Creative workshop for HIV +s
By Augustine Veliath
The prospective authors had never written a play before, nor had they been part of a theatre movement or club. Instead they had all experienced stigma and discrimination in abundant measure.
This play, when staged in 20 or more towns of cities of India later in the year, they hope, will create a chain of conversation among the general public and the media, powerful enough to make a dent on the stigma and discrimination practised against HIV positive people.
Eighteen of them had one thing in common. They were people living with HIV/AIDS. Five of them had come with their own children whose presence became a pivotal theme for the creative retreat. In the eight days that they lived together, they shared their pain, and their hopes. They believe the experiences they shared would merge into a powerful play that will make people sit up, think and act.
The creative retreat supported by UNICEF was held at Sanskriti Centre of Artists and Writers in the outskirts of Delhi. HIV positive people from Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Bihar and Delhi participated in the retreat.
On the third day photography was introduced. Sunil, a London based photographer showed how various art forms like photography, puppetry, and painting could be used as an expression. Expressing oneself creatively, soon they found out, could help them in forgetting unpleasant memories and in facing situations boldly. This was a totally new experience for many and soon every one plunged into creativity of painting, photography, short plays, enactment and music.
In depth sharing of intimate personal experiences then came naturally. Prominent were stories of discrimination against women whose husbands died. They shared the agony of isolation and the resultant deep depression and fear. Sharing such experiences lightened their burden.
More music, photography and painting, followed by even more discussions and sharing made their creative retreat a memorable experience. Most felt the creative retreat should become a standing one which could train more and more positive people to conduct such workshops in different states and districts.
A system of volunteers, who would act as mentors or ‘buddies’ on a one to one basis should also be introduced, the group suggested. These volunteers ought to be aware of the clinical and social opportunities available to their friends.
The renowned playwright and theatre activist Ms Tripurari Sharma of the faculty of National School of Drama coordinated the workshop on behalf of Alarippu with the help of Sanjai Sharma and Shiv. The presence of an accomplished photographer like Sunil had a liberating influence on the workshop. About the script Tripurari says “Not yet, we still need to do a similar exercise with affected children.”