Finding Beauty, an exhibition by children in Grahamstown aged 11-18 years old is running throughout the National Arts Festival at the Carinus Annex on Donkin Street and will be on display as part of the parade on 13 July. The exhibition is a project organised by the Raphael Centre for HIV/AIDS awareness and treatment.
This exhibition is in its second year, debuting last year at the Carinus Annex along side diverse artistic talents such as leather workers and images depicting soldier’s experience of war in Angola.
Raphael Centre, and this project in particular, is geared towards changing the perceptions of HIV in Grahamstown. “We are shifting from a needs based approach to a reactionary approach to HIV. Research has shown that approaches that are based on just giving people tests, distributing condoms and information, that’s having no effect. More people know about HIV than about Malaria and Malaria is killing more people,” said Mary Humphreys, Director of the Raphael Centre, explaining the idea behind focussing the project particularly on children.
Humphreys sees the AIDS epidemic as one of lifestyle and mindset, rather than a lack of education. The art exhibition and the artistic techniques the volunteers have taught the children over the past months are an attempt by the centre and the volunteers to change the way children and adults see the world and the disease according to Humphreys. “People have access to condoms, they know to use them. It’s actually a case of trying to change behaviour. So we started looking at ways to address that and the thing about the artwork is that it’s a different way to access internal resources.”
Many of the children face the possibility of losing one or both parents to HIV/AIDS and the art project is intended to provide them with a way to establish an inner strength to survive loss. “We’re trying to build resilience, especially in children, so that children who have to deal with the loss of their parents have an internal resource to deal with that so the art work really comes out of that,” Humphreys said.
The exhibition is larger this year, incorporating a general view of emotional and physical well being as well as the importance of consideration for the environment Humphreys concluded.
Words by Chelsea Haith