Body Map – Nomawethu Ngalimani (1978 – 2007)

22 04 2017

Today I got to spend an hour at Vancouver’s amazing Museum of Anthropology. An hour is nowhere near enough time to see everything – 90%+ is hidden in the hundreds of drawers that nobody ever seems to think to open. An hour is plenty though – you’re already suffering from sensory overload by that time. It’s been a while since I last visited and this time I was struck by a few life-size art pieces titled “body map”. Next to each was a brief piece by the artist. This one almost made me cry. So full of hope and life, but the footnote reported the brutal killing of the artist at the hands of someone she should have been able to depend upon.

I found the following on the MOA website regarding the South African Nomawethu Ngalimani:

One of the women artists from the Bambanani Women’s Group, who went on to work on the Longlife Project, which raised awareness and campaigned for antiretroviral treatment to be made available in the South African public healthcare sector. The Longlife Project recorded the life stories of the women who were participating in a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) pilot antiretroviral programme. Life sized body maps were created and published in the book Longlife: Positive HIV Stories together with interviews of people working on the project. Limited edition fine art prints of the original body maps have been exhibited locally and internationally at conferences, fundraising events and in art galleries. The Longlife Project marked a shift from ‘preparing for death’ with the creation of memory boxes to ‘fighting for life’ as antiretroviral therapy was made available in public clinics and hospitals in late 2003. After the Longlife Project the Bambanani Women’s group went on to be trained as field researchers and worked on surveys conducted by the Centre for Social Science Research at University of Cape Town. Some members of the group have continued to do Memory Book and Body Map workshops and presentations for organisations such as VSO, Tateni Home Based Care, Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières and medical students at the University of Cape Town.

A photo of Nomawethu’s words is here.

Nomawethu Ngalimani’s words

The text reads as follows:

I’m standing with my hands up and my feet on the snake. In my opinion, the virus looks like a snake. You can’t see it and it’s moving in the secret ways and dark ways. Inkanyamba, a big snake that lives in the water, a destroyer like a hurricane that destroys everything on the earth and makes houses and trees fall down and kills people. But you see I am standing on the snake. With ARVs I destroy this virus too.

Others did not give me a lot of support when I found out I’m HIV positive. I live with my father, a drunk person. I won’t disclose to him and I haven’t told my boyfriend either. Maybe he will leave me even though he gave me the virus.

In January 2007, Nomawethu was murdered by her boyfriend.

You can read a little more about this remarkable woman and her murder on 50.50 by Kylie Thomas.

(Almost) finally, here’s an image of the body map she created for the project.

Nomawethu Ngalimani – Body Map

(Really) finally – consider looking out a copy of the book – LongLife: Positive HIV Stories (Cape Town: DoubleStorey Press, 2003). Nomawethu’s image is on the cover.





Fight stigma and discrimination – be human

27 06 2015

There’s a lot of mistrust and hatred in the world. Don’t be part of it.

Misinformation and “knowing” facts that are actually just plain wrong is the root of prejudice.

This project in Finland by broadcasting company Yle Kioski had a man who was HIV+ asking for the simple human act of being touched. It’s all in Finnish, but pretty much the only word spoken – repeatedly – is “kiitos”, meaning “thank-you”.

A man with HIV asked strangers for some human contact. Their sweet reactions brought him to tears.

A man with HIV asked strangers for some human contact. Their sweet reactions brought him to tears.

The best bit for me is that (more well-educated) mothers are happy to hug the complete stranger, or let their kids do the same. Where would we be, really, without the non-judgemental love that mothers offer?