UJ helps combat HIV/AIDS through art

The internationally recognised Artists for Aids campaigner, the Canadian Mr Hendrikus Bervoets, convened developmental art making workshops, focusing on conceptual art, with University of Johannesburg (UJ) students.

Hosted by the University’s Community Engagement (CE) Unit, the ‘Training the Trainer’ series of workshops, aim to provide the CE volunteer champions with an interactive platform free from the constraints of prejudice enabling them to discuss the pandemic known as HIV/AIDS.

“We use collage art workshops to speak to students about HIV/Aids. The students then make artworks which in turn are being sold to companies. The money raised through this venture are then donated to organisations helping people living with or is affected by HIV/Aids,” says Bervoets, CEO of Artist for Aids International.

“We offer the students space for active engagement with art, promoting immersion and reflection, eventually producing conceptual art as a tool to combat the negative impact of HIV/Aids in Southern Africa. We want our student volunteer champions to become facilitators who can then go out to high schools and educate the leaners in an attempt to create HIV/AIDS awareness,” said Mr Andy Balaram, Community Engagement Specialist.

Mr Bervoets pointed out: “Getting an insight into students’ worlds doesn’t necessarily imply that they portray their immediate realities, but it illustrates some of the harsh realities through the collages,” said Mr Bervoets.

Mr Balaram echoed Mr Bervoets sentiments. “I’m sure many lives will be changed and lessons learnt as we interact with people from various communities. A university is in the knowledge business, yet knowledge stems from and serves our communities. The partnership aims to create “small-wins” through concrete interventions that enrich the lives of ordinary youths in Southern Africa.”

The Canadian charity, together with UJ also host the ‘Kids for Kids’ collage workshops for schools around the Johannesburg area. One of the most recent visits was to Fidelitas Comprehensive School in Diepkloof, Soweto.

The workshop focused on educating the children about the causes and effects of HIV and AIDS while using visual arts as a medium for them to express their opinions and feelings towards the topic. The grade 9 pupils of Fidelitas Comprehensive School were enthusiastic and excited about the workshop as Hendrikus Bervoets, co-founder and executive director of the foundation, showed them some of the existing collages that students had made and gave them the opportunity to create their own art work.

This workshop was a success as the pupils look forward to their next visit from the charity organisation as well as the university, they have seen the need to help out HIV/AIDS patients not only in their community, but across the world.​

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