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 ’58, February 28
I’m supposed to be a director, but I think I’m a Jane of everything.
I can be a messenger, I can be an instructor, I can be an advocate, I can be a mouthpiece, I can be a shoulder to cry on.
I found out I had AIDS when my daughter started to get sick just after I had given birth to her. The first few months she was progressing well.
And then she started to have rashes and mouth thrush.
Without realising that I was making it worse because I didn’t have information, I took her to Sangomas, the traditional doctors.
They scraped and put the black stuff. And that time also my breasts were having sores, we didn’t have information, and I was forcing to feed her, not realising that I was putting more of the virus into her. She had all this thrush in the mouth and with all the scratching from the Sangoma, she had so many open wounds inside the mouth, so I think that is what made it worse.
She died at eight months.
If I divorce, then it means I’m going to look for another partner. And then it means I’m going to infect that partner. Can I live with that? I can’t. It’s better for me to stay in the relationship. The damage has already been done; we must now support each other. We sat down, we talked; we must live together.
I’m just going to live with it.
Because I can’t change it.
And I’ve got to live with it and do as best as I can for myself. DM
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"Look for lessons about haunting when there are thousands of ghosts; when entire societies become haunted by terrible deeds that are systematically occurring and are simultaneously denied by every public organ of governance and communication." ~ Avery Gordon