An Angel Behind the Camera, Filming Angels in the Dust: An Interview with Activist Filmmaker Louise Hogarth

Article excerpt

AIDS has orphaned more than 14 million children worldwide-the equivalent to every child under five in America with no one to watch over them.1

South Africa, a country with the highest incidence of rape and child rape in the world,2 has the fifth highest prevalence of HIV in the world, with 1.1 million AIDS orphans. 3 The UNAIDS Global Report reveals 370,000 AIDS-related deaths in South Africa in 2003.4 Given the numbers of people infected and dying, South Africa is regarded as having the most severe HIV epidemic in the world. This pandemic is estimated to be several years away from peaking in terms of the numbers of projected AIDS-related deaths with a projection of 75-100 million affected by 2010.5

Against this statistical background, nearly 60 children are raped every day in South Africa and the age range of the child rape victim is significantly found to begin at six or younger.6 A growing body of medical and research evidence suggests the problem is much larger and more pervasive than the already staggering numbers would suggest. While 21,000 child rapes were reported in 2001, for instance, according to the South African Police Service, only one in 35 child rapes is reported, suggesting the number could actually be closer to 735,000.7

What Does a Teacher Committed to Culturally Responsible Pedagogy Do with Such Overwhelming Data?

Multiculturalist G. Pritchy Smith (1998) in Common Sense about Uncommon Knowledge: The Knowledge Bases for Diversity details theory and research relevant to preparing teachers for effectively educating ALL students. As Smith admonishes:

If preservice and inservice teachers study the appropriate bodies of literature, they will understand that norms for human growth and development vary from culture to culture and that much of the traditional knowledge base studied in the psychological foundations courses is Anglocentric or Eurocentric and not necessarily appropriate for interpreting and understanding the behavior of culturally diverse pupils of color. (p. 27)

Counseling research affords a rich, if often untapped, source of information on the sociocultural contexts of human growth and psychological development beyond the western tradition. Unparalleled, however, are the most recent issues evolving in South Africa for victims of child rape surviving in a nation spiraling out of control in the HIV/AIDS strangle-hold. Teachers have a dual responsibility in this regard: (a) to authentically educate their students about the HIV/AIDS pandemic; and (b) to be prepared to work with students and families impacted by the two-headed snake of HIV/AIDS and child rape.

What Does a Critically Conscious Citizen Do with Such Overwhelming Data?

Activist filmmaker Louise Hogarth decided it wasn't enough to send money. With her camera and commitment to nurture positive change, Louise went to Botshabelo (a Tswana word meaning "place of safety") in South Africa, a place for children who have been orphaned by AIDS, starved, raped, and-often-forgotten.

Opened in December 1990, by Marion Cloete and her husband Con, Botshabelo has become an island of compassion and humanity in a country struggling under the weight of apartheid's legacy: poverty, violence, lack of education, and inadequate health care. Encompassing the orphanage, a school, and an organic farm (though they lack the water to maintain the farm), Botshabelo provides food, education, hope and therapeutic healing for hundreds of children, of whom more than 90% are rape victims and more than 25% have HIV/AIDS. While nearly 200 children are in "foster" care at Botshabelo, as many as 250 other children come to the orphanage on a daily basis for education and food.


Huber-Warring: The issue seems monstrous, Louise, what do you hope to accomplish through your film?

Hogarth: Awareness of the AIDS orphan crisis; promotion of Marion's therapeutic work with these children; interruption of the victim-perpetrator cycle; consideration of the spiritual dimensions of death and dying; and a testament to the difference one person, Marion, makes when spiritual choices are followed over material possessions and gain. …