n De Arte - Impossible mourning : HIV/AIDS and visuality after apartheid, Kylie Thomas : book review

Volume 2015, Issue 91
  • ISSN : 0004-3389
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author, Kylie Thomas, is both an activist and an academic - a dual role not uncommon in South Africa. From 2001-2003, she traveled from the University of Cape Town (UCT), where she was working on her dissertation, to the township of Khayelitsha, where with Jonathan Morgan she led two art therapy workshops with HIV-positive participants, the great majority of whom were women. The book is a product of that challenging and difficult experience and the decade of reflecting on its meanings thereafter. Her central premise is that still today deaths from HIV/AIDS remain largely invisible and unacknowledged, and that 'visual forms of representation can allow for powerful, evocative and transformative modes of engagement with traumatic experience.' (p. 5). Her larger purpose is to link the failure to publicly mourn the tremendous losses resulting from the epidemic to the failure to adequately mourn the deaths that occurred during the struggle against apartheid. She postulates that 'those we fail to mourn are those whose lives are unrecognized in the political sphere,' and insists on a public acknowledgement that those lives have meaning. (p. 9). Her assumption - a valid one, in my opinion - is that until those who remain marginalised and dispossessed, those who have disproportionally suffered the losses of HIV/AIDS, enter the public sphere via a process of mourning, one can find little appreciable political difference between South Africa pre- and post-democracy.

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