Stephen Lewis Foundation Arts Academy


In the midst of the AIDS pandemic in Africa at the community level, art is healing, education and a celebration. Art isn’t something separate or elitist; it represents the very survival of community – it is created, integrated and experienced at the grassroots.

The Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Arts Activism and Aids Academy program is designed & facilitated by d’bi.young anitafrika using The Sorplusi Method. The role of art in the context of the African AIDS pandemic is vibrant, diverse and provocative. That is the underlying theme of the Arts & AIDS Academy. This pilot initiative of the Stephen Lewis Foundation brings together African frontline workers to explore the innovative ways in which they integrate the arts into their community response to the AIDS pandemic. Music, song, spoken word, street theatre, dance, memory books, body maps, and every other conceivable form of expression is a daily part of every HIV and AIDS community-led response. It represents a sophisticated and compassionate use of art, which can be replicated in other contexts of crisis.

The Arts & AIDS Academy is a place of mutual teaching, healing and learning. The Academy brings nine community arts activists to Toronto over three sessions in 2014 to participate in ground-breaking workshops led by internationally-acclaimed dub poet, mono-dramatist, and educator d’bi young anitafrika. This is a space and opportunity for grassroots leaders from Africa to share their expertise, reflect, create, and rejuvenate themselves – away from the daily trauma of their work. It also is a space for an international exchange of learning and expertise that brings together African frontline workers who participate in workshops led by d’bi young anitafrika. Ryerson University hosts the African participants, and involve them in academic exchanges throughout the Academy. In addition, the Academy reaches out to like-minded arts communities in Canada to inspire and mobilize interested Canadians to support the sophisticated and innovative practices being used so effectively to bring healing and hope at the grassroots level in the context of the AIDS pandemic.

Tools For Change
At the close of each session, Academy participants document the ways in which the arts are being used in communities across sub-Saharan Africa, and their creative endeavours and insights during their time in Canada. The culmination of each of the three 2014 sessions will be a public performance art piece developed, written and performed by the participants, utilizing and showcasing what they have learned and shared during the programme.
The first Arts Academy took place at the end of January 2014. We were delighted to welcome representatives from Living Positive Kenya (Kenya), Young Women Campaign Against AIDS (Kenya) & Mamelani (South Africa). The next Arts Academy will take place from May 18-May 30. We anticipate representatives from South Africa, Lesotho, & Zambia.

About the Stephen Lewis Foundation

The Stephen Lewis Foundation (SLF) works with community-level organizations that are turning the tide of HIV/AIDS in Africa by providing care and support to women, orphaned children, grandmothers and people living with HIV and AIDS. Since 2003, we have funded over 700 initiatives, partnering with 300 community-based organizations in the 15 African countries hardest hit by the pandemic. These grassroots groups are the lifeline for their communities: they provide counselling and education about HIV prevention, care and treatment; distribute food, medication and other necessities; reach the sick and vulnerable through home-based health care; help orphans and vulnerable children access education and work through their grief with innovative and creative programming; and support grandmothers caring for their orphaned grandchildren.

About d’bi young anitafrika

d’bi young anitafrika is an acclaimed dub poet, mono-dramatist, and educator. d’bi’s workshops, based on her groundbreaking S.O.R.P.L.U.S.I. methodology, assist artists worldwide with developing personal integrity in art-making. The methodology – based on the seminal work of pioneer Dub Poet Anita Stewart and developed by her daughter d’bi young anitafrika – is an approach to artistic creation that focuses on the holistic development of the artist in the process of creating their work, and equips the artist with the tools to help others to develop as well. The method is unique in that its approach is holistic, emphasizing creative, physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual growth, using the individual’s lived-experience as catalyst for all explorations.

About Ryerson University

Ryerson University is a distinctly urban university with a focus on innovation and entrepreneurship. Ryerson has a mission to serve societal needs and has a long-standing commitment to engaging its community. Ryerson is the most applied-to university in Ontario, and the reputation of its arts curriculum is recognized around the world. Culturally diverse and inclusive, the university is home to 38,950 students, including 2,300 master’s and PhD students, nearly 2,700 faculty and staff, and more than 140,000 alumni worldwide.


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