People living with HIV/AIDS
In 2003, a group of women living with HIV/AIDS receiving antiretroviral treatment from MSF in Cape Town, South Africa, participated in a body mapping workshop led by South African artist Jane Solomon. A unique form of art and memory therapy, body mapping is a deeply personal form of storytelling. To create the Body Maps, participants filled a life-sized outline of their bodies with handprints, footprints, symbols of hope and emotive text. The Body Maps empowered the participants to sustain courage and hope, and provided a means for each individual to share their personal experiences.
These Body Maps were published in a collaborative book titled Long Life — Positive HIV Stories. Here are three Body Maps by Ntombizodwa, Nomawethu and Ncedeka, with interview excerpts from the book.
“I have written ‘always be prepared’ on my body map. … It means you must be prepared for everything either bad or good. If you get bad, you must be prepared for it how to solve this problem, even HIV. The time I was diagnosed, I was worried I was going to die of HIV. …"
“Look here where I have painted the virus. On 19 January 2001 I became very sick. Stomach pains and headache. It was summer time, the season of peach and apricot, and I thought that’s why I had a sore stomach."
“I went to the doctor who was telling me I am having ulcers, and he gave me the medicine but I didn’t get better. …I decided to go to the Mapongwane Hospital. I asked for a blood test and they diagnosed me HIV positive. Many of our stories are the same.”
“I wrote Mount Fletcher on my painting because I want to tell the people I come from there. I’m proud of my province. …"
“That scar on the foot, I think I was 8 years. I was playing with the tennis ball in front of the shack and there is a zinc there in the door. … As soon as I start to play the zinc in our door cut me on my foot. …"
“When I was small I played in the back yard and not the street. I was a brilliant child and I had a good time. My parents protected me. I thank my parents. I’m a good parent now to my two children, one 7 years and one 12 months. I have not told my 7-year-old about my HIV status. I will tell her one day. It is just too difficult.”
“When I see this picture I feel much happier just because when I look at it, I see what I can’t see when I look at myself in the mirror. My picture is like an X-ray."
“At the top of my painting it says, ‘I’m still hurt about my child’s death who passed away in 1999 when she was one year four months old.’ Did I already tell you that because I never knew my status, I passed mother to child transmission to her from breast milk or just by birth? …"
“She died on April 1999. It was only at Coronation Hospital in Johannesburg where they tested her and she was found positive. And me too."
“I felt so badly I even cried. … I felt worse because I had breastfed her because I was ignorant about my status. And no one had helped me to find out, even though I had asked for help.”
All images courtesy of David Krut Projects, New York © The Bambanani Womens Group, Cape Town