Activist Art Exhibition Reflects the Social Stigmas of African Aids Sufferers
A new exhibition has been launched at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology to explore the psychology and politics of living with HIV/Aids in South Africa. Cambridge University

An exhibition has opened to explore the social stigma faced by those with HIV/Aids in South Africa and how they have had to campaign for work, education and life-prolonging drugs.

An extensive and vibrant body of artworks produced by a group of HIV/Aids activists from Khayelitsha Township outside Cape Town and by led by British artist Rachel Gadsden will go on display at Cambridge University's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The display is part of the Unlimited Global Alchemy, a project commissioned by the Unlimited scheme, which funded 29 ambitious projects by disabled artists to be presented as part of the London 2012 Festival.

Running until August, the exhibition will be the first at the museum in Pretoria since it reopened in May after a major £1.8 million redevelopment.

The seeds of the project were originally sown at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in 2010, when UK artist Rachel Gadsden first saw a "body-map" painting by South African activist Nondumiso Hlwele at the Assembling Bodies exhibition.

Gadsden was inspired her to track the artist down. After a long search and with an award through the Unlimited scheme, which forms part of the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival, Gadsden found herself in working in Khayelitsha with Hlwele and five other members of the Bambanani artist-activist group.

"I discovered that art could be used as a healing mechanism," said Zodwa Somlayi, a member of the Bambanani. "Exploring this with others infected with HIV/Aids provided a cathartic experience for me. I wish for all those infected to have the courage and support to disclose their status."

Following Cambridge, the exhibition moves to the Southbank Centre in London, with an exhibition in the Royal Festival Hall from August 31 to September 9, 2012.