Through Positive Eyes – Durban 3

Thulile

Through Positive Eyes,Durban,HIV

(See here for the background to this project)

Thulile, Simiso and Jennifer are currently presenting their work at the Durban Art Gallery as part of the Through Positive Eyes show, coinciding with the International AIDS Conference. The show has been designed by Stan Pressner and Carol Brown to enable the participants to tell their stories and interact with projections of their work.

Here is an extract from Thulile’s story:

‘I have been living with HIV for 25 years, I was born with it.

As a kid they told me I would not live past 7. When I lived past 7 years old they told me I wouldn’t live past 10….

When my neighbors found out, they stigmatized me.
I discovered I could do things to help myself. I am strong. I am beautiful. I am a positive woman. I won’t let anyone discriminate me. I have survived.

When I don’t feel well I talk to my virus. I say ‘don’t misbehave! If I get sick you won’t have anyplace to live.’ I must love myself and be positive to myself. I am a hero. We are all human, we all need love. We are strong. We are beautiful. We are positive.

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Through Positive Eyes – Durban 2

Elizabeth

Through Positive Eyes_Durban_Elizabeth

(See previous post for the background to this project)

Elizabeth is currently presenting her work at the Durban Art Gallery as part of the Through Positive Eyes show, coinciding with the International AIDS Conference. The show has been designed by Stan Pressner to enable the participants to tell their stories and interact with projections of their work.

Here is an extract from Elizabeth’s story:

‘Hello, I’m Elizabeth. I was diagnosed HIV+ in 2008.
At birth I was taken away from my mother, she was mentally unstable. I grew up in the Homes. I had fun growing up with my age group, with only one or two housemothers we had lots of freedom to interact and live.

As time went on I was put in a foster home. I was abused badly at this place. It was a difficult time for me, the hardest time in my life.   I felt like my childhood was taken away from me.

I spoke up and eventually was removed from this home.

In 2008 I found out I was HIV+. I actually had many friends around me who were positive. I asked them questions and I’ve learned to live with it.

I moved on. I continued to use alcohol and drugs. I had two children. The first I gave up for adoption. The second, I decided to keep. The day the doctor put her in my arms, I fell in love.

New Year’s day last year, I decided to change my way. I’d been going around and around in circles. I want to find myself.  I decided I wanted to pull myself together.

I’ve decided to come out about it all, especially living with HIV.   Now I want to encourage young girls to love themselves, to trust themselves, to speak up….’

Through Positive Eyes – Durban

Silungile-Through Positive Eyes-Durban-1301Photo by Silungile
I’m just back from working on the final chapter of this international arts and advocacy project, in which HIV+ve participants photograph their lives to combat stigma.

I teach photography, and co-edit the work with the participants, alongside Gideon Mendel and Prof. David Gere’s team from the Art and Global Health Centre at UCLA.

A major exhibition featuring work from all ten cities has just opened in Durban to coincide with the 21st International AIDS Conference, which begins on the 18th July. The HIV+ve photographers will work as guides and speakers at the show.

I’ll post work from the Durban group during the conference, starting with Silungile.

Silungile

Silungile is a sangoma or traditional healer as well as an educator, HIV activist and grandmother. Here are a selection of her photographs.

Darbishire Place, Whitechapel

An ongoing commission for Niall McLaughlin Architects: to photograph the flats and residents in this Stirling Prize shortlisted Peabody block.

Much architectural photography has an arid and ghostly or post apocalyptic feel. The buildings are presented without people, in creepily perfect weather and light, as though they subsist for and of themselves. We are hard-wired to respond to faces; the moment one appears in a photo the building recedes and becomes the setting for a particular human drama. If and when they do appear, most people in architectural photos are faceless figures performing unremarkable and predictable functions serving the building, rather than vice-versa.

In discussion with Niall we decided to try and photograph the flats with the residents in situ. A housing block is nothing without its inhabitants, and this elegantly low-key, unpretentious building is designed around their lives and needs. Unlike boutique designs for wealthy clients, these flats must adapt themselves to a wide range of cultures, tastes, religions and cuisines. They concentrate on getting the fundamentals right: light, space, movement, air, sleep and so on.

I have tried to show the residents using the depth of the space, sometimes looking out of the frame, to make us consider the rooms’ shapes and limits. I want the viewer to see them as individual people, using and enjoying the architecture rather than just being in it.