Art, Vulnerability and HIV in Post-Apartheid South Africa
This article traces the visual, spoken and unspoken accounts of South African women who worked as activists and artists for more than a decade in the struggle for HIV treatment. These accounts are drawn from ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Nyanga, Crossroads and Khayelitsha in the Cape Town metropole between 2003 and 2013. The plurality of accounts drawn from this long-term ethnography speak to two intertwined tensions as they relate, first, to women's experience of vulnerability and, second, to the representation of this vulnerability. I discuss three art forms that signify HIV-positive women's vulnerability: photography, body-mapping, and papier-mâché art. Across all three sections, I consider the value and limitations of artistic representations of vulnerability linked to HIV in post-apartheid South Africa. I suggest that while activists can and do use art strategically to make vulnerability visible, it is also important to understand the risks that may flow from these actions in order to address the potential of further entrenching vulnerability among the very people who form the focus of these particular art forms.