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Creative workshop for HIV +s

© UNICEF/India/2006
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.

By Augustine Veliath
                                                     
There were 20 of them. They were in Delhi to collectively script a play that will be staged by the renowned repertory of the National School Drama.

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. 
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.

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.
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The first day began with games which made them get to know each other. Their daily routine comprised of Yoga, relaxation exercises, breathing, body warming. More importantly they created a sequence of scenes depicting how life was before being diagnosed as positive and then the post diagnosis trauma.  They analysed  and made memorable  presentations on their relationship with their  family, their neighbourhood community, the health care personnel and  systems that they encountered . 

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.
 
The idea of a magazine for HIV positive people was suggested. It was recommended that the magazine be in the form of an attractive lifestyle publication, professionally produced and distributed. Important issues could then be openly debated in print. A safe, secure place for people, who are HIV+ to meet on a regular basis socially, was also a seen as a necessity. A ‘Positive Centre’ as an open house would fill a gap between the hospital and the home.

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.”

 

 

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