Alex Flett: The CD4 HIV/AIDS Workshop in Polokwane, Limpopo.
While attending the 2008 international AIDS Conference in Mexico City, there was a fortuitous meeting between the artist Alex Flett and Mr. Tom Lindsay Head of the Africa Division of the medical technology company Alere (formerly Inverness Medical). Alere were developing a CD4 analyser which was called at that time PIMA (a Swahili word meaning ďto countĒ), and the result of the meeting was that In February of the following year, during a visit to the artistís home by Chris Smit a colleague of Tomís, a project was developed which would see a portfolio created by four young South African artists Ė Nonto Ntombela, Lawrence Lemaoana, Yvette Dunn and Nicole Erasmus Ė who explored through print the effects of this new CD4 analyzer technology on the AIDS issue.
The portfolio was exhibited together with the Art for Humanity Break the Silence print portfolio at the 2009 Cape Town International AIDS Society Conference and then with the help of the Limpopo Arts and Cultural Association and the Polokwane Art Gallery the exhibition moved to Limpopo where it inspired a Workshop. The workshop was led by Alex Flett, Lawrence Lemaoana, and Yvette Dunn.
Below: the start of the workshop at Polokwane Art Gallery
Creating a Fine Art workshop based around a new piece of medical technology was important because the Alere PIMA CD4 Analyser has revolutionized the management of those who are HIV positive. The machine is capable of checking patient CD4 level in minutes and requires no more than a pinprick of blood. Portable and both battery and mains powered, it can be taken to the patient rather than the patient having to attend a clinic then waiting up to two weeks for a result. Importantly, there is less likelihood of stigma being leveled at the patient by those ignorant of the nature of HIV, as the CD4 check can be done in the patientís own home. So bad is the HIV situation in South Africa that the artists were delighted to create work which showed a positive side to the problem.
The Workshop and the exhibition which followed at the Polokwane Art Gallery were made possible by the Gallery, LACA, Polokwane Municipal Council and Alere, whose development of medical technology has been of significant benefit to those suffering from HIV in sub Saharan Africa.
The workshop went on for a week.
Above: Mr. Tom Lindsay, Head of the Africa division of Alere (formerly Inverness Medical) demonstrating how the CD4 Analyser works to the artists of the Workshop.
Above: Discussions between the artists were held at various times during the week. This one led by Yvette Dunn Ė front - with back to camera.
Above: Workshop leader and artist, Lawrence Lemaoana.
Below: Workshop leader and artist Yvette Dunn.
Above: Banner painting for outside the Gallery and to advertise a street event to go alongside the Exhibition, created at the LACA (Limpopo Arts and Culture Association) buildings.
Artists involved in the Workshop talk about their work.
Title of work: Journey towards self discovery
Artistís statement: ďMy work is about life journey, journey towards self discovery. Itís about the search for healing, the water representing the healing holy water through spiritual powers.
My work is inspired by poetry, backdrop of life experience as an artist who lived through and under apartheid South Africa, but now, under the threat of the killer disease. The work is about the search of a healing power of life and life support for those that have been infected. Furthermore, itís about the power of positive thinking that can sustain us, as a nation, living under the edge of life and death.
Title of work: Eyes of a murderer
I want to inspire those people who are not infected by the HIV/Aids virus. To be aware and know that it kills.
My painting talks about the murderer, who does not discriminate on race, gender, sexuality or race.
SARAH KEDIBONE TABANE
Title of artwork: Trapped Soul
Whilst scientists are busy searching for a cure for HIV/Aids, the number of people perishing is alarming. This painting depicts the soul that is trapped inside the body that is disintegrating every second. The rusted wire is a sign of hope, that one day it would break and release the soul. The idea that Inverness Medical has released the Pima machine, which can count CD4 in 20 minutes, is encouraging.
The instrument can do wonders! Why not try it?!
Above left: Brian Mupoperi. Above right: David Madonna.
Above left: Enertt Nkwana. Above right: George Mudvovera.
Above: Hanje Whitehead
Above: Avhashoni Mainganye.
Above: Nudwamato Tshivhandeka.
Above left: Irene Naude. Above right: Kagiso Mogale Mailwane.
Above left: Marcia Nepfumbada. Above right: Retang Segodi Mahlela & Lesetja Ramhela.
Above: Rosina Manaka
Above: Takalini Mufanadzo.
Above: Tawanda Mhandu.
Left: Sarah Tabane.
The Workshop and the Exhibition could not have happened but for the dedication of all involved. Amos, the Curator of the Polokwane Art Gallery, and Arlette Franks Acting CEO of LACA to name but two, as well as the Mayorís Office in Polokwane.
Thanks should also go to the LACA musicians who kept everyone entertained. The guys who painted the banner advertising the exhibition and everyone involved in a street event designed to bring HIV to the attention of the public.
Finally to all those who dropped into the workshop to see what was happening.