ARTicle

Exhibition at the conference :

19 April - 15 June 2001
Andries Loots
"AIDS and South Africa : 
The Social Expression of a Pandemic"

Wellesley College, Boston 
Marilyn Martin:
Curator and Director of Art Collections, Iziko Museums of Cape Town, South Africa

'The current HIV/AIDS pandemic constitutes the most serious social problem facing the African continent, but until very recently, few artists had confronted it. The end of apartheid in 1994 changed the course of contemporary South African art from confrontation to reconciliation. Some artists turned inward to explore personal narratives and dramas, investigating identity, sexual and gender politics and roles; others delved into history and memory. To coincide with the conference AIDS and South Africa: The Social Expression of a Pandemic, being held at Wellesley College in April 2002, associate professor of economics Kyle Kauffman and I commissioned artists and purchased existing works. This selection includes South African artists who are internationally known and others who are rising stars. Our choice was informed by new work by artists who remain convinced that the creative act can and must engage more than itself. The AIDS pandemic has highlighted social inequities and the binary opposites of rich and poor, black and white, first and third worlds in a terrifying way. Moreover, using HIV/AIDS as subject and metaphor raises questions around aestheticizing complex public/private issues and around representation. 
I believe that with this modest project we have succeeded in harnessing the creative energies of some prodigious talents for HIV/AIDS. These works illustrate the new face of artistic activism in contemporary South African art and will hopefully contribute to the on-going debate, as well as to a better understanding of and caring for those who are affected.'
Participating Artists and their statements :
Clive van den Berg (b. 1956, Kitwe, Zambia)
Love's Ballast, 1, 2000-2001
Acrylic on board
50 x 37 cm

"Much of my recent work has been concerned with imaging the love between men. I became aware of AIDS as a threat to love in the early 80s. As I make love now, I honor the men who have died. They are often in my thoughts as I experience pleasure and enact in and on skin the proof of my being. They are dead, and their death haunts me most powerfully in the act of love. The ballast of pleasure is memory and it is that new geography of love that I am picturing."

Andries Botha 
(b. 1952, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)


"Skin represents the fragile physical membrane that mediates body, humanity, and identity. Its tenuous veil negotiates our relationships with the physical and emotional world. It also provides the necessary illusions of permanence, endurance, and inviolability."

Rupture, 2001
Mixed media (cotton, paper, latex, acrylic, human hair)
100 x 100 cm
Lien Botha 
(b. 1961, Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa)
Book of Gloves: The Obstetrician, 2001
Ink Jet print on canvas
45 x 35 cm

"Book of Gloves is a continuing series of glove images alluding to the notion of the book of life or identikit. The glove, while concealing the fingerprint, becomes a second skin, which in the most minimal language codifies the identity of its human residue: ornithologist, volcanist, florist, chemist, etc. This confirms my interest in cloth/fabric and its ability to protect, conceal or reveal aspects of the human condition."
David Goldblatt 
(b. 1930, Randfontein, Gauteng, South Africa)
Untitled, 1999
Digital print
59 x 59 cm
Donated by the artist

"Victoria Cobokana, housekeeper, in her employer's dining room with her son Sifiso and daughter Onica, Johannesburg, June 1999. Victoria died of AIDS 13 December 1999, Sifiso died of AIDS 12 January 2000, Onica died of AIDS in May 2000."

Sam Nhlengethwa 
(b. 1955, Payneville, Springs, Gauteng, South Africa) 

"The rate of HIV/AIDS infections is high among South African miners as a result of the migrant labour system and the prevalence of unsafe prostitution. Miners from rural areas and neighbouring countries, being away from their families, form new relationships in urban areas for most of their adult working life. 

Miner, 2001
Oil and collage on canvas
60 x 68 cm

Since most miners are semi-literate it is very important that HIV/AIDS and other campaigns about sexually transmitted diseases reach them in different formats. It is equally important to remove the stigma around AIDS and dispel the many and varied myths about it."
Neo Matome 
(b. 1967, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa)
Ties that Bind, 2001
Mixed media (acrylic and collage on wooden panels)
Each panel 40 x 30 x 2.5 cm

"This work explores the complex relationship between cultural values and social and economic pressures as they affect individuals and their ability to make prudent choices about their lifestyles. Culture is symbolized by the cowrie shell. Blood plays a dual role-that of the life-giver and life-taker; the red blood cells containing collaged images of nets reference HIV/AIDS and potential health complications. The abstracted image of a flower highlights the beauty and fragility of life. The child's eyes and the fetus-like forms refer to the youth and the threat they face from the HIV pandemic."
Karel Nel 
(b. 1955, Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)
Life's Tide (red board), Permian Dust (black board), 2002
Mixed media (silicon sand, red pigment, carboniferous material)
Each board 10 x 100 x 1.5 cm

"The long format in Life's Tide/Permian Dust alludes to the notion of duration or a timeline. The works explore recurrent themes within my work: the enigma of life, death, energy, void, and of life's traces left in matter, no matter how small and insignificant these may seem in the broader scheme of things. Within this context, AIDS focuses life expectancy and the concomitant questions around the traces we leave behind consciously or inadvertently."
Senzeni Marasela 
(b. 1977, Boksburg, Gauteng, South Africa)
The Invisible Martyr, 2001
Mixed media (ladies' handkerchiefs, thread, beads)
Each handkerchief 28 x 28 cm 

"The death of Gugu Dlamini on 12 September 1998 by stoning is an example of how extreme the consequences of revealing your HIV status can be in our society. After her death many were forced into silence and live with guilt and shame. Very little is known about the life of Gugu Dlamini. She dared to think that she could, through herself, show the reality of this virus. Dlamini perished at the hands of those she thought she could help. HIV continues to spread. This is positively frightening."

Penelope Siopis 
(b. 1953, Vryburg, North West, South Africa)


"In this photograph, which is part of a series, I wanted to emphatically connect the universal AIDS ribbon to the body of a baby so that the ribbon becomes less symbol, motif, logo than a representation of flesh and blood."

Baby in Red, 2000
Cibachrome photograph
100 x 80 cm

Sue Williamson 
(b. 1941, Lichfield, United Kingdom)
From the Inside: Benjy, 2000
Digital print
90 x 200 cm

"Benjy lived in Observatory, and was brought up very close to the bridge in the Gardens that bears his statement, "I'm sick of Mbeki saying HIV doesn't cause AIDS." The photograph was taken about three weeks before Benjy died in November 2000. Here Benjy provocatively thrusts his leg out of his bed to show just how wasted he was. His statement remains on the bridge, though since then someone has attempted to paint out the name "Mbeki" in black paint."

For more information please contact: 

Professor Kyle D. Kauffman
Department of Economics
Wellesley College
Wellesley, MA  02481

Kkauffman@wellesley.edu
Phone: +1-781-283-2153
Fax: +1-781-283-2177

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