“An icon of how the human spirit can rise above adversity
and create art of enduring strength and beauty.”
-Carol Brown, Director of the Durban Art Gallery, South Africa
The Keiskamma Altarpiece was born in Hamburg,
South Africa, a small fishing town hit hard by HIV/AIDS. Named
after the Keiskamma River Valley, it grew into a stunning example
of how the arts can foster international solidarity, commanding
audiences in North America and Europe.
The Keiskamma Altarpiece was inspired by Matthias Grünewald’s
Isenheim Altarpiece, created during the German Renaissance to
pictorialize deliverance from a plague. Made to fit the same dimensions,
13 feet tall and 22 feet wide, the Keiskamma Altarpiece tells
the story of the resolve of the women of Hamburg to prevail in
the midst of HIV/AIDS.
Dr. Carol Hofmeyr, the only doctor working with HIV patients in
the area, gave the women of Hamburg needles and thread to sew
pillows in order to supplement their income. When the women demonstrated
uncanny skill and artistry, Hofmeyr gave the group more ambitious
projects to complete, including the towering altarpiece.
Worked on by more than 130 women (and a few men), the complex
art piece has several opening doors. When the doors are fully
opened, they display three giant printed portraits of local grandmothers
with their grandchildren (many of them orphaned). The grandmothers
are not victims, but instead are pictured as nurturing cornerstones
in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The town’s lone community health educator, Eunice Mangwane,
played a key role in the project, providing information and support
as the community produced the series of major art works. She is
pictured in the center of the altarpiece with her grandchildren.
Her daughter is HIV-positive.
MAKE ART/STOP AIDS brought the altarpiece to the World AIDS Conference
in 2006, and then to Chicago and UCLA, where it received its campus
debut on World AIDS Day in 2006. Subsequently it was shown at
three Los Angeles churches—Holmes United Methodist, Hollywood
United Methodist, and S.M.U. Methodist—before continuing
to tour throughout the U.S. and U.K. Sites included Grace Cathedral
in San Francisco, St. James Cathedral in Seattle, Washington National
Cathedral in D.C, and Southwark Cathedral in London. Sponsorship
by St. James Cathedral in Chicago helped make this possible.
This project made possible in part by support from South African
Consulate General in Chicago, St. James Cathedral, Toronto, St.
James Cathedral, Chicago, UCLA AIDS Institute, Fowler Museum at
UCLA, UCLA Art | Global Health Center, Artists for a New South
Africa, Liberty Hill Foundation, UCLA Department of World Arts
For more info, visit: http://www.uclaaidsinstitute.org/publications/pdfs/INSIDER_Summer_2007.pdf
more pictures on this project, please click here