For more information related to the content of this story shared with us by an artist in Botswana, please see Floristic Diversity and Uses of Medicinal Plants Sold by Street Vendors in Gaborone, Botswana (The African Journal of Plant and Science Biotechnology @ Global Science Books). http://www.globalsciencebooks.info/JournalsSup/images/Sample/AJPSB_5%28SI1%2969-74o.pdf
**A response to the artworks and stories on this page, by a visitor to www.real-stories-gallery.org, at end of this page.**photographs of the art works & the stories formed part of Rachel's PhD research & thesis (SOAS). The original art works are housed within private collections within the UK and elsewhere.
The Healing Leaf
I see a lot of people becoming sick within my village and those of my neighbouring villages. HIV and AIDS came slowly into our lives. Today these twins of sadness have arrived to cause great heartache and confusion, for those infected and for their families and friends. I feel everyone's sadness. It affects my work. My pictures are like a self-portrait.
I usually draw people upside down, because it is so difficult to understand the world sometimes.
I decided to create a healing leaf prayer. When those around me begin to heal, I shall heal with them. I have chosen to use the leaf from the Monetamany Tree. People in my home cook the leaf and then they drink the water, as a way to heal any diseases in the blood. My idea is to put all the sadness people feel, I feel, inside the Monetamany healing leaf prayer I am creating so everyone can begin to heal. The father who is sick, the mother who may become sick and all the sadness the children feel seeing their mother worrying and their father slowly dying in great physical and emotional pain.
Why has HIV and AIDS come into my village and those of my neighbouring villages? I feel it probably happened when young people began to choose their own partners. In the past the old people used to advise us and tell us what to do and who to marry. A boy would be sent to the cattle post, where he would care for his father's cattle until he reached the age for marriage. His marriage would be arranged by his parents. His first sexual experience would be with his wife.
Why did young men and young women begin to choose their own partners? Why did they start to have sexual relations before they got married? Why did they begin to be unfaithful to their wives and husbands? Why did we change?
Perhaps it has something to do with people mixing together with other people outside their village, outside their group. New ideas. Many people travel outside the village to earn money. They meet new people, they are lonely, they have sexual relations without using a condom. They become infected with HIV. Perhaps today it has something to do with being shown a different path by younger parents, who do not follow the ways of our culture. These new parents, and I am one of them, have started a new way of life for us all. And, they are dying. We are dying, because most of us do not believe HIV is mostly caused by unprotected sexual relations.
I think the problem is the forgetting. The not thinking and the not knowing. Sometimes it is the believing: someone became sick with HIV and AIDS, because a neighbour bewitched him or his father or his mother or his child. This is what we believe in my village. The traditional doctors are very powerful. They have always been very powerful. The power of HIV and AIDS is too strong for their powers today, so we are dying.
Sometimes I try to explain to my childhood friends that HIV is mostly caused by unprotected sexual relations. That it is best to wear a condom to protect himself when he leaves the village for work. If he does this he will also be protecting his wife and children when he returns home. In 1995 my very good friend from childhood died from AIDS. He was a soldier. He came home to die. In his last days he was in really terrible agony. He could not urinate. It was very terrible for his family. It was so terrible for me. He screamed to die. He begged to die. I wanted him to die so he would not be in pain. Telling you I feel sad does not express the terrible loss and frustration and sense of hopelessness that I felt at the time. The sadness I was left with went deep inside me and inspired me to use my art works to speak to my neighbours and try to put an end to all the sadness that is coming again and again.
My dream today is to become a successful artist. I believe if people outside my village begin to pay attention to my work. If I can sell my work and earn money, I believe these things will encourage people within my village to become curious about my work; and the messages of my work. They will think I am important and they will start to listen more to what I am saying. I would like that very much even though I feel shy to speak.
I believe that it is time for new ideas to arrive within my village. I would like the new ideas to mix us up a little, so we look once again at the world a little differently. We have done it before, we can do it again. We can change how we live our lives. It is the job of the young parents like myself to begin a new way of life for us all, to slow down the dying and the suffering. I pray that this time the new ideas we embrace will be ideas that help us end HIV and AIDS. This is my prayer. That is why I made "The Healing Leaf."
After participating in Africa 95 in the UK, Moishepi returned to his village in Botswana, where he made a carving and a linocut of the Thunderbird Story. Moitshepi passionately believed it is important to question the source of power to find a way to end the terrible suffering in his community – HIV/AIDS/T.B. Moitshepi asked me to share his images and his stories whenever I had the opportunity. I told him I would do so... Rachel Chapple, PhD. (anthropologist, UK).
I was told this story by my friend, who was told the story by his uncle. They live in a village on the other side of Botswana; a village known for suffering from terrible rains. I could see my friend was telling me the truth when he told me this story. I saw it in his eyes. The way he held his hands. He felt afraid. And so did I.
The story is about a bird, the simple catcher of blue-headed geckoes, which was transformed one day into the Thunderbird. The Thunderbird possesses enormous power, terrible power, devastating lightening. The traditional doctors within my friend's village, have the power to command the Thunderbird. They are able to tell it where to go, what to destroy; who to make sick with HIV and who to kill with AIDS.
The Thunderbird is only found within places, and in many villages within Botswana, that suffer from terrible rains. Although my village feels the heavy rains and flooding, we do not have such terrible rains; ones that herald the arrival of more than emergency tents and food. May be one day such rains will arrive within my village - and with them the Thunderbird will enter into our homes and lives. I pray that day will never come; although I know, I feel, it is flying close by.
I have thought about this story I have told you, whilst I created my art work. When I make my pictures I have time to really think and reflect. Today, although I cannot be certain, I do believe it is not the Thunderbird that is bad or evil. Rather it is man's imagination and his desire. It is man that makes the Thunderbird cause terrible things to happen. I think it would be better, yes much better, far better, if people used their imaginations and desires, to do something really, really powerful. Like stop the destruction and bring an end to our sickness and dying from HIV and AIDS. Yes, I believe, that would be the most powerful thing the traditional doctors could do.
"The Story Told" by Mphutlamane Wa Bofelo (Poet, South Africa © "Bluesology & Bofelosophy")
++Author's note: the poem illustrates the denialism that is fueled by stigma within the community, making people resort to blaming witchcraft and everything else for the deaths of the victims of AIDS instead of facing the truth. It also makes a statement about extra marital unprotected sexual intercourse as one of the major causes for the spread of HIV / AIDS.
June's baby died because
Infant meat wets the appetite
Of granny the wizard
Its mother is actually not dead
The old witch never touches a broom
But her house and yard are sparkling clean
At the unholy hours of the night
You can hear her furniture dancing
A grass-cutter moaning on her lawn
June's husband was failed by his heart
Seeing his wife and child die
At the hands of his own mother
Punctured him to pint-size
As for his diminutive
Former voluminous mistress
She's dying from food poisoning
Everybody knows she started spewing blood
After eating food at June's husband's funeral
Her celebrity husband has lost weight
Due to being over stressed
By too many performances
And the invasion on his life
By the peeping Toms & prying cameras