Bambanani Women's Group
The Body Maps are artworks which were created by a group of women, The Bambanani Womens Group, based in Cape Town, South Africa. The Bambanani Women were invited to tell their stories through a community outreach program initiated by the AIDS and Society Research Unit of the University of Cape Town (ASRU) and Médecins Sans Frontières. This program began to document the lives of this group of HIV+ women who were given access to drug therapies. With the help of Cape Town-based artist, Jane Soloman, the participants created Body Maps- life size images tracing the contours of their bodies that visualize the virus and articulate each individual history.
Each Body Map image bears the name, the place and the date of birth, as well as the handprints and the footprints of its maker / subject. On the Body Maps, painted representations of wounds, marks and attacking HIV viruses appear together with textual fragments and areas of emotional significance. Each participant has selected a symbol of personal power and hope, often taking the form of a flower or a heart, to embody the optimism of the project. The shadowy forms of the participants' partners hover behind the female images to underline the crucial support and encouragement needed from others.
The Body Maps draw us into a direct dialogue with South Africa 's epidemic AIDS problem. We are invited to identify with individual women on a highly personal, emotive basis. But these are ultimately images of hope and beauty that are also used as qualitative research tools as well as instruments for narrative therapy and treatment literacy programs.
Long Life - Positive HIV Stories, a collaborative book based on the Body Maps and on the accompanying stories they illustrate, profiles the lifes of the Bambanani Woman group. With the participation of the women who authored the art and the related stories, limited edition prints of the Body Maps are for sale with proceeds allocated to HIV/AIDS organizations in South Africa. There is also a traveling exhibition of the Body Maps available for rental.
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