‘Positive Living: Art and AIDS in South Africa’ (CfP, Birkbeck’s Peltz Gallery, 14 November 2015)

Image: Body Map by Nondumiso Hlwele

Image: Body Map by Nondumiso Hlwele

Curated by Annie E. Coombes, Professor of Material and Visual Culture.

Positive Living: Art and AIDS in South Africa, focuses on the struggle for self-representation by those affected by the virus during the worst period of AIDS denialism under former President Thabo Mbeki from 1999 to 2003. 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.

For more information about the event, please click here.

Related events:

Conference Women and HIV/AIDS in South Africa: Medicine, Art, Activism 7 December 2015, 9am – 5.30pm. Keynes Library, Birkbeck, University of London, School of Arts.

Public lecture on HIV/AIDS in South Africa today, 7 December 2015 at 6pm. Edwin Cameron, Justice of the South African Constitutional Court. Clore Management Centre (Torrington Square), room B01.

Artists’ talks with the artists from Positive Living: Art and AIDS in South Africa 8 December 2015 at 10am. Peltz Gallery.

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