TICAH's Body Mapping History
Body Mapping is a technique that has derived from the Memory Work that was pioneered by an HIV+ Ugandan women's group, NACWOLA, and used in different ways by a number kindred organizations. TICAH started its body mapping work in June 2005 with the convening of three workshops in collaboration with its partners, Society of Orphans Against AIDS Network in Mombasa, Kenya; Karavali Positive Women's and Children's Network in Mangalore, India; and Saitharn Rak PHA Club in Chiang Rai, Thailand. In these workshops we brought together women to share their stories and paint their body maps. Most of these women had neither picked up a paintbrush nor done any artwork since leaving school. They were enthusiastic about embarking on this exercise and courageous about telling us their stories. The women drew silhouettes of their bodies on large pieces of canvas and then painted them to tell us about the different parts of their bodies, what illnesses they experience and what they do to keep the different parts healthy. The process raised powerful emotions for the women, from their fears about dieing and leaving their children, to the joy of inking up their hands and feet to make prints on their maps, to the pride of producing a beautiful and compelling painting of self-expression.
Expanding Our Work
Since then we have continued to expand on this body of work. We have run several more workshops in Kenya and have included men, artists and children. We are currently exploring possibilities for more body mapping work further afield, including in China and Vietnam. We have traveled the world with the body maps, sharing them and our stories with many different audiences. Wherever the maps are made, wherever they travel, the power of the process of producing and sharing them never fails to have an impact.
Stories from Our Body Mappers
Amina from Kenya tells us: "I painted my head pink to symbolize calmness and hope, changing to red to symbolize the pain. My head revolves in different feelings of pink calmness. My inner body is blue to express my sense of determination, strength and inspiration. The black outline represents my black skin and my pride of being a black woman. The yellow represents my outer self and the power and self-esteem I have. My second body is green to show the power of herbs and indigenous foods, which protect and give me good health, energy and treatment for my ailments. The yellow stars represent my amazing, determined power in the community."
Veena from India tells us: "HIV was my personal problem and I had the fear that I would die immediately. But I wanted to live my life as I had lived earlier. In an attempt to forget the fear of death, I decided to work and this helped me to help many others who were suffering. ... On my body map I have drawn a picture of a house - this could also be an office - because I want to convey my wish for everyone to live together and work together within the community. I have shown the sun, mountains, rivers, trees, fruits, leaves, vegetables and grains to depict the natural treatment I am following, which has helped me a lot. The phone stands for all the counseling I do on the phone, spreading the word and bringing about awareness of HIV/AIDS."
Saitharn from Thailand tells us: "In my body map I have painted on my head to show my way of thinking positively, living in full consciousness and with an open mind to the world. This has helped me to look at HIV as an intimate companion who I can live together with in peace, without having to fight it. I have always been mindful about how to take good care of my health and I have tried to change bad behaviors that would risk my health because of the HIV. We should perpetually evaluate the defects in ourselves and try to counteract them, bring our body and soul back to balance. How I have managed is simple. I eat nutritious food and keep a close eye on my body system. I also use herbs for treatment. I read Dharma and do meditation to heal my mental and spiritual self."
Celestine body map poster