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Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu (President Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, Nobel Peace Prize Winner 1984)Today our international communities of storytellers are giving us the opportunity to come together and stand up for the principles of universal dignity and fellowship. I invite you all to join us at Real Stories Gallery, so we may harness the power of our humanity and our enormous capacity for creativity, to mobilize our imaginations and weave together through our stories, a vision that we shall reach for which will influence our thoughts and actions towards our kin. God Bless You.

 

 

Daniel Ben-Horin (Founder & co-Ceo TechSoup Global): I have watched Real Stories Gallery evolve from the outset in 2009 - a pure vision encountering huge obstacles, but never wavering. The result is what you see: An inspiration to all of us, a path forward for our hearts and minds (and bodies) and a reminder of how technology is there to fulfill human creativity and meet human needs.

 

 

Professor Paul Webley (former Director, School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS) University of London): Stories and narratives help define who we are, and help us understand our world and what it means to be human. And the stories on the magnificent Real Stories Gallery will do all that - but will also have an impact on the world, and help reduce the spread of HIV.

 

 

Professor Philip Goulder (Pediatrician (HIV Infection & Immune Control), Oxford): We watch carefully the people who inspire us, and listen to the stories they tell us; what we learn from them shapes what we understand, how we feel and how we act in the world.

 

 

Oliver McTernan (Writer, Broadcaster, co-Founder Forward Thinking, former Catholic Priest): I had the privilege of visiting Tunisia during its revolution earlier this year and meeting with some of the young people who through their courageous actions brought momentous change to that country. In the course of our conversations it became clear that these young people had overcome the fear that had dominated their lives and were prepared to risk all in their quest for dignity and agency. They were no longer prepared to tolerate the climate of repression that had robbed them of self respect and freedom to control of their own lives. It was a deep sense of accumulated grievances and injustices that motivated them to act to change their lives in a decisive way. It is well documented of course the significance of the internet in facilitating the changes. People were empowered by the ability to communicate. They used their computers and mobiles not only to organise but to tell their stories. It was soon after returning from Tunisia that I was introduced to the work of the Real Stories Gallery. It struck me that it is the same quest for dignity and agency that motivates these young people from around the world who have been the victims of abuse to tell their stories. Through the use of videos they too are learning to overcome the fear that has gripped their lives and to discover their intrinsic dignity despite what may have happened to them in the course of their early lives. I fully recommend the work of Real Stories Gallery Foundation, who provide these young people with a chance to be free.

 

 

Jan Jordaan (Founder/Director of Art for Humanity; Artist & Activist): The modesty of a story can invade our skin, like the sun, like playing in the sand on the beach. A torrent of mixed up thoughts responding to a pandemic that chances its' face every time I open my eyes...  And then, there it is, Real Stories Gallery. It brings the gentle touch of humanity into our lives and our thoughts... It breathes a solidarity that goes beyond being mobilised by slogans.

 

 

Dr Vishakha N. Desai (former President Asia Society, New York): I urge you to seize the opportunity afforded today by Real Stories Gallery to dispel the destructive stigma assigned to HIV and AIDS and to heal our communities traumatized by this contemporary catastrophe. The arts play an important role in people introducing themselves and their ideas to each other, creating a climate for conversations that enable a deeper understanding and context for the pressing issues of the day. Artists are instrumental cultural messengers, reminding us of who we are and who we would like to be.

 

 

Writing to the Law // for Real Stories Gallery (& Rachel) by Carolyn Srygley-Moore (Poet, USA)

 

I am writing to the law she says, to change the law. Horribly

 

All that Hitler did was legal in the law, King wrote, or said somewhere.

 

& where are the rules against the genocide of Darfur?

 

In one's own home, writing to the law.

 

Making papermache sculptures of the saints, that are oneself.

 

Sleeping through the intersection of church & faith.

 

What do you leave in your locker

 

but statues of what you want to become, to be, what you want

 

to change? All is contextual.

 

Writing about sexual abuse, one must write about sex,

 

but it is contextual. I am writing to the law to change the law, she says,

 

this woman of five foot three,

 

"you could eat soup off my head," she says //

 

& outside the dressingroom window

 

the world is on fire, children are on fire, we are on fire

 

trying to revolutionize the dying

 

by simply speaking words out loud //

 

man, horse, God, dolphin // choosing a word & speaking it aloud

 

with the tenderness of a brain taken from its shell

 

the Braille of a brain taken from its shell

 

& sold on the streetcorner with children of Brazil

 

France New York Turkey. I am writing to the law she says

 

calling the cops on the cops

 

calling the Gestapo on the Gestapo //

 

I am writing with blood not fingernail polish

 

amulets of blood.

 

 

"Call To All Artists" by David Koloane (Artist, Curator, Human Rights Activist, South Africa. 2010)

More than twenty years ago artists from different cultural and racial backgrounds came together in the capital city of Botswana, Gaborone. They came from within South Africa and outside the country and other far flung metropolis. The occasion was the "Culture And Resistance Conference" in 1982, coordinated by the then banned African National Congress Medu Cultural Ensemble.

The Rallying point of the event was the scourge of the apartheid system of government in South Africa at the time. One of the primary resolutions adopted at the conference was that artistic expression of any kind, should be employed as a weapon in the struggle against apartheid. Black and white artists stood shoulder to shoulder for the first time in the fight against racial discrimination. Apartheid legislation has since been annulled in the statute books.

In celebrating the new dispensation in 1984 with the revered personality of Nelson Mandela at the helm, who could have predicted what lay beyond the horizon after the euphoria of the inauguration of the first democratically elected government in South Africa? A human catastrophe in the form of HIV and AIDS reared its' head decimating whole communities.

The pandemic has been an eerie stigma of silence and shame from within ourselves, our neighbours, peers and societal deficiencies culminating in the gross vulnerability of women and children in our midst. The numerous funerals conducted on a daily basis in the South African townships also reflect the racial and economic divide still prevalent. It was at the funeral of an ex-student of mine where a colleague, who was a close friend of deceased, remarked to me: "Young people today are learning how to die and not how to live." The stories and legends are legion, yet they are only told in whispers and whimpers.

Let us will ourselves against the pandemic with the same urgency and vigour of our fight against apartheid. If we had artists of the world against apartheid, why can't we have artists of the world against AIDS?

Real Stories Gallery is calling for the international community of artists and creative writers to help slow down the rapid spread of HIV within our neighbourhoods around the world. We are invited to express our collective concerns, to share our wisdom and to cross fertilize our ideas. Through our stories we may shift the culture of discrimination towards those affected by the virus.

Together our visual documents on Real Stories Gallery, our collective conscience and desire for social justice, will bring about change; a new culture created by ordinary people who share an ordinary vision - that it is possible today for everyone to have access to lifesaving HIV prevention and health care, to live with dignity and respect.

As an artist who has experienced astonishing changes within the communities surrounding me, I urge you to reach out and look around you with the empathy and reflection of an artist, and return to share your work with us all on Real Stories Gallery.

 

AIDS Pieta by Ernest Pignon-Ernest

Jean-Paul Genet by Ernest Pignon-Ernest

















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