Commemorating World AIDS Day through Urban Art

August 14, 2012

Maxx Moses, a gifted graffiti muralist from New York, traveled to the city of Bulawayo Zimbabwe on an ECA sponsored Arts Envoy. The envoy successfully completed a special project for World AIDS Day that used urban art to raise awareness about HIV prevention and testing.

“We began the program in Bulawayo with visits to proposed mural sites in the company of the gallery curator and a local graffiti artist,” recalls Moses. “The site visits included a walk through the township neighborhood to interact with residents and to get a feel for the area. In the end, two sites were selected: the wall surrounding the gallery’s downtown car park and a section of the perimeter wall around Madlodlo Beer Garden in the historical, heavily trafficked and very poor Makokoba Township.”

Moses met with a team of 10 local artists recruited by the National Gallery to work with him on creating the live murals.

Maxx Moses, a gifted graffiti muralist from New York, uses urban art to raise awareness about HIV prevention and testing in Zimbabwe. Maxx Moses, a gifted graffiti muralist

“While working on the murals, artists gave each other suggestions and asked me for advice,” says Moses. “Most of these artists have never worked with spray paint, created a mural, or created art in front of a live audience-- so on many levels this was a huge paradigm shift for them. I think some of the artists were a bit intimidated at first when it came to using spray paint, but once they began to get the hang of it they were so ecstatic it was hard for them to stop!”

The work at both sites was finished by World AIDS Day, just in time for the official handover of the murals to the City Council by U.S. Ambassador, Charles Ray.

“The murals began to attract attention from pedestrians, who in turn were drawn to the Matabeleland AIDS Council (MAC) stands where they were given HIV/AIDS pamphlets, condoms, and encouraged to get tested,” recalls Moses. “The Ambassador and the Acting Mayor, as well as four professional soccer players, all went for testing.”

“Matabeleland AIDS Council reported that a total of 83 people were tested at the mural sites on Worlds AIDS Day, surpassing the daily testing numbers at their regular clinics. People were still in line when the site had to close and were encouraged to visit the MAC premises for testing the next day.”

At the end of the trip, Moses was overcome by the hundreds of thousands of people they were able to reach through the effort.

“I had the opportunity to create and work with an awesome group of aspiring artists,” says Moses. “I feel honored that I was granted the opportunity to plant the seed of my graffiti art in the “City of Kings” along with all the people from the communities in which we painted. All of these events have impacted me personally and professionally.”

“The strongest and most powerful part of the whole adventure was the audience’s response to our art. The people were genuinely blown away.”