Body Maps: Women's Journeys, Provocative Works of Art


Body maps enhance the stage while Swazi and South African Grandmothers perform at Hope Rising.

Body maps enhance the stage while Swazi and South African Grandmothers perform at Hope Rising.

©2011 Stephen Lewis Foundation / Cameron MacLennan

Body Maps were prominently displayed at the Hope Rising! benefit concert for the Stephen Lewis Foundation to support grassroots organizations at the frontlines of the AIDS pandemic in Africa, held May 3 in Toronto. The concert stage featured reproductions and eight of the original works of art were displayed in various locations of the Sony Centre. This provided a great opportunity for CATIE to showcase the art and share the stories of the courageous artists who painted them.

"Body Maps" were created by women living with HIV in Tanzania and Zambia. In a five-day workshop, women outlined their bodies on paper and added words, quotes and images to express their life journey with HIV.

Original body map art was on display in the Sony Centre lobby.

Original body map art was on display in the Sony Centre lobby.

©2011 Stephen Lewis Foundation / Cameron MacLennan

The process, conducted by CATIE in partnership with African-based REPSSI, conveyed life-saving information about HIV and the challenges associated with living with it.

Each original artwork: $2,000. Proceeds go to the artists and their communities.

Heavy paper, paint. Dimensions: 79 inches X 48 inches.

View the gallery of available artworks and the stories behind them.

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In our first project to address HIV beyond our own borders , the Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange (CATIE) has partnered with the Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI) in southern Africa. We are helping women living with HIV/AIDS in Canada and Africa to tell their stories while offering life-saving information about HIV/AIDS and its treatment.

Women with HIV who are leaders in the AIDS movement in their communities in Tanzania, Zambia, and Canada are coming together in workshops organized by CATIE and REPSSI to create startling and beautiful body maps. Participants are led by a trained artist through a series of imaginative exercises to trace around their bodies on huge pieces of stiff paper and add their faces, images of their internal organs, and external scars. Then they add words, symbols, and pictures relating to their health, their history, their points of personal power, and their life goals. In this way, each woman records and shares her unique story of living with HIV. The result is a series of compelling, larger-than-life-sized paintings illustrating the impact of HIV on each woman’s body and soul.

Visit the body map gallery

The five days of the body mapping process creates a safe space where each woman can speak openly about her journey with HIV. Women are also offered support from those who best understand their situation: other women living with HIV. CATIE’s contribution is to weave HIV information into this artistic process by offering opportunities for the women to discuss their health in the context of the stories told in their body maps, and to learn about HIV and its treatment.

Small, personal health journals called tracing books are also created by each woman as part of this process. The tracing books contain pages with small outlines of the woman’s body upon which she can draw, mark, or record changes in her health over time. The tracing books can be used by each woman in visits to her doctor, facilitating discussions about her health, side effects, and symptoms.

Thanks to generous support from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Interagency Coalition for AIDS and Development (ICAD), and the Canadian Society for International Health (CSIH), CATIE and REPSSI will continue through 2008 to conduct workshops on body mapping, tracing books and HIV information with a total of 30 women in Tanzania, Zambia, and Canada. Tricia Smith from CATIE, and Jane Solomon and Jonathan Morgan from REPSSI have the great privilege to work with these women and to bear witness to their inspiring stories of hope and courage.


For more information contact Darien Taylor (