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MOZAMBIQUE: Artists create AIDS awareness

Photo: IRIN
A model of a MSF Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centre and clinic made in the traditional "Psikhhelekedana" wood sculpture style of southern Mozambique's Ronga people
Maputo, 10 November 2004 (PlusNews) - Mozambican artists organised a four-day festival on Art and AIDS last week in the capital, Maputo, to create awareness around the epidemic.

The festival, the third to be organised by the Cooperative of Associated Artists, Musicians and Journalists, showcased a number of artistic initiatives, which were discussed by the audience. The event also included a one-day seminar on the role artists can play in AIDS prevention campaigns.

The 30-minute film, 'Nails on your Head', by distinguished director Sol de Carvalho, was screened during the event. It describes the reactions of a construction worker, his colleagues and bosses when they learn he is HIV positive.

Discussing the film, Dr Pascua Tembe of the National Council for the Fight Against AIDS pointed out that Mozambique had passed a workplace anti-discrimination law in 2002, but said it was not well known and often flouted.

Producer Roberto Isaias provided feedback on the 'Roadshow for Life', which toured 25 districts in the southern provinces last year and included concerts, film screenings and debates. In each district, the show trained local artists for a week to help them set up their own 'art and activism' groups.

'Positive Life', a travelling photo exhibition of people infected and affected by HIV, was organised by Medecins Sans Frontieres. The organisation provides antiretroviral treatment and general care for HIV positive people at its clinics in Maputo and Lichinga, capital of the northern province of Niassa.

By portraying HIV positive people with dignity, the exhibition and associated activities hope to reduce stigma and discrimination, and encourage people to live positive lives.

One of the speakers at the festival noted that no Mozambican artist had disclosed his or her HIV status publicly, although many were suspected to have died of AIDS, and called for colleagues to build a supportive environment where people would feel free to disclose.

In a population of 18.5 million, an estimated 1.3 million Mozambicans are HIV positive and the country has a national prevalence rate of 12.2 percent.

Only one journalist, Bento Albino Bango, was open about his HIV positive status and campaigned against stigma until his death last year.

Musician Stewart Sukuma described his involvement with AIDS since 1996, which had led to a CD, titled 'Only life offers flowers', produced by the NGO Population Services International for the social marketing of Jeito condoms. "We do not need to be experts to talk about AIDS if we speak from the heart," said Sukuma.

David Abilio, the long-standing director of the renowned National Company of Song and Dance, remarked that generalisations about AIDS did not work in a culturally complex Mozambique. "In our tradition, disease comes from witchcraft and we must address this reality," said Abilio.

The company has proved its efficiency as an agent for social change and national integration by taking messages across Mozambique about the 1992 peace agreement that ended a 17-year-old civil war; the first elections in 1994; the repatriation and reintegration of three million refugees and internally displaced people in 1995; antipersonnel landmine awareness in 1997 and now, AIDS prevention.

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[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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