The “Audacity of Hope” art exhibition

Guest Blog from the Reverend John Miller who attended the launch of “The Audacity of Hope” exhibition in Harare last night.

The National Gallery, Harare

Dancers from Africaid and the Dance Foundation Course

Last night in the National Gallery of Zimbabwe a remarkable exhibition opened.   ‘The Audacity of Hope’ is an exhibition of art by children living with HIV, in commemoration of World AIDS Day December 1st.  The Exhibition will run for a month. While it embodies the hopes of all Zimbabwe’s 152,000 children under 14 years of age living with HIV, the exhibition is the outcome of continuing work done over many years by Africaid.  Africaid is based in Harare, directed by Nicola Willis, and has a team of devoted workers and volunteers.  The creativity of the children themselves is at the heart of the Exhibition.  For an hour last night the 250 invited guests experienced the powerful impact of these young people, whose dance and song and pictures expressed their gift of life.

Role of Africaid First welcomed in strong, confident words by Africaid Child Representatives Alex and Alice, distinguished speakers paid tribute to the children and adolescents themselves, and to Africaid.  Africaid, they said, are pioneering the vital support which Positive children need.  Not simply the encouragement to adhere to treatment, but also the entire range of

The Honourable Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr H. Madzorera

support, medical, spiritual, communal and emotional.   Introduced by the evening’s MCAlbert Mpofu, designate to Dr Magure, CEO of Zimbabwe’s National AIDS Council, speakers from UNICEF and USAID were followed by the Guest of Honour, the Minister of Health and Child Welfare Dr Henry Madzorera.  They all applauded the spirit of hope demonstrated by the young ones and by their Exhibition.

The Exhibition

Viewing the wall of body paintings at the launch

On the walls of the Gallery are displayed more than seventy brightly-coloured, life-size, dancing figures – the silhouettes of the children themselves, painted by them.  In addition there are ten photo-stories, designed by the children and created by a professional photographer, illustrating the young ones’ determination to live life with hope, and to live it to the full.  While some of the young ones are featured in the photo-stories, no faces are visible – this simple fact a reminder of the fear the children still have of being stigmatised, known to be Positive

. In the centre of the Gallery floor stands a replica Baobab tree, three metres tall.  Entitled ‘The Tree of Life’, it is covered with flowers, white on some branches, yellow on others.  On closer inspection you see that each flower is made of strong plastic, the petals bearing printed words.   The children and adolescents living with HIV have made these flowers out of their ARV bottles and other medication containers.  This Tree of Life symbolises the fact that continued access to treatment will ensure that there is light and hope ahead for children in Zimbabwe.

The Meaning of World AIDS Day Nothing could have brought this home more powerfully than the words of a young girl, Loyce, in her Vote of Thanks.  ‘Thank you, ‘ she said, ‘to all of you who have worked to ensure that there has been treatment for us.  Without ARVs I would not have been speaking to you tonight.  I would not have been here.’   Spontaneous emotional applause greeted Loyce’s dramatic words. The programme for the Exhibition bears on its final page some words of the song with which a choir of Africaid children brought the Gala Launch ceremony to a close.  MC Dr Magure drew special attention to the words and urged people to take them to heart as the children’s song:

Something inside so strong (by Labi Siffre, 1987)

Something inside so strong

I know that I can make it

Tho’ you’re doing me wrong, so wrong

You thought that my pride was gone

Oh no, something inside so strong

Oh oh oh oh  oh something inside so strong

Brothers and sisters When they insist we’re just not good enough

When we know better

 Just look ‘em in the eyes and say

I’m gonna do it anyway

I’m gonna do it anyway