The Culture of AIDS in Africa: Hope and Healing in Music and the Arts

The Culture of AIDS in Africa: Hope and Healing in Music and the Arts

The Culture of AIDS in Africa: Hope and Healing in Music and the Arts

The Culture of AIDS in Africa: Hope and Healing in Music and the Arts


The Culture of AIDS in Africaenters into the many worlds of expression brought forth across this vast continent by the ravaging presence of HIV/AIDS. Africans and non-Africans, physicians and social scientists, journalists and documentarians share here a common and essential interest in understanding creative expression in crushing and uncertain times. They investigate and engage the social networks, power relationships, and cultural structures that enable the arts to convey messages of hope and healing, and of knowledge and good counsel to the wider community. And from Africa to the wider world, they bring intimate, inspiring portraits of the performers, artists, communities, and organizations that have shared with them their insights and the sense they have made of their lives and actions from deep within this devastating epidemic.

Covering the wide expanse of the African continent, the 30 chapters include explorations of, for example, the use of music to cope with AIDS; the relationship between music, HIV/AIDS, and social change; visual approaches to HIV literacy; radio and television as tools for "edutainment;" several individual artists' confrontations with HIV/AIDS; various performance groups' response to the epidemic; combating HIV/AIDS with local cultural performance; and more. Source material, such as song lyrics and interviews, weaves throughout the collection, and contributions by editors Gregory Baz and Judah Cohen bookend the whole, to bring together a vast array of perspectives and sources into a nuanced and profoundly affective portrayal of the intricate relationship between HIV/AIDS and the arts in Africa.


Gregory Barz (Vanderbilt University/University of the Free State) Judah M. Cohen (Indiana University)

The whole village is full of diseases, that is why we suffer.
People suffer from poverty, from ulcers, from coughing.
But God gives us talents you cannot see.
God gave me the talent to play the akadongo [plucked idiophone].
Listen to what it says, my akadongo talks.
Our children cry while suffering from polio, now AIDS came to finish us.
It kills the beautiful, the youth and all of us who are poor.
Where are we going to run?

“Ekyalo Kyaidula Endwaire” sung by Vilimina Nakiranda (Uganda)


The emergence of HIV/AIDS into the world has forced people to address this question, both personally and as part of various communities across the globe. As with other health crises, such as polio, sleeping sickness, influenza, and malaria, populations large and small have brought the expressive forms around them to bear on presenting the nature of AIDS in moral, social, local, medical, religious, and transnational terms. Yet the widespread and devastating scope of HIV/AIDS has created a particularly unique and arresting epidemiological landscape. Initially a spiral of deterioration with unknown etiology and no known cure, the disease has . . .

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