Siyazama: Traditional Arts, Education, and AIDS in South Africa April 17 to June 26, 2009

SiyazamaVisitorsCCHAP displayed the exhibit Siyazama: Traditional Arts, Education, and AIDS in South Africa from April 17 to June 26, 2009 in the Institute for Community Research Gallery. CCHAP also hosted a series of informative and engaging public events that brought a local component to the international topic of the exhibit and its themes of cultural interventions for health and education, and social justice.

The exhibit raised awareness about the serious AIDS epidemic both in Africa and here in Connecticut where AIDS is growing fast among African-American populations. The project also showcased new research and local health resources such as prevention programs that use innovative and culturally appropriate methods to disseminate better understanding and prevention of AIDS, and to encourage expression of information through arts methods.

Siyazama: Traditional Arts, Education, and AIDS in South Africa featured beadwork, story quilts, dolls and other folk arts that have been created by those suffering with AIDS as a way to educate others about prevention and treatment. Organized and circulated by Michigan State University Museum, Siyazama included 120 objects in traditional art forms such as beadwork, dolls, wire baskets, and story quilts made in South Africa by rural craftswomen. The Siyazama Project began in 2002 as a way to empower women who suffer the worst consequences of the devastating AIDS epidemic in South Africa, by educating them and others about prevention and health practices while encouraging production of their beautiful folk arts as an income source for families. Folklorists Marit Dewhurst and Marsha MacDowell at Michigan State University joined the project to gather a collection of the art works and develop a traveling exhibit for the US. As part of its only East Coast showing, the exhibit served as a springboard for public events that offer information, stimulate discussion, and encourage compassion and creativity.

CCHAP partnered with a team of individuals and organizations working in local health arenas with a focus on HIV/AIDS, including AIDS Project Hartford and the CT AIDS Resource Coalition, as well as with the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS at Yale, and the Center for Health, Intervention, and Prevention at the University of Connecticut. Project partners participated in public workshops on how cultural intervention methods are being applied to translate science into information communities and people can use, and these health resource organizations also ensured that the project accurately and sensitively reflected social issues and adhered to accepted health intervention standards. ICR presented public events that addressed issues raised by the exhibit.

Exhibit Events

  • The exhibit opening on April 17, 2009 with a gallery talk by Curator Marit Dewhurst
    A day long forum on June 5, 2009 on the topic of Community-based innovative dissemination and prevention methods and models, featuring presentations and discussions by an interdisciplinary group of artists and scholars working in South Africa and locally in CT
  • On May 28, 2009 a screening of Thing With No Name, a film by Sarah Friedland about AIDS in South Africa, with audience discussion afterwards, moderated by Shawn Lang of the CT AIDS Resource Coalition and the filmmaker. The Hartford showing of Siyazama was supported by the Aetna Foundation, the Knox Foundation, the Greater Hartford Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, the CT Commission on Culture and Tourism, the Institute for Community Research, and the Michigan Sate University Museum.