LEONIE MARINOVICH's series of portraits are the catalyst for a discussion in which urban African women speak frankly about the nuances and strategies of living with their HIV status, and of dealing with male violence in their societies.
Marinovich has long been photographing people in rural communities who are living with HIV, and this collaboration with UNAIDS was an opportunity to chat about the things people usually don’t discuss about the virus, and for women of all ages to speak about their life experiences.
One of the most emphasised themes to emerge was that of image, self-image and how women wish to present themselves to the world. The interplay between these intimate confidences and the confident, comfortable manner that these women offer themselves to the photographer’s camera interact in a remarkable way with the stories of their lives and emotions that they present verbally.
Born ’90, October 14
I don’t know my father.
I still have to find out who he is.
I was looking forward to my birthday because at my kindergarten when it was time for your birthday to be celebrated, you sat in the middle of the others and had your cake and they sang for you. I was really looking forward to my birthday. But my mother just died three days before my birthday. Everything changed.
She was always taking these funny, big colourful tablets, but they didn’t quite help.
She yelled a lot at the younger children in the house. She would beat them even though she didn’t have strength to do so.
I remember my mom used to get so beaten, she was always beaten.
When I turned 15, I was told exactly that I was HIV positive. I was just told. They knew since I was very small. I had my things a bit separated from other people’s things, I had my own cups.
People believed that my death was so close.
I didn’t really see my teenage life, those years were supposed to be the years when you enjoy yourself, but it just turned out to be the years of responsibility.
You know sometimes you really want to date somebody but you’re just scared of the virus.
What? Are you going to infect this person? But you just don’t go boom, hey, I’m HIV
positive. Ja, I have dated quite some time, I’ve broken up, I’ve dated. Just like a normal life, ja.
I use condoms or say no when the guy doesn’t want to use a condom.
But I’m coping, I am handling it. But maybe when I start working, earning a nice salary, I will have a medical aid or something which will be much more comfortable. Because when you go for treatment at the hospital, you sit in the queue with this big blue card with a big number that labels you HIV positive.
I’m studying HIV/AIDS. It’s a management course; counselling course. I’ll probably become a counsellor. I think the future will determine itself.
There are so many kids that are born positive; I know of a lot. All I can say to them is that they have to be strong, they are not alone.
You know you are not limited. You can have a nice future, get married, have children and everything. DM
"The soul is known by its acts" ~ Thomas Aquinas