Through Positive Eyes exhibition documents the reality of living with HIV

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Justice Edwin Cameron (guest speaker), Carol Brown (co-curator – Durban), David Gere (co-curator – Los Angeles) at the opening of the exhibition. Photo: Harry Lock

The exhibition, Through Positive Eyes, which features over 100 photographs, sculptural works, and live storytelling, documenting the realities of individuals living with HIV across the globe, can be viewed at the Durban Art Gallery. It coincides with AIDS 2016: The International AIDS Conference in Durban.
Through Positive Eyes puts cameras into the hands of HIV-positive people, encouraging them to show their faces and daily lives as a response to stigma, putting their words and images at the heart of the response to the disease.

At the opening, Judge Edwin Cameron spoke of his personal journey with living with HIV/AIDS and how he “bought” back his life by going onto ARVs. Hearing about the murder of Gugu Dlamini in KwaMashu in December 1998 after she had declared her HIV status on national radio, influenced him hugely.

“My life was given back to me due to wealth and privilege, her death made it impossible for me to live in silence,” he said.

Cameron is still the only public person in public office to have declared his HIV positive status. “This exhibition is important for visibility and ownership. Declaring ones status is a personal decision and a big request, but hopefully this exhibition will help to counter that stigma,” he says.

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Mandisa Dlamini – daughter of Gugu Dlamini who was killed for disclosing her HIV Status– with Justice Edwin Cameron at the opening of the exhibition. Photo: Harry Lock

Margaret Hemphill from the Ford Foundation, part funders of the exhibition, said: “The photographs tell such profound stories. They are quite extra ordinary and go a long way towards addressing inequalities.”

Co-curator David Gere spoke of the notion of “Artivist” – artist/activists – and the role they play in the exhibition process.

Since 2007, 122 HIV-positive people in nine major cities have taken part in this participatory photography project, contributing to an archive of photographs and mini-documentaries, all available online at http://www.ThroughPositiveEyes.org.

Past workshop locations include Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Mumbai, Bangkok, Port-au-Prince, and London.

For Durban, a group of HIV-positive participants has been convened by the AIDS Foundation of South Africa (AFSA). This group of Durban “Artivists”- artist/activists – will share their stories live in the galleries throughout the run of the exhibition, in a theatrical environment created by New York artist Stan Pressner.

Other Artivists contributing works to the exhibition include Adriana Bertini (Brazil), Mandisa Dlamini (South Africa), Daniel Goldstein (United States), Ross Levinson (United States), Gordon Mundie (United Kingdom), and Parthiv Shah (India).

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Stan Pressner: conceptual designer of the exhibition and co-curator (from New York) explains an interactive installation at the exhibition to the city’s Guy Redman. Photo: Harry Lock

  • NEED TO KNOW

    Through Positive Eyes – 10 years. 9 cities. My photo. My story. A global exhibition to banish HIV stigma
    Where: Durban Art Gallery, 2nd floor of the Durban City Hall.
    When: Runs until September 30.
    Gallery Hours: Monday to Saturday from 8.30am to 4pm and Sundays from 11am to 4pm.
    Please note there will be special extended hours during the International AIDS Conference until July 22 (8.30 am to 6.30 pm) and at 11 am, 12 noon, 1 pm and 5 pm Drama for Life will be doing special live performances until July 22.
    Phone: 031 311 2264/3.

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