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    Positive living: visual activism and art in HIV/AIDS rights campaigns

    Coombes, Annie E. (2019) Positive living: visual activism and art in HIV/AIDS rights campaigns. Journal of Southern African Studies 45 (1), pp. 143-174. ISSN 0305-7070.

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    Using the exhibition ‘Positive Living: Art and AIDS in South Africa’ (Peltz Gallery, London, 2016) as a starting point, this article offers itself as a short history of some key visual strategies developed to raise political consciousness in South Africa and internationally over one of the darkest periods in South Africa’s history from 1999 to 2006 when former President Thabo Mbeki, in denial about the relationship between HIV and AIDS withheld life-saving treatment from hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable South African citizens who were only just emerging from the scourge of apartheid. The article examines the strategies deployed by fine artists engaged in raising awareness and support from the international community in order to put pressure on the South African government, together with visual strategies sometimes assigned as ‘craft’ or ‘therapy’ and produced as local and often rural community responses to the HIV crisis. ‘Positive Living’ is concerned to provoke a more comparative debate about the relative values and limitations of different visual strategies as part of a wider commitment to the ways in which visual and material culture (notwithstanding shortcomings) can produce powerful tools for social change.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Historical Studies
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2021 18:22
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 18:07


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