'Siyazama' exhibition at Mathers Museum explores folk arts' role in AIDS fight

Related events, video contest focus on HIV/AIDS awareness in Indiana and beyond

  • Aug. 29, 2016


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- In South Africa, the ongoing AIDS epidemic is woven into the fabric of the society. Its story also is woven into baskets and is strung bead by bead in other crafts such as dolls and jewelry.

Indiana University's Mathers Museum of World Cultures will share that story with local audiences in the traveling exhibition "Siyazama: Traditional Arts, Education and AIDS in South Africa."

A public opening reception will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1, at the museum.

"Siyazama" is sponsored by the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington and Themester 2016: Beauty, an initiative of the IU College of Arts and Sciences. The show will remain on display at the Mathers Museum through Dec. 18.

The opening reception also is part of the inaugural First Thursdays Festival, which will be presented monthly by the Arts and Humanities Council at Indiana University.

Change through traditions

The Siyazama project, which is named for "we are trying" in Zulu, uses traditional crafts to raise awareness about AIDS in KwaZulu-Natal.

The exhibition showcases the beauty of traditional African art forms and their use as a tool for negotiating contemporary cultural, social and economic change in an area where HIV/AIDS is a real and urgent issue. Featuring beadwork, doll making, basketry and wirework, the show explores how South African artists use their work to educate others as well as to cope with the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS in their own lives and communities.

"As a campuswide unit, the Mathers Museum of World Cultures is charged with supporting all of the schools whose work touches on the complexities of the human condition," said Jason Baird Jackson, the museum's director and a professor of folklore at IU Bloomington. "With the Siyazama project, it is a special pleasure to showcase the teaching, research and outreach concerns of the School of Public Health while also supporting the College’s Themester focus on beauty.

"Siyazama really brings it all together in a compelling way and addresses important questions at the intersection of public health, the social sciences and the humanities. A window on life in South Africa, the exhibition also offers lessons for confronting HIV/AIDS here in southern Indiana," he said.

The "Siyazama" exhibition has its origins in the South African National Cultural Heritage Project, a partnership led in part by the Michigan State University Museum and Matrix Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences. It draws upon collaborative research led by Kurt Dewhurst and Marsha McDowell of the MSU Museum and arts education professor Marit Dewhurst from The City University of New York.

"In presenting Siyazama, the Mathers Museum is also very pleased to be collaborating with the Michigan State University Museum, our keystone partner in many joint research and outreach projects," Jackson said.

"Siyazama" events

All of these events at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures are free and open to the public:

  • 7 to 9 p.m. Sept. 1, Mathers After Hours: "Siyazama: Traditional Arts, Education and AIDS in South Africa" exhibition opening and reception. Betty Dlamini -- a singer, actress and writer who teaches IsiZulu as a senior lecturer in IU's African Studies Program -- is scheduled to perform. Dlamini will dance and sing an original composition she created for the occasion. 
  • 4:30 p.m. Oct. 11, Health, Healing and the Arts -- Dr. Bob Einterz, IU School of Medicine associate dean for global health, the Donald E. Brown Professor of Global Health and professor of clinical medicine; Daniel Reed, associate professor of folklore and ethnomusicology; and Ruth Stone, the Laura Boulton Professor of Folklore and Ethnomusicology and director of the Ethnomusicology Institute, will discuss their research on the cultural, economic, spiritual and educational dimensions of art within a public health context.
  • 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Nov. 8, "The Art of the Matter: Exploring HIV/AIDS Education Through the Arts" -- A panel of international students will bring a variety of perspectives to a discussion concerning art and AIDS.

Public service video competition

In conjunction with the "Siyazama" exhibition and events, the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington is hosting a video competition to select the best student-made public service announcements that increase awareness about HIV/AIDS, combat stigma or provide information about HIV-testing and prevention.

The contest is open to IU Bloomington undergraduate, graduate and professional students. The 90-second public service announcements should present relevant public health messaging for the 21st century. The top 10 entries will premiere at a School of Public Health Red Carpet Event around World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, where the winners will be announced. First place wins $500, second receives $250, third is $100, and the audience award will receive a trophy.

Further details of the competition will be announced Sept. 1 at the "Siyazama" opening reception and on the School of Public Health website.

Related Links

Siyazama exhibition basket

Telephone wire basket by Roseline Khanyile from Durban area, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, 1998. | Photo by Pearl Yee Wong, courtesy of the Michigan State University Museum

Print-Quality Photo

Siyazama exhibition cloth

"Let's Work Together to Fight AIDS" cloth by Johanna Sebaya, Mapula embroidery project, Winterveldt, North West Province, South Africa, 2005. | Photo by Pearl Yee Wong, courtesy of the Michigan State University Museum

Print-Quality Photo

Siyazama exhibition doll

Doll by Bongelephi Makhanya, Msinga region, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, 2003. | Photo by Pearl Yee Wong, courtesy of the Michigan State University Museum

Print-Quality Photo

Media Contacts

Judy Kirk

  • Mathers Museum of World Cultures
  • Office (812) 855-1696
  • jakirk@indiana.edu

Charles Rondot

Director of Marketing and Communications

  • IU School of Public Health-Bloomington
  • Office 812-855-1354
  • Cell 812-345-3502
  • crondot@indiana.edu