HIV/AIDS art in Zim

HARARE - The latest HIV/Aids statistics show that the 15 to 24 age group accounts for 41 percent of new HIV and Aids infections, and that Zimbabwe has 14,6 percent HIV and Aids prevalent rate.

It is therefore pertinent for both, visual and performing artists to take heed of this pandemic and prevent further spread and contraction of the disease.

While the number may appear small in comparison to the entire population of 11,4 million (2009 census), for the arts fraternity this loss represents a stupendous blow to the small bourgeoning cultural resource base.

The fact that many of these deceased artists would have otherwise made a significant contribution to the arts sector in Zimbabwe today is lamentable.

Approximately 18 years ago, in the mid-1990’s Zimbabwe lost over 32 (recorded) young and old prominent visual artists, writers, actors and musicians to the HIV/Aids pandemic countrywide between the years1994 to 2010.  

That was the last head count, but sadly we know that there are more unrecorded cases.

Despite the continuous lessons and warnings from the artists in songs, literature, film, paintings and sculptures on the fatal consequences of promiscuity, indulging in unprotected sex and the social, mental and medical and financial strain of the yet, incurable HIV/Aids pandemic — there is glaring evidence that many visual and performing artists may not have headed the call to adopt a culture of monogamy (which is normal and decreed by God).

Nor have they embraced sexual behavioural change which has and is published and broadcast daily in both, print and electronic media by the Nac, WHO, PSI and other concerned anti-Aids lobbyists.

The late master sculptor Nicholas Mukomberanwa exhibited a powerful sculpture entitled Spirit of Illness at his March, 21, 1995 My Spirit and I Retrospective exhibition of his works (1992–1995).  

It was a picassoesque-cubist double-faced female’s head, pretty vivacious and innocent on one side and devilishly contorted on the opposite side.

Sculptor Domenic Benhura gave a sympathetic ear to socially ostracised HIV/Aids patients in his famous award-winning stone sculpture “My HIV Friend”.  

Even more poignant was the painting Born to Die in 1995, by Richard Malangala, which makes reference to Infant mortality and the mother to child transmission of the disease.

His startling print work was a lamentation and warning to artists and peers on the dangers of the Aids Pandemic.

The incredibly gifted and prolific painter and colleague, the late Luis Meque painted a work entitled Sandrock II in 1995 (NGZ).  

The painting depicted a notorious Harare city café in the 1990’s where many “ladies of the night” pretending to be patrons prowled and preyed on successful young and rich artists who sold well during art exhibition sales in during those times.

Luis, himself was a victim of the scourge in pre-ARV (Anti- Retroviral) medication days.

Lastly, a print etched by a 26-year-old art student entitled Fast Love in the Avenues (2010) is a graphic illustration of the “oldest profession” — showing ladies of the night stripping to lure client traffic in Harare’s Avenues.

The works prove that art can be intrinsically functional as a public educational tool; to influence behaviour change and curb promiscuity in our society.

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