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Published: December 3rd 2008
gots to make it clean
Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you, this would in fact be my second blog entry within the last 10 days. It must be due to that holiday magic that finds a way to touch all of us, even those of us in Mozambique. I was telling my mom that Thanksgiving is just absolutely HUGE here!! You wouldn't think it, but the streets were just overflowing with Mozambicans wearing pilgrim style hats, dressing up like turkeys, and of course bars become packed with everyone in town who has gathered around to see the Detroit Lions play football on the television. It really is just a fascinating scene.
OK, so all that may be a lie, but I'm starting the Straight Talk Express (RIP) from here on out. I will break this edition up into two entries, both of which will be FULL of pictures and very slim on words.
This particular entry will take you on a pictorial journey through the creation a large, painted mural in my town, a project that I helped organize and that was presented to my town on World AIDS Day, December 1.
The next entry will contain a number of not extremely
exciting photos of my town, thanks to a few Peace Corps Volunteers who recently visited my site and agreed to take some photos of my town with my camera so that people where I live would not know that I own a camera. Simply being white in my town means that you probably have a swimming pool of money in your house, so walking around and flaunting a digital camera would only serve to give visual evidence to those assumptions.
But back to the mural project.
Mozambique is full of talented artists/painters, many of whom specialize in painting murals on walls all around the country. Many of these murals attempt to transmit a health education message, usually something about HIV/AIDS. Although the paintings are artistically beautiful, the health message that they send is often tired, played out, uncreative and ineffective. A typical mural that talks of HIV will show a man walking out of a night club with a woman in one hand and an obnoxiously over sized condom in another hand, with the not so subtle message being that one should consider using a condom when having sex.
Although this was probably an innovative idea at
one point in Mozambique's history, it is not anymore. You cannot watch TV, or listen to the radio for more than 10 minutes with hearing or seeing some message about using condoms. You cannot walk past any health post without thinking that the interior and exterior decorators decided to use condom posters to cover the walls in place of wallpaper or paint. All the while, the HIV prevalence in Mozambique remains nearly 20%, almost exactly where it was at 5 years ago before PEPFAR funds totaling more than $1 billion dollars. As HIV is a social problem, it is dynamic and continues to change, and therefore the way we address it must change as well.
Sooooooooooooo....about 5 months ago I met with a couple interested local artists and a woman who is the president of a community based organization called Josina Machel, after the first lady of Mozambique's first president elect, Samora Machel. The main function of this organization is to provide certain social services to a number of orphans living in our town, as Josina was known for her work of setting up orphanages throughout Mozambique. We thought a nice touch on the project would be to invite
our artist, Rambo...(when you say it with portuguese accents, it doesnt sound as much like the action hero)
some of these kids to participate in the painting so that they could help produce something they were proud of as well as learning a few skills that might one day lead to paid work.
Soooooooo......a proposal was written, accepted, a check arrived, the first two artists quit, I went on a 24 hour hunger strike, a new artists was found, I began eating again, paint was bought, more discussions of possible mural topics took place, the wall where we originally were going to paint became off limits, a new wall was found, yadda yadda yadda, and now there is a beautiful mural in our town. What is also cool is that two of the largest roads in all of Mozambique form a crossroads right in the middle of our town, which is exactly where we were able to find the wall now displays our mural, meaning that people from all over the country are seeing it on a daily basis.
Soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.........the message of the mural. I have found that most times when you ask a Mozambican why HIV is such a big problem in their country, they almost always end up talking about poverty; How proper medication
is not available in a country as poor as theirs, how HIV+ people cannot afford to buy healthy foods to keep strong, how there are not enough schools, meaning that illiteracy is high and critical thinking abilities are rare, meaning that many people cannot read the HIV literature produced, and many more cannot convert knowledge of facts into healthy behavior change. Poverty. This is what we decided to focus on. The next question was, how can you turn that problem into a message of hope? This is essentially what lead our artist to the mural he created.
It shows a family that has all the signs of poverty: a father who works on the fields, bringing wood back to home to start a fire with because they family cannot afford coal to cook; a mother having to care for her baby while preparing food; their home is a mud hut with a roof made of grass. On the ground, taking a nap, is their young son, who is dreaming, of going to school and coming out as an educated man ready to find employment, become somebody. The point is to show that despite living in conditional poverty, the boy
what it will look like
two different sketches that will be combined into one mural
does not live in absolute poverty because he continues to dream and have hope.
I think it turned out well. I almost cried, but I didn't, continuing my streak of over 6 1/2 months without crying.
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