Monday, May 22, 2006

A highly symbolic HIV/AIDs memorial night

This photo shows tyre marks made by the large trucks that were moving equipment from the stage at the end of the show. I noticed the tyre marks when the event was over and I was leaving the field to go home. The marks form the shape of the symbolic red HIV/AIDs ribbon.

Yesterday evening I was at the HIV/AIDs Candlelight Memorial Service in Arima. A friend of mine (O'Leo) who has an NGO (Red Initiative) and was instrumental in the organisation of the event asked me to do a candlelight display for one of the tents. Let's just say that the entire design concept fell victim to the wind! The tent (in fact the whole event) was in the middle of a large, very windy field. None of the candles, (which I had in the shape of the HIV/AID's ribbon on the floor of the tent) could be lit ... and those that were lit lasted only a short while, struggling in the strong blasts of wind. I tend to look at things symbolically, so I simply saw what could have been a potential 'design disaster' as a powerful message. I said to my friend's mother (who was also trying to light the candles): "What the candles are going through is symbolic of the struggle" ... people with HIV/AIDs who struggle not only to live, but to be understood and accepted ... and the struggle of those who are trying to help, but whose efforts may seem to be in vain as the virus sweeps even faster, further and deeper into societies around the globe. Candles in the wind.

But (as I said to my friend's mother), the thing is to not give up, despite the strong winds. At the end of the show when I was going to my car with the box of unlit tea light candles (I had bought 200 up at Mount St. Benedict), I offered some to the people in the car next to mine. Interestingly, they were the sister and friends of Godfrey Sealey, an important Trinidadian playwright/actor/activist who recently (on April 26th, 2006) succumbed to the virus after years of living/battling with it. He was a strong and creative soul, with the courage to openly discuss his status (despite stigma and discrimination) at a time when no-one else did. As I gave most of the candles to the small group of his friends/family, I realised that the candles were being placed in the right hands. In a way these people who had loved him were the living representatives of a man who had for so long been a powerful voice for those with HIV/AIDs. Their lighting the candles in the sanctuary of their own homes was perhaps just what was 'meant to be'. I have the remaining candles and they will also be lit. I think I will share them out at tonight's Greenlight meeting. Or perhaps we will have our meeting by candlelight.
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A few of the wire flowers I had also made for the display (on stage in this photo). They are similar to the moon flowers growing in Diva's top pane

In closing ... I had also made a large bunch of wire flowers as part of the display. When it was all over and people were packing up their tents (refreshments, pamphlets, etc.), I noticed the wire flowers lying in the dust. I picked them up, gathered them into a bunch and tied them with one of the large red ribbons I had put to stream from the top of the tent. I went across to some of the men packing up the sound equipment and said "Would any of you like these flowers to give to one of your girlfriends?" One of them looked at the bunch (with what I found was a bit of suspicion) and said "Nahhhhhh." The other one reached out and quitely said "I'll take it. Thank you."

I think everything ended up in the right hands.


Anonymous Stephan said...

Beautiful how you saw that the tyre marks form the ribbon you wanted to create with the candles.

2:55 PM  
Anonymous paula obe said...

The strong wind can also be symbolic of trying to get the message out, the wind speaks in many tongues. These are not days of whispering, the wind shouts, gathering dust, blowing particles around until we are forced to feel the pain it hears, on the last breath of soo many of our brothers and sisters.

6:22 PM  
Anonymous O'Leo said...

I like the way nature is still in control, the wind blowing out the candles, the dust forming the ribbon, the night being cloudless.

It is not up to us, there is something greater, even in HIV and AIDS we have to keep the flame of hope alive, remembering that although we do lead in the struggle, we also follow.

11:17 AM  

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