Being opinionated, is a trait that is often attributed to visual artists and the Nna le Seabe, Stop AIDS exhibition, ongoing at the National Gallery is sure to prove this. Botswana’s artists, among them Velias Ndaba and Otsetswe Bogosibokae, have once again, exhibited their interpretations of HIV and AIDS related issues, at the annual exhibition that coincides with World AIDS month.
However, for the first time ever the National Museum found it fit to host a workshop that educates artists on the status of HIV and AIDS in Botswana. “Because our artists do a lot of international travel,” the curator of art education, Monica Mosarwa, said, “they have to be reasonably conversant about the situation in Botswana when asked.”
She, however, denied that the workshop was a result of the artists dealing inappropriately with HIV and AIDS themes.
The visual artists where informed on the various themes that surround the pandemic such as Gender and Violence, Testing and Counselling, ARV and PMTCT treatment and national statistics. Presentations were facilitated by the Ministry of Health’s Department of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care, Tebelopele and the Department of Woman’s Affairs.
Nakiso Kubanji, Public Relations Officer at the National Museum, also encouraged the artists to explore subjects that may be blind spots of the national prevention strategy, citing as an example the human right of a pregnant woman to choose whether to take ART to reduce the likelihood that their infants be born HIV positive. She also cited the cultural pressures for women to bear children once wed, as they could be a reason why HIV positive women repeat pregnancies. The Ministry of Health representative said they have yet to find out the motivations of repeat pregnancies by these women.
“You have the power of sending subtle messages through art to a large audience,” she said. One artist amid a presentation by the Ministry of Health that raised concerns at the violations of the unborn children when an HIV positive parent chooses to opt out of treatment, he also dared to argue that in favour of women’s movements strides made, many have been reduced to nought.
The Nna le Seabe, Stop AIDS exhibition is still on at the National Gallery.