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POSITIVE NEGATIVES

PhotoVoice collaborated with Christian Aid to train a group of HIV+ women in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, in photographic skills. The women’s work was exhibited in Kinshasa and toured across the DR Congo. Positive Negatives, curated by Julia Fairrie, launched at The Africa Centre in London’s Covent Garden, 28 November - 12 December 2000, before touring the UK and Ireland.

In 2002, a few of the images were selected for inclusion in Pandemic: Facing AIDS, a UN/AIDS/Time Warner supported multi-faceted outreach campaign. The photography exhibition was opened by Bill Clinton at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona as part of the 14th International Aids Conference.

The project started with fifteen women, beneficiaries of Fondation Femme Plus, many of whom walked for miles across the sprawling cities to reach the workshop. The women documented their daily lives and their personal experiences of HIV. They took photographs of their families and loved ones, of their appointments with clinics, hospitals and doctors, and of their friends sick with the disease. They created a personal photo album to give to their children.

Six of the women went on to do the second training phase. They began to document the immense stigma of the disease in their own society, where it affected 10% of the population. Through the process they re-built their own sense of self-worth and realised their voices could be powerful and make a difference. Many of them went on to earn money through photography commissions for local organisations.

“These women, for the most part rejected, scorned, ridiculed by those that know them, are now among the very few women photographers this country has. From now on they have more than just the means to earn a living, they have a tool which allows them to express their ideas and their feelings in an artistic way. In brief, they can now contribute to the reconstruction of their country by educating the population through images that they themselves have produced. During the training course I saw the dull faces of the women light up. I saw women who were often coming for medical help come to life and stay three whole weeks without being ill. I saw women who had given up on their appearance start paying attention to the way the look again. This project signifies that this apprenticeship will give them a helping hand towards reintegrating into society, a way towards valuing themselves, a way towards the transformation from failure to victory.” – Bernadette Mulewebe Director, Fondation Femme Plus

 Maman Alici with her children. She is HIV positive and visibly ill. © Christian Aid / PhotoVoice / Beatrice

Maman Alici with her children. She is HIV positive and visibly ill. © Christian Aid / PhotoVoice / Beatrice

 The death of a social worker at Fondation Femme Plus. She was HIV+. Here her bereaved friends burst into tears. © Christian Aid / PhotoVoice / Annie

The death of a social worker at Fondation Femme Plus. She was HIV+. Here her bereaved friends burst into tears. © Christian Aid / PhotoVoice / Annie