Pietà for the AIDS generation
by Virginia MacKenny
Ernest Pignon-Ernest, the man who was the prime motivator behind the 'Artists Against Apartheid' exhibition, is back in South Africa, this time with a project sponsored by the French Institute under the directorship of Catherine Blondeau.
Pignon-Ernest jetted into Durban last week with the image of Hector Petersen in his head and a plan to draw his own version of it in support of HIV/AIDS awareness.
In collaboration with Jan Jordan and students from the Printmaking Department of the Durban Institute of Technology (previously Technikon Natal), Pignon-Ernest drew a life-size charcoal image of a black woman carrying the body of a man. He then had the image commercially printed by Hirt and Carter to the same scale as the original, and over 100 of the large posters were put up around the Market and Warwick Triangle area in Durban. The image will also be displayed in Diepkloof, Soweto.
Pietà-like, the image lacks the didactic nature of so much AIDS awareness visual material. Without text the image is non-prescriptive and speaks of suffering and care in the broadest sense while specifically locating itself in the South African context. Already the local inhabitants of the area have begun to claim the image, some moving their goods so it is more visible, others inscribing "June 16" on it.