The “Siyazama: Traditional Arts, Education and AIDS in South Africa” exhibition at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures has brought together the Themester: Beauty initiative and the culture of healing connected to art. The exhibition features the traditional crafts made as part of the Siyazama project and shows how art is used to foster discussion on HIV and AIDS realities and prevention.
The IU School of Public Health will sponsor this week’s panel discussion, “The Art of the Matter,” at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Mathers. IU doctoral student Tapati Dutta and master’s of public health students Grace Sededji and Angela Onsongo will engage in a discussion on the topic of art and its role in AIDS education.
Nicole Anderson, director of student immersion and global health experiences at the School of Public Health, said the panelists were selected both because of their involvement with arts education in various parts of Africa and their perspectives as international students.
“Each student is not from the U.S. and is bringing a unique perspective to contrast HIV/AIDS education in Africa from the U.S. and from their own background and culture, as well as the research and homework they’ve done in preparation for this event,” Anderson said.
Anderson said Dutta has worked in Uganda and will share her experience with the area’s use of art in HIV and AIDS education. Osongo is originally from Kenya and will speak about art in education programs there. Sededji is a student from Congo and will focus on the use of dance.
Anderson said the idea of students being the panelists stems from the sentiment that, with art as a form of education, one does not necessarily have to fall into the academic category of expert to open the discussion on these issues.
“The reason I wanted to explore students as panelists is because to go into a community and talk about a topic so delicate it doesn’t take an expert,” Anderson said. “Someone doesn’t have to have a Ph.D. to bring this topic up, to utilize the arts to communicate and educate or make people comfortable with it.”
Sarah Hatcher, head of programs and education for the museum, said the talk will show how students engage with the topic of healing and expression on a worldwide scale, and this series has lent itself to greater understanding of arts in connection with wellness.
“I look forward to seeing the ways in which IU students have put their research into practice for the betterment of communities across the globe,” Hatcher said. “Learning more about the ways the arts can drive the physical well being of a community has been informative and inspiring.”
Hatcher said the series of Themester events at Mathers thus far has shown tangible examples of how art acts as a force of healing around the world. The Siyazama series is also produced in collaboration with the School of Public Health.
“It’s been great to be able to partner with the School of Health in Bloomington to explore the intersection of arts and health from these different perspectives,” Hatcher said.
Students will learn more about how their peers have been interacting with these issues and helping to foster solutions, Hatcher said.
“It’s an opportunity for students to meet and talk with students who have gone out into the world and made a difference,” Hatcher said. “It’s a chance for them to become inspired to undertake their own work and make it impactful.”
Anderson said students should take advantage of the opportunity to walk through the Siyazama exhibition to appreciate all the work being done with arts as a healing force.
“The whole goal is to engage students,” Anderson said. “We really tried to design this panel for audience engagement and generate some good discussion on the topic, maybe to inspire other students to explore that as a field of interest upon graduation.”
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