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ArtWorks for AIDS

Marilyn Martin, Director of the
South African National Gallery.

"My children and I lost a close friend to AIDS in 1992. He had been ill since the mid-1980s when he left South Africa for London. In the beginning we did not know what it was, maybe he did, but it was not discussed. Even today I cannot mention his name in public in relation to the pandemic, as his family may not want this to be known, or perhaps they are unaware of the cause of his death at the age of 39. I have worn a ribbon in his memory every day and have done what I can to create awareness of and illness that for many remain unmentionable.

I accepted the invitation by the Harvard AIDS Institute (HAI) and Secure the FutureTM to curate the exhibition "ArtWorks for AIDS" with gratitude and enthusiasm, for I believe that the pandemic is everyone's business and that artists can show the way to a better understanding of and caring for those who are both infected and affected. The exhibition comprises artists from Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland commissioned to interpret the theme of HIV/AIDS in southern Africa with special reference to women and children.

AIDS has killed some of the great creative talents of our time and has been a subject for artistic action and reflection for more than a decade. ArtWorks for AIDS merges private and public experiences and embraces the social domain; it transcends perceived and constructed boundaries with regard to race, class, creed, gender and sexual orientation. Our vision was to challenge artists to engage with the topic and to have a superb exhibition. Participants have surpassed all our expectations with thoughtful, beautiful, poignant, moving, and powerful works of art. They have concretised their ideas and conceptions in many different ways - narrative and allegorical, abstract, didactic, subtle and enigmatic and they have done so in an astonishing variety of media, and in two and three dimensions.

Together we have indeed succeeded in harnessing the creative energies and prodigious talents of some of the top visual artists in southern Africa for HIV/AIDS. We have made a difference."

Marilyn Martin, Director of the South African National Gallery, has curated many international art exhibitions, the latest of which is an exhibition of contemporary South African art from the permanent collection of the South African National Gallery, in co-operation with the Rose Art Museum, Boston, USA, to take place in Spring 2001. Ms. Martin has particiapted in many international selection panels including the Venice Biennale and the Sao Paulo Biennale. She holds a BA in History of Art and MA in History of Architecture.