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Arts Academy

About the Arts, Activism and AIDS Academy

In the midst of the AIDS epidemic in Africa, communities are developing innovative and advanced arts-based programmes that heal, educate and celebrate. These programmes are created and experienced right at the grassroots, involving and mobilizing communities in acts of renewal and survival.

Holistic. Dynamic. Transformative.
These are the underlying themes of the Arts, Activism and AIDS Academy. This pilot initiative of the Stephen Lewis Foundation will bring together African frontline workers to explore the innovative ways in which they integrate the arts into their community response to the AIDS epidemic.

Whether it’s the use of music, song, spoken word, street theatre, dance, memory books, body maps—the creative work of community-level organizations serves to remind us of the innovation, talent, vision and leadership they bring in the struggle to overcome the AIDS epidemic.

The Arts, Activism and AIDS Academy is a place of mutual teaching and learning. It is also a space for international exchange.
The Academy brings six community arts practitioners to Toronto—three in February and three in May of 2014—to participate in ground-breaking workshops led by internationally-acclaimed dub poet, mono-dramatist, and educator d’bi.young anitafrika. The Academy is a space and opportunity for grassroots leaders from Africa to share their expertise, reflect, create, and rejuvenate themselves—away from the daily demands of their work.

Community artists across Canada have been inspired by the holistic and effective ways that grassroots organizations in Africa employ the arts to give voice to grief, heal the wounds of loss, break through stigma, and nurture hope. The Academy is reaching out to like-minded communities in Canada, asking them mobilize Canadians in support of the sophisticated and innovate practices being used so effectively, not just in the context of the AIDS epidemic but in situations of crisis right across Africa.

Tools for Change
At the close of each session, Academy participants document their use of the arts at community level, and their creative endeavours and insights during their time in Canada. The culmination of each of the 2014 sessions is a public performance art piece developed, written and performed by the participants, showcasing what they have learned and shared during the programme.
The first Arts Academy took place at the end of January 2014. We were delighted to welcome representatives from Living Positive Kenya (Kenya), Young Women Campaign Against AIDS (Kenya) & Mamelani (South Africa). The next Arts Academy is now underway with representatives from South Africa, Lesotho, & Tanzania.

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