Voicing the pain

THE END OF SILENCE: ART FOR AIDS SAKE·Organised by Gallery Mirage, New Delhi, and sponsored by National AIDS Control Organisation, New Delhi·Lalit Kala Academy, New Delhi· January 11-19

Published: Friday 28 February 1997

"i am a healthy human being, leading a straight life. Why should I worry about aids?" That is the common reaction to aids awareness campaigns. hiv/aids is thought of as something that happens to other people.

This is precisely the attitude that the organisers of the exhibition, which had on display paintings by over 100 artists, have tried to address. Their message is you are vulnerable even if you do not lead a high-risk life and the only protection against hiv/aids is understanding the ways in which the virus is transmitted and the necessary precautions to be taken.

However, the display of paintings, some of them painted specially for the cause, could have been better organised. For instance, the information tags for quite a few of the paintings were missing and the signs directing the visitors to the various sections of the display were placed inconspicuously.

A part of the exhibition consisted of posters showing photographs and quotations from people associated with hiv/aids, either as victims or as people involved in care and prevention areas. Sensitively handled and highly informative, it broke through the walls of human indifference to the disease. It addressed issues of sexuality and emphasised the right of hiv victims to dignity. However, an art exhibition in a metropolitan city of India is very much an elite happening. Damayanti Sharma, one of the key persons behind the exhibition, confirmed the elite orientation by saying that they had received a tremendous emotional response from the visitors who were mainly designers, photographers, artists and musicians. Though the organisers plan to take the exhibition to Lucknow, Mumbai and maybe Chennai, to succeed in their mission of spreading aids awareness, they need to reach out to those who lack access to informed choice.

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