the related exhibition (curated by Coombes) “Positive Living: Art and AIDS in South Africa” at the Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck, (13 November 2015 – 14 January 2016) is intended to stimulate conversations about the material and medical realities of living with HIV amongst young BME groups and the wider African diaspora in London and to promote an inventive yet ethical response in the media.
Justice Edwin Cameron, South African Constitutional Court, Johannesburg.
Representative (name to be confirmed), Keiskamma Art Project, Eastern Cape.
Professor Cathy Campbell, LSE, London University.
Vuyiseka Dubula, Sonke Gender Justice, Cape Town.
Nondumiso Hlwele, University of Cape Town.
Gideon Mendel, London.
Dr. Elizabeth Mills, IDS, Sussex University.