Young Zim Artists Showcase Their Works in HIV/AIDS Challenge

Artist Takunda Billiat with Megan Petersen, PEPFAR Country Coordinator and Bruce Abrams of USAID
Artist Takunda Billiat with Megan Petersen, PEPFAR Country Coordinator and Bruce Abrams of USAID

Students at the National Gallery School of Visual Arts and Design (NGSVAD) in Mbare, Harare hosted United States Embassy representatives and local health partners Friday, May 16. The art school displayed some of their artwork alongside other participants of the 2013 World AIDS Day Art Challenge marking the final exhibition as part of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)-sponsored program.

The exhibition was sponsored by the United States Embassy through funding from PEPFAR and was open to art students from four polytechnic colleges in Masvingo, Mutare, Bulawayo, and Harare as well as the Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT), Peter Birch School of Art and the National Gallery School of Visual Art and Design (NGSVAD). The student artists were asked to incorporate a minimum of two HIV/AIDS-related themes in each design.

As a youth who is very much aware of HIV AIDS, I imagined along the lines of reproductive rights for all children and everyone in the world.
As a youth who is very much aware of HIV AIDS, I imagined along the lines of reproductive rights for all children and everyone in the world.

The event was witnessed by PEPFAR partners and Embassy officials. World Education offered health service information and advocacy messages, Mbare-based Chiedza Child Care Centre offered support as a local partner, and musician Ba Shupi and comedian Uncle Richie provided edutainment.

Congratulating the artists, Bruce Abrams, Acting USAID Mission Director, paid tribute to the young artists’ contribution towards an HIV- free generation in Zimbabwe. ”While we are providing millions of dollars to support various HIV prevention interventions, you, as young artists, play just as important a role in building a future AIDS free generation,” said Abrams.

The Art Challenge winners were announced at the 13th commemoration of the Auxillia Chimusoro Awards in Masvingo. Auxillia was the first woman in Zimbabwe to disclose her HIV positive status in 1989 when stigma and discrimination were prevalent.  In addition to exhibiting in Masvingo, the top artwork was displayed in Bulawayo at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair and at the Harare International Festival of the Arts.  The top 12 winning artwork were featured in a 2014 calendar circulated to over 1,000 health partners throughout the country.

The exhibition in Mbare is one of many such exhibitions which represent a series of HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns supported by PEPFAR, explained Jillian Bonnardeaux of the U.S. Embassy.

“This challenge raised a platform in my life; it gave me this bottle of strength and an opportunity to believe in my talent,” said Takunda Billiat of NGSVD, whose artwork was judged second place and was officially recognized at a ceremony in Masvingo on World AIDS Day. “I started to see how special my talent is to me, to my community and to the world. Now I believe who I am, I have knowledge of where I am going and I have dreams.”

Orton Singine and Sharon Maisiri of Harare Polytechnic won the competition, which merged visual arts and key health messages.  Singine explained his masterpiece: “As a youth who is very much aware of HIV AIDS, I imagined along the lines of reproductive rights for all children and everyone in the world. So our art piece produces a scene seen by a baby inside her mother’s womb which is everyone’s responsibility to take care of that baby so that we achieve an AIDS-free generation.”

National Gallery of Zimbabwe representatives welcomed the support given to the young artists to showcase their work. “I hope that with all the assistance we are having will enable our students to focus into the future and also to conduct themselves in a responsible manner and be a role model for their peers so that they live longer by taking the advice of getting tested for HIV,” said Thomas Pasirayi, Assistant Curator at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe.

Formally known as BAT and Visual Art Studios, NGSVAD was launched in October 2012 to become the first fully-functional exclusive art and design tertiary facility in the country. It currently has an enrolment of 40 students.

Since 2000, the United States Embassy has promoted HIV and AIDS awareness campaigns through support to the annual Auxillia Chimusoro Awards program which recognizes outstanding Zimbabweans in the sector.  The U.S. government, through PEPFAR, has provided roughly $500 million to Zimbabwe to help the country combat the AIDS epidemic. In 2013 and again in 2014, PEPFAR pledged $95 million dollars directly to Zimbabwe in response to HIV and AIDS.  PEFPAR coordinates with the Government of Zimbabwe towards attaining an AIDS-free generation. This is done through the scale-up of a combination of HIV prevention, treatment, and care and support interventions- ZimPAS© May 22, 2014