Art as a social practice: transforming lives using sculpture in HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention in Uganda
MetadataShow full item record
This article explores the possibilities of art as social practice in the context of the fight against HIV/AIDS. It is inspired by notions of art having the capacity to move beyond the spaces of galleries into an expanded field, and thus beyond the visual and into the social. The article examines the potential for sculpture to play a transformative role in HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, and in transforming the gender relations that shape the dynamics of the spread of the disease. These ideas are developed through discussion of research conducted in Uganda and in the UK, which sought to develop forms of sculptural practice for HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention in Uganda. The article explores the ways in which a series of soap sculptures are an effective tool in the fight against the disease, particularly in communities with high rates of illiteracy and in which discussion of sex and sexuality remains largely taboo. The article contends that countering taboo and facilitating dialogue between women and men, thus encouraging attitudinal and behavioural change, are perhaps the most significant impacts that this form of sculpture can make. This is because while awareness of the disease in Uganda is often high, having the capacity to discuss and act upon this awareness is often problematic, largely because of fear, stigma and taboo, and the unequal gender relations that determine the nature of men and women’s sexual lives. The article concludes that the transformative effects of the soap sculptures are revealed in the ways in which they challenge taboos, tackle fear and stigma, and facilitate dialogue between men and women.