HIV/AIDS Billboards and Prints at Durban Art Gallery
December 1 is International AIDS Day and the Artists for Human Rights Trust is showing images from their much-lauded and internationally recognised billboard initiative, which uses artists' prints to promote an anti-HIV/AIDS message in the public domain. Thirty-one artists, from South Africa and other countries, have contributed work. So far only a few of the prints have reached full billboard size and of these three can be seen in communities around Durban. These include Sthembiso Sibisi's image at Vouyiswamatol School, KwaMashu; Mudduzi Xakazi's in Clermont and Gabisile Nkosi's in Umlazi.
The aims and objectives of the project are to use visual art as a medium to initiate a national campaign to intensify the awareness of HIV/AIDS. While many creative endeavours have supported the drive for fundraising and education for AIDS, most art-related initiatives have stayed within the confines of galleries and museums, thereby missing the vast majority of people. Utilising the slogan "Break the Silence", which was used to advertise the International AIDS conference last year, the campaign aims to get people talking in a culture largely afraid to engage the topic due to stigmatisation and discrimination.
The billboard project is different from the many mural projects dealing with AIDS in that murals tend to engage a specific locale while billboards can be mass-produced and are transplantable. Kim Berman's translation of the billboard as a solid wall with a graffiti version of 'Break the Silence' scrawled across it fulfils this brief. Other artists, however, tackle the problem in a different way. Carmen Perrin from Bolivia, perhaps less likely to know the specifics of the South African situation, creates a more abstract image. Her print is a barely visible ring of patterns each pierced with a steel pin. Ambiguous and contradictory, the clusters of rings recall cells growing and disintegrating while the pins signify both wounding and healing. Enlarging this print to billboard size without losing its sense of tactility will represent a considerable challenge. In fact many of the images present challenges as billboards - conceived as art pieces rather than advertising propaganda they may not prove as easily accessible as the traditional graphic. This, however, may make the images less likely to be glanced over and more likely to engender discussion.
Conceived and guided by Jan Jordaan, master printmaker at Technikon Natal, the portfolio of prints for the billboards, many of which still need sponsors to be seen full size, will be shown at the Durban Art Gallery. Simultaneously the South African National Gallery in Cape Town and various other institutions will also host the portfolio. Sponsors include the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology (DACST), the National Arts Council (NAC), the KZN Department of Health, the MTN Art Institute, and Shepstone and Wylie Attorneys.
Opening: December 1 at 6pm by Dr Nono Simelela, National HIV/AIDS Directorate
Closing: January 1 2002
Durban Art Gallery, 2nd floor, City Hall, Smith Street
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